The Best of SEMA 2008

November 7, 2008
At a show that plays host to some of the country's most talented car and truck builders, it's tough to pick the best of the best. With that caveat, here are "some" of the best of from the 2008 edition of SEMA.

That Rolls Has a HEMI!
A lightly used 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow isn't anything special (or worth very much). But the rebuilt Roller crafted by Joe Richardson from Denver, North Carolina is truly exceptional (and expensive). The RR sports a fuel-injected 572-cubic inch Chrysler Hemi that twists its crank with the help of nitrous oxide and a 671-style supercharger. Richardson, who owns Little Joe's Street Rod Shop, dynoed the Hemi at 1,350 horsepower.

Once the sheer surprise of seeing a slammed Roller with a blower sticking out of the hood wears off, you can begin to appreciate the craftsmanship and overall design restraint exercised by Richardson and the vehicle's owners (a couple from Florida). The chassis rides on an air suspension, but beyond the requisite billet wheels and the modified hood, the exterior is as it was when it left Crewe in 1970. Stock bumpers. Stock door handles. Stock lights. Stock Spirit of Ecstasy.

Inside, the execution is less stock, but compared to what one often sees at SEMA, it's still restrained. Leather hides that would make Connley proud cover the interior, including the integrated roll bar. The jar of Grey Poupon mustard sitting on the rear armrest between was a nice touch.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


Cloning Eleanor
Your author has a soft spot for resto mods (restored bodies, modern everything else). Jason Engel of Classic Recreations builds Eleanor, a fully licensed "Gone in 60 Seconds" 1967 Mustang that encourages the rediscovery of H.B. Halicki's classic 1974 smash-'em-up movie. The detailing and quality was excellent, as it should be for a $139,000 Mustang that is built entirely of new parts. But it will safely run an honest 171 mph, much faster than H.B. ever dreamed of taking the original Eleanor. Engle has already sold over 100 vehicles in just a few months, but the license caps production at 1,000 units. Better hurry, spots are being snapped up by newly rich Russians and Chinese.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


Move 'em Out
The off-road crowd occupies tons of space at SEMA. We saw all kinds of lifted sand smashers and rock hoppers, but none had quite the level of finish as this Jeep produced by COP 4x4 (Crocker Off-road Performance). The details of this build caught our attention; note the helpful stirrup hanging from the driver's door opening and the bumper-width LED light bar. Under the hood of this beast pumps a Chrysler HEMI, but not the expected SRT-sourced 6.1-liter. This one is bored out to over seven liters and delivers over 500 horsepower to the wheels.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


Home Away From Home
About the only thing missing from the aforementioned COP 4x4 Jeep was a place to turn in after watching the sun set from some exotic and remote locale. The folks at BajaRack Adventure Equipment address this need with a roof-mounted two-person tent set up that keeps you well above ground and presumably safer from snakes and other creepy critters that live where this modified Toyota FJ can take you. The entire package folds into a tidy package atop the FJ's roof rack.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


A Fish of a Different Color
In a sea of Camaros, Mustangs, and countless Challengers, this Chip Foose Plymouth 'Cuda swam away from the school of pony cars that populated SEMA 2008. The dramatic coloring and tasteful detailing (note the shaved door handles but the stock grille and side mirror) demonstrate a maturity often lost with these kinds of cars.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


Kustomizing Hybrids
George Barris knows how to stay in step with the times. His shop kustomized this 2005 Prius for its owner, Satish Dharmaraj. Beyond the obvious scissor front doors, the hood is modified as are the wheel wells (to accommodate 19-inch wheels and tires). The two-inch drip moldings over the windows help reduced the Prius' "bubble" look, as does the paint scheme that ends with a double spoiler at the rear.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


A Toyota Venza?
The stock Venza isn't really our cup of tea, but this Venza had presence. Toyota calls it the SportLux. It wears a complete body kit that sits on a lowered chassis fitted with 24-inch rims. The hood wasn't up, but the engine supposedly has a TRD supercharger, but no horsepower figures were offered. If all wagons looked like this, they'd be cool in the U.S. like they are in Europe.

2008 SEMA

2008 SEMA


Rat Rod Perfection
This Rat Rod represents a wide variety of beautifully built and highly original hot rods that bowed at SEMA 2008. Instead of showcasing yet another take on a 1932 Ford decked out in perfect paint and chrome, we chose this car from Hell. The idea of the Rat Rod is pragmatic minimalism in a package that performs. The V-8 (it could be a Cadillac motor) sports a blower topped by two four-barrel carburetors. That should get the job done nicely. There were two details we especially liked; the repeated skulls (one at the leading edge of the raked grille) and the second atop the extra long shifter, and the rough hash marks in the passenger door, perhaps signifying bygone street racing victories (you may have to blow up the image to see them).
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