Top 10 Cars of the 2012 SEMA Show

Proof You Don't Have To Get Ridiculous To Get Noticed

Mach 40
Talk about harvesting eyeballs. This car, the so-called Mach 40 in the Valspar Automotive booth, stopped us and every other passer-by in their tracks. And it's what SEMA showcars are all about — something old, something new, something completely awe-inspiring. But what exactly is the Mach 40?

The Mach 40 started life as a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 that underwent one hell of a transformation by Oregon-based Eckert's Rod and Custom. They poured thousands of man-hours into it, reworking every contour so as to create a stunning mash-up of a GT40 and a Mach 1. The heart of the Mach 40 is its midengine conversion; it features an E85-swilling, Whipple-blown powertrain from a 2006 Ford GT mounted behind the front seats that kicks out some 850 horsepower.

It's been chopped, dropped, gutted and flared, plus the roof has been sectioned and both ends have been totally reworked. An all-aluminum double-wishbone suspension underpins the front end. Each of the two radiator fans is ducted directly to the hood vents. A lot of the work is subtle but painstaking, evidence of first-rate craftsmanship. Though the donor chassis came from a 1960s Ford Mustang, so much work was involved that the Mach 40 has become essentially a custom car with an old VIN.

What's most surprising is how convincing it looks. It doesn't have a bad angle, as its Mach 1 cues marry startlingly well with the GT40 proportions. Even the wheels — custom, of course — just look right. To call the Mach 40 a hot rod is to damn it with faint praise; this car is simply a stunning automotive achievement.

Icon D200
Once again, Icon has outclassed nearly everyone on the SEMA floor with its new Icon D200. Like all of Icon's projects, the D200's roots are firmly based in the past but with a modern twist.

The D200 rides on a Ram 3500-series truck platform complete with a 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel that's been tuned by Banks Power. Thanks to a Six-Gun Diesel Tuner, Banks iQ Man-Machine interface, Monster Ram intake manifold and Banks Monster Diesel dual exhaust, the engine is cranking out a wicked 975 pound-feet of torque. That should be plenty to twist the 37-inch BFGoodrich tires into smoke. A 4.5-inch Baja 1000 Chase lift kit with Fox 3.0 reservoir shocks rounds out the suspension.

As with every Icon, the real beauty of the Icon D200 lies in the skill, restraint and sheer class expressed in the execution. From the door pulls to the custom-fabricated grille to the gas caps, the Icon D200 is built to a different standard. There are lots of old trucks in the world, but there are very few Icons.

Legacy Power Wagon
Like the Icon D200, the Four-Door Legacy Power Wagon stinks of effort, thoughtfulness, old-world craftsmanship and pure badassery. Built by Legacy Classic Trucks, a two-man team out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this fully restored Dodge Power Wagon made it to every IL editor's short list on first sight.

The conversion process starts with a full restoration of a vintage Dodge Power Wagon. This isn't some lookalike cab on a new Dodge frame; this is an authentic Dodge Power Wagon, the real McCoy. From here, Legacy adds "Rotisserie Paint" (it comes with a lifetime warranty), a fully modern interior with aircraft-inspired gauges (if you think old VDO gauges are cool, you ain't seen nothing yet), a bank of switches, modern seatbelts and air-conditioning. After this comes a Dynatrac Pro 80 rear axle plus a Dana 60 up front. Power comes from a 3.9-liter Cummins inline-6 turbodiesel twisting out 480 lb-ft of torque through a 4L85E automatic transmission.

"It'll do 75 down the 405," a legacy company rep told us. "Drives and steers like a new truck. And then off-road it just pulls over anything." That last part we have no reason to doubt. Pricing on Legacy's Web site starts at expensive and goes up from there. Well, you get what you pay for.

Ford Focus ST by Cosworth
As you'd expect, Ford is bullish about its new Focus ST and brought a fleet of them to SEMA. These included a Tanner Foust Edition, one by Galpin Auto Sports, one by Steeda and our favorite, one by Cosworth.

Cosworth teamed up with M&J Enterprises and Ford Racing for this Tangerine Scream stunner. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost has been tweaked to produce 330 hp by way of a turbo and intercooler upgrade, ECU reprogramming, forged pistons and connecting rods, high-performance cams, a Ford Racing Performance intake and an FRP exhaust.

Handling has been improved with yet more items from the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog, including a coil-over suspension system, big-brake kit with slotted rotors, hi-po brake pads and stainless-steel brake lines.

Real power, good looks and no gimmicks. We're in.

Jeep Wrangler Sand Trooper
Chrysler's booth included this 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited outfitted with a pile of hardware from Mopar. The most substantial change is the conversion to a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 — a kit Mopar will soon make available. Underneath are Mopar's portal axles, which bump ground clearance by 5.5 inches and incorporate a 1.5:1 final-drive reduction. The axles allow the Wrangler to use essentially stock suspension; the only change required is a higher-rate front spring to accommodate the increased weight of the V8. Super Swamper tires that measure 42 inches complete the package.

Mopar tells us this Jeep will be shown a few more times before making its action debut in Moab, Utah, at the 2013 Easter Jeep Safari.

Scion FR-S GT
There's no shortage of Scion sports cars at SEMA this year, but perhaps the best-looking and most capably modified is this FR-S built by Daniel Song. The entire car is covered in 3M Carbon Dinoc vinyl, which is remarkably convincing-looking stuff, especially when it's paired with real carbon-fiber trim bits from APR. Inside the cabin is a full roll cage as well as a Sparco seat, safety harness and steering wheel.

A Vortech supercharger and intercooler help to bump up engine power significantly, while the chassis is lowered on Air Runner air springs with adjustable dampers. SSR wheels and four-piston Brembos finish the car off.

1966 Ford Off-Road Bronco by Galpin Autosports
There's something about baby blue and orange. But we never thought it would work on a first-generation Ford Bronco.

Until we saw this.

Under its striped hood resides a 377-cubic-inch stroker V8 good for 540 hp. The engine is coupled to a Ford four-speed AOD transmission, a Dana transfer case and Dana axles. The axles are suspended by a custom three-link setup in front and a four-link arrangement in the rear. Mickey Thompson bead-lock wheels are fitted with 315/75R16 BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A tires.

1973 Toyota Corolla
One of the best things about SEMA is the chance of finding a gem like this car buried in a corner somewhere. This immaculate Corolla was originally a genuine U.S.-spec car from 1973, but owner Patrick Ng spent two years converting it to a JDM-spec showcar complete with an engine swap to the twincam version of the 1.6-liter inline-4.

Looking at the car, it's hard to believe that Ng did all the work himself in his garage. The bodywork is perfect, the detailing is spot-on and the stance fits the car just right. (The car was on display at the Enkei booth to show off the company's series of vintage wheels.) It's a good example of what happens when an owner with a passion for his car is willing to take the time to do things right.

Chevrolet Camaro Performance V8 Concept
This Camaro may not look like much, but it's a good reminder of why SEMA exists in the first place. This car started out as your basic Camaro SS with a V8. From there it was given the full treatment from Chevrolet's aftermarket catalog of performance parts.

And we're not just talking tires and wheels here. This Camaro not only has Chevy's recently introduced 1LE track suspension, but also features the upgraded short-throw shift linkage, brakes and rear differential from the Camaro ZL1. There's also a strut-tower brace for the front suspension and a ZL1's flat-bottom steering wheel, along with various cosmetic changes to give the car the look of a street-sleeper.

All of the various parts are straight out of GM's catalog, so you could theoretically mix and match all this stuff to make your own ZL1 clone, too. Or you could just do it the lazy way and buy a ZL1, but what fun is that?

Bare Steel 1968 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
This is another classic SEMA car. It's not a bunch of modifications that make this car stand out but instead the simple concept and perfect execution. The owner of this Cadillac coupe not only decided to do without paint, but also massaged away every last swirl mark. The result reveals the purity of this car's shape, an American classic.

To top everything off, owner Tim Johnson sprayed a layer of clearcoat over everything to keep the metal looking like it just came out of the shop. Posed among the sea of over-painted modification massacres, this Cadillac stood out just because it looked like a real car built by an artistic owner. You can hear more from the owner about the Coupe DeVille.