Top 10 Vehicle Debuts of SEMA 2016
Just when you think the vehicle tuning and customization industry has reached its apogee, another SEMA Show takes place in Las Vegas the following November and proves you wrong. Of course, not every ride that rolls into Sin City’s cavernous convention center is worth a second look, and some you’ll wish you never gave a first look. The following 10 machines, on the other hand, are the ones that grabbed our gazes as forcefully as any of the booth babes could, and are the ones with which we’d most like to spend a weekend, if not longer.
Toyota Land Speed Cruiser
The current U.S. market Toyota Land Cruiser is something of an oddity: It’s easily the priciest and most luxurious Toyota-badged vehicle currently sold in this country, yet the similar Lexus LX 570 is even fancier for not a hell of a lot more money, you don’t have to suffer the indignity of slumming it with the unwashed masses of Corolla, Camry and Sienna owners in the service department waiting room. So what can Toyota do to increase the appeal of one of its longest-running model names?
Well, we’d like to tell you that one surefire way is gutting and caging the interior, slamming the suspension and going to town on the 5.7L i-Force V8, giving it twin turbochargers (which Toyota itself describes as “volleyball sized”) and fortified internals to yield, ahem, 2,000 horsepower. However, the Toyota Land Speed Cruiser, as this monster that ate Newport Beach is called, is actually way, way less mainstream than the stock J200 series TLC. But it does supposedly do 220 mph, which is cool if you’ve ever fantasized about chasing down supercars (and Bentley Bentaygas, for that matter) in something with the dimensions and drag coefficient of a large garden shed.
Ringbrothers Madam V
Taking old bodies and adapting them to mate with a newer frame and running gear was going on even before the first between-the-world-wars hot rodder plopped a Model A shell atop a ’32 Ford V8’s rolling chassis. Nowadays, though, the process is exponentially more complicated, with modern unibody cars and their many miles of integrated wiring and electronics having crap attacks at the mere sight of a Sawzall. However, that didn’t stop Jim and Mike Ring – the supremely talented siblings behind the Ringbrothers shop – from skinning a Cadillac ATS-V, extending it 14”, and reclothing it with a heavily massaged 1948 Cadillac Series 61 Coupe body. The end result – dubbed Madam V – an early postwar cruiser with the modern underpinnings (namely a 464 horsepower 3.6L twin-turbo V6, 8-speed automatic transmission and all-independent performance-tuned suspension) and modern conveniences (such as ABS, traction and stability controls, sonar parking sensors, CUE infotainment system, and even OnStar) of Detroit’s resident M4 fighter. Very, very nice.
Zero to 60 Designs Mustang GTT
The new Ford GT is pretty sweet, but it’s being built in such tiny numbers that a lot of folks – even those who can easily afford one – are going to be left out. The Mustang based GTT (as in GT Tribute) by Zero to 60 Designs may be lacking in the carbon fiber monocoque and mid-mounted twin-turbo V6 departments, but the body modifications incorporate a host of GT design cues. Furthermore, the 5.0L V8 is now inhaling through a ProCharger supercharger, which elevates output to a hearty 800 horsepower.
Unplugged Performance Tesla Model X
Vehicles produced by Tesla Motors are already attention magnets, but the people at Unplugged Performance have managed to make this Model X capable of drawing even more eyes. The aggressive body kit and lowered suspension make the fastback electric SUV look much more muscular, while the carbon-ceramic brake kit (which upgrades the calipers from 4-piston units to 6-pistons while still cutting total unsprung weight by 20 lbs.) surely teams with the stock regenerative braking to provide seemingly supernatural stopping power. Unfortunately, those better binders will set you back a princely $8,995. So much for the money you save by not buying gas…
Huddy MotorSports Gumout GT4586
One of the great things about drifting is that, aside from rear-wheel-drive and four wheels, there aren’t a whole lot of limitations governing car and engine combinations. With this in mind, Formula D and YouTube star Ryan Tuerck, in collaboration with sponsor Gumout and Huddy MotorSports, decided to build an engine-swapped Toyota 86 (nee Scion FR-S) for competition. But instead of going for the one of the (depressingly) usual suspects like the GM LS-series V8 or Toyota’s own 2JZ straight-six, Tuerck and team decided to go a little more exotic…specifically, the 4.5L V8 out of a Ferrari 458 Italia, hence the portmanteau-tastic name “GT4586.” It’s unlikely we’ll ever see this super-pressed-out-piece in actual competition, but hopefully it will get some other builders’ creative juices flowing.
Ringbrothers Camaro G-Code
The first generation (1967-’69) Chevrolet Camaro is so popular among restomodders (*Crowd says in unison, “How popular, Tom?”*)…it’s so popular that it’s next to impossible to build one that stands out from the crowd. Yet that’s what the Ringbrothers (Yes, they brought two cars to this year’s SEMA Show. You got a problem with that?) have done with a ’69 Camaro coupe they call G-Code. The tasteful body and trim modifications and the an interior that wouldn’t look terribly out of place inside a Pagani are superb, but the supercharged and enlarged (to 416 cubic inches, or 6.8L) LS3 V8 serving up about 1,000 horsepower ensures that this muscle car can melt treads with the best of ‘em.
IDL Design Porsche 997 Slantnose
As popular as retro styling cues on late model vehicles are among customizers and their patrons are, you’d think giving modern water-cooled Porsche 911s the old school “Slantnose” treatment (which originated with the 935 Group 5 race car of the 1970s) would be fairly common by now. Perhaps now that Old & New has come out with a widebody kit (designed by none other than Kei Miura of Rocket Bunny fame) inspired by those legendary GT racers for the 997-series 911, we’ll start seeing more and more of this neoclassic shape. The Old & New kitted machine prepared by IDL Design and parked at the Toyo Tires booth looked sweet as hell in Sea Blue paint and slammed on 19” Rotiform wheels, but we’re already picturing one of these babies in brown with a set of gold HRE Vintage 935s and a sizable portion of the rear bumper cut out to expose a pair of turbochargers hung off the back of the engine like power-adding metal dingleberries.
Chip Foose Madam X
Motoring history, as we’ve seen, is full of cool cars that never made it to the showroom. Still others, like the Cadillac Madam X of 1935, never even made it off the stylist’s drafting table. Fortunately, there are artisans like Chip Foose and Marcel and Luc Deley of Marcel’s Custom Metal to turn 2D dreams of all ages into 3D automotive reality. The newly-minted real Madam X (which, like the Madam V seen above, was commissioned by SoCal car dealer mogul Wes Rydell) stays true to its Art Deco looks on the outside, but what lies underneath is all 21st century GM tech, including the 6.2L LT1 V8, 8-speed automatic transmission, and C6 Corvette suspension front and rear. Oh yes, we’d love to come home to this lady.
The current third generation family of Chrysler Hemi V8s are bitchin’ engines (particularly the 707-flavors-of-looney Hellcat), but they have one glaring flaw: If you want to keep the factory EFI setup and other bells and whistles, you have to swap over a sizable portion of the donor vehicle’s wiring harness and other subsystems (including some that will make even the most hardened late model motor swapper go, “Really? I mean, really?!”) in order to keep all the computers happy. Thankfully, FCA’s performance parts and accessories department, Mopar, used the SEMA Show to debut a new “connect and cruise” kit for 2014 and later 5.7L and 6.4L Hemis (as well as brand new crate versions of those same two powerplants) being swapped into older vehicles.
To demonstrate what’s possible with those new products, the Mopar mob prepared a 1966 Jeep CJ (Yes, we know that was a full 21 years before Chrysler acquired Jeep, but just go along with it…) body, installed it atop a modified late-‘90s Wrangler TJ chassis, and added lights, bumpers and other trim items from a current-gen JK-series Wrangler along with the 5.7L (or 345 cubic-inches in old money) Hemi under the hood. The resulting CJ66, as this greatest hits album is called, is something truly special, and is sure to achieve its goal of giving Gen 3 Hemi hardware sales a big kick in the pants.
Vorsteiner McLaren 570-VX
The McLaren 570S stands a very good chance at becoming the new darling of the exotic car tuning world, so it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that Vorsteiner is ready to go with a body kit for the “cheap” McLaren called 570-VX that sharpens its styling substantially. Deeper, meaner looking bumper front and rear (the latter with a diffuser) look the part, while the almighty rear wing looks like something on loan from big brothers 650S GT3 or P1 GTR. Prepare for a flood of these to reach your local buttcrack-of-dawn caffeine and hoop-shaped pastry car show in the weeks and months to come (not that we’ll be among those complaining).