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Rare and Unique Vehicles - SEMA 2019 Review

Rare and Unique Vehicles - SEMA 2019 Review

Posted by Jil McIntosh on Oct 26th 2019

Without a doubt, SEMA is the wildest car show that isn’t actually a car show. It stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association, and the enormous event at the Las Vegas Convention Center features just about everything for the aftermarket.

That includes items for new cars and trucks, as well as for rod and custom, antiques, classics, kustom rods, race cars, and everything in between. One of the best ways to display your product is to put it on a vehicle, and there are thousands at the show, created by restorers and custom hot rod builders. It’s a trade show and isn’t open to the public, but we went inside for a look at some of the stuff that was there.

1. Chevy was the top-selling American brand in 1956, with more than 1.56 million sold, and it’s easy to see why. It was the second year for the small-block engine, Chevrolet’s first V8 since the short-lived one it last used in 1919, and this Bel Air was the luxury trim.

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2. The “Hemi Under Glass” started when the editor of Hot Rod magazine sketched a new Barracuda with a 426 Hemi engine mounted in the back – and someone built it. It debuted in 1965 and led to a series of them over the next ten years. This one is the 1968 version, and how cool is it to see a piece of history right in front of you?

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3. Cadillacs make great lowriders, and this ’68 belongs to Joe Ray, editor-in-chief of Lowrider Network. It’s got a supercharged crate engine, tube frame, four-wheel disc brakes, and a hydraulic suspension for the up-and-down.

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4. Those who love “rat rods,” made with various parts that aren’t necessarily automotive, can certainly get their fill at SEMA. Here, a grille from an Oliver tractor fits the bill.

5. Anything is fair game at SEMA, and here, that includes a Lamborghini Espada by custom car builder CHD Edition, based in France. This is the company’s first creation, but it plans to build more based on high-end models, including Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.

6. Hot Wheels had a huge display that included a 1957 Nash Metropolitan fitted out with a small-block Chevy 305 engine, steel wheels, and bias-ply tires. A 305 isn’t a big deal in this modern world of big blocks and superchargers, but as its owners pointed out, the Metropolitan’s original engine only made about 40 horsepower, so this is quite an upgrade.

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7. Several automakers have displays at the show, and commission cool cars to fill them. Mopar’s designers took a 1968 Dodge D200 Sweptline Camper Special, boxed the frame, moved the front axle ahead, and gave it an adjustable suspension. A bed floor from a new Ram was welded in to accommodate the suspension and fuel cell. And under the electric-flip-forward hood, there’s a 5.9-litre Cummins diesel engine with six-speed manual transmission.

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8. Back in 1954, famed customizer George Barris took a wrecked 1953 Lincoln Capri and turned it into the Golden Sahara, and two years later it was reworked into this, the Golden Sahara II. It included a television, automatic emergency braking, and a refrigerator behind the rear seats; it could be started and driven by remote control; and it had fish scales in its paint to catch the light. It was recently restored, and Goodyear even made reproductions of its original light-up tires.

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9. Goodguys has an award for a young enthusiast, and it went to a 1959 Chevrolet Impala with 327-cubic-inch engine, built by 23-year-old Justin Zimmerman.

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10. “Grasshopper” is a 1965 Ford Econoline beefed up with a mid-mounted 460 cid V8 with 871 blower, automatic transmission, air suspension, disc brakes, and wheelie bars because, yes, it can pull its front wheels off the ground. It was featured on the first season of Restoration Garage.

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11. Honda got its start in the U.S. in 1959 selling motorcycles, and bought a fleet of Chevy trucks to deliver them to its dealers. For SEMA, Honda found a 1961 Chevrolet half-ton and recreated an original delivery truck, using vintage photos from its archives.

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12. Jacob Griffin first had to search for a 1975 AMC Gremlin, and stitch together the rusty one he found – and then he went wild. His “Mogwai,” named for a character in the movie Gremlins, has a supercharged V8 engine, Ford nine-inch rear end, 1950s Ford dash, and denim-clad seats, in homage to the Levi’s Edition available when Gremlins were new.

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13. Built in New Zealand, this car is a tribute to the “Uncertain T,” a car originally inspired by a cartoon and finished in 1965. It’s a 1923 Ford T-bucket, with a 1963 Buick nailhead engine, 727 TorqueFlight transmission, quick-change rear end, and candy tangerine paint.

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14. Not everything has to be big and super-powerful to be at SEMA, and we were quite taken with a BMW Isetta disguised as a police car. BMW built the little cars after the Second World War, when there wasn’t much of a market for its expensive luxury models. The entire front end is the car’s single door.

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15. A smashed-up 2019 Dodge Challenger turned out to be the surprise hit of the show. Built by the Vermont-based Quintin Brothers for a Pennsylvania client, the car features a supercharger and custom suspension, exhaust, and three-piece wheels. But it was stolen shortly after it arrived in Vegas, and the thief rammed a cop car with it. He was later arrested, and when the car was no longer required as evidence, the Las Vegas cops released it and it made it to the show. It was even part of SEMA Ignited, the Friday-night after-show cruise-in, where it drove in with a Vegas cop car behind it.

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16. A radically shortened 1959 Chevrolet El Camino contains a blown 400-cid engine making 800 horsepower, along with a custom-built chassis and Mickey Thompson tires wrapped around American Racing wheels.

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17. Automotive artist Max Grundy brought his newly-completed 1948 Ford cabover, done up with a Dr. Pepper theme. Grundy designed the truck and worked on the build, including that fabulous top chop.

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18. Land yachts from the 1970s make great lowriders, including this 1975 Chevy Impala. It still carries its original 350-cid V8, and with 14-inch wheels and candy root beer paint over a gold and silver base. Builder Alfredo “Freddy” Quintero also included a mural of his family painted in the trunk.

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19. “Deuces” make fabulous hot rods, and this 1932 Ford features a reproduction body from Zipper Motors, powered by a 383-cid Chevy small-block engine making 449 horsepower, quick-change rear end, and custom matte-finish paint.

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20. Small is great, proved by this 1968 Mini Cooper pickup truck. Its original engine has been bored out to 1,295 cc, it features a custom dash, it rides on 13-inch tires, and it’s right-hand drive.

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21. Not everything at SEMA has four wheels. Someone did an incredible job on this three-wheeled trike, including custom paint, velvet upholstery, and an integrated stereo. The elaborate scrolling is carved into the metal, which is then gold-plated.

22. California-based Pure Vision Design created a stunner out of a 1973 Dodge Challenger, using a 6.4-litre crate V8 and some super-smooth design modifications. It was built as a grand prize for the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament, part of the PGA Tour, and was won by Kevin Na – who then turned around and gave it to his caddy.

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23. The Nomad is the 1955 Chevy wagon everyone wants, but we’re more than willing to settle for this Handyman Wagon. It was the plain-Jane model back then, but Tommy’s Rod & Body Shop took this one over the top with a 650-hp supercharged Chevy LT4 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, air suspension, and 18- and 20-inch wheels.

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24. Just a bit more engine than stock, wouldn’t you say? Owned and built by Bradley Gray, this 1956 Chevrolet pickup has a 461-cid big-block Chevy engine further set off by a coat of Porsche red paint.

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25. Jesse James and his West Coast Choppers shop was supposed to bring a customer’s vehicle to the show, but when that fell through, James dug into his personal collection and brought this stunning 1951 Mercury – after he’d decided it had a few issues, and he took it apart and really fixed it up. It won an award as best custom at the show.

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