The Top 25 Vehicle Debuts of SEMA 2014
Another SEMA Show has come and gone and, as usual, there was a bountiful crop of customized cars, trucks, SUVs and – in a welcome return to the limelight – vans. And as you might expect, some of the vehicles on display in Sin City were worth more than just a mere passing glance; these are the rides that, in our occasionally humble opinion, fell into that category.
Toyota Camry Sleeper Concept
Inspired by the earliest examples of the “flip-top” funny car species, this dragstrip-ready Toyota Camry might look like the kind of innocuous mid-size transportation appliance that a man of business would skipper during rush hour. Except this appliance has been completely disemboweled and stuffed with a custom tube chassis and a 5.7L V8 kidnapped from a Tundra and fitted with a TRD supercharger and a nitrous system that sends the better part of 850 horsepower to the rear wheels. It’s an absurd, impractical, never-ever-gonna-reach-production turducken…and we want to have its babies.
Ken Block Ford Mustang Hoonicorn RTR
Apparently, even Ken Block himself felt his Gymkhana videos were getting on the stale side, for he’s dumped his most recent four-wheeled co-star for the mad elephant of a Mustang you see here. Built by ASD Motorsports and Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s RTRshop, this ’65 Ford Mustang coupe features an 845 horsepower 6.7L V8 from Roush-Yates (the company that builds Ford’s NASCAR and IMSA engines) that sends power to all four wheels through a custom AWD system. Sounds crazy, right? Just think how crazy it’ll actually be in action once Gymkhana SEVEN drops.
SLP Chevrolet Yenko 427 Camaro
Of all the car dealers that made the first generation of muscle cars even more muscular, perhaps none was (or is) better known than Yenko Chevrolet in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The dealer’s days as a tuner ended in 1982 when Don Yenko sold it (He died in a plane crash five years later, and the dealer went belly-up a few years after that.), but the GM muscle car experts at SLP are bringing the name back with this spiced-up Camaro. The side stripes, badges and five-spoke wheels are true to the first-gen-based originals, but the supercharged 427 cubic-inch (7.0L) V8 – rated at an almost-Challenger-Hellcat-matching 700 horsepower – and creature comforts are thoroughly modern. Just 50 of these retro brutes will be built, so get it line stat.
Tanner Foust Racing ENEOS Volkswagen Beetle RWB
Rauh-Welt Begriff (RWB to its friends) is known worldwide for its wild, widebody air-cooled Porsche 911s; but now it appears Akira Nakai is ready to branch out (to a point, anyway), because he teamed up with racer/stunt driver/TV host Tanner Foust to create an RWB version of the current Volkswagen Beetle. The fenders have been pushed out 8” and crammed full of 18” Motegi Racing Traklite wheels wearing Pirelli tires, while the suspension has been tweaked to allow for the typical RWB slammed stance. Functionally-speaking, it’s the yin to the yang served up by the Andretti Autosport Volkswagen Beetle that Foust pilots in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship.
Bisimoto Engineering Hyundai Sonata
Conventional wisdom states that anything above 300 horsepower in a front-wheel-drive vehicle is a recipe for mayhem. That hasn’t stopped Bisimoto Engineering from tempting fate in the past, and the company is pressing its luck yet again with an ate-up-with-boost Hyundai Sonata. The 2.4L inline-four has been rebuilt top-to-bottom and turbocharged to produce 708 horsepower. Our wrists are sore just thinking about all that weapons-grade torquesteer…
Scion x Riley Hawk Skate Tour xB
The second-generation Scion xB is widely regarded as inferior to the original. This one, on the other hand, is unequivocally superior to its predecessor. Created by Scott Kanemura’s KMA Productions with input from Riley Hawk (the 21-year-old son of Tony Hawk who, like his dad, is a pro skateboarder), this orange box is inspired by custom vans of the 1970s, and comes complete with Cragar S/S wheels, (fake) side exhaust, and acres of shag carpet. Throw in a banging Pioneer sound system and various furnishings for storing and working on skateboards and you have one groovy garage occupant.
Smitten Ice Cream Kia Soul EV
With its box-like shape, the Kia Soul – and its electric sibling, the Soul EV – lends itself quite well to being turned into a miniature version of a commercial vehicle usually based on a step van. Something like…say…an ice cream truck! Working with Smitten Ice Cream Company, Kia customized this favorite ride of giant hamsters with a rooftop speaker (of course), retro painted steel wheels wearing whitewall tires, shaved door handles, and a matching old school teardrop camping trailer to help haul the frozen treat preparing and vending supplies. There’s even a liquid nitrogen tank for rapid-freezing the milk and cream.
Ford Mustang RTR
Formula Drift front-runner Vaughn Gittin Jr. is quickly becoming a respected name in Ford Mustang tuning circles through his RTR label. And the new Mustang RTR – based on the totally-new 2015 model – will only further the firm’s reputation. The cosmetic enhancements are nicely executed, but it’s the chassis and powertrain upgrades (the latter delivering up to 725 horsepower from the 5.0L V8) that really have our tongues a-wagging.
Chevrolet Colorado Performance Concept
Motocross legend Ricky Carmichael may be retired, but he is by no means bored. For one thing, he helped the folks at Chevrolet design this Chevrolet Colorado Performance Concept. Based on the crew cab long bed version of the Bowtie’s new mid-size pickup, this handsome hauler features 17” custom wheels wearing Goodyear DuraTrac off-road tires, side steps, a prototype sport bar for the bed, and a rack system for keeping bicycles, dirtbikes and other items secure and upright in the bed.
Vorsteiner BMW M4 GTRS4
The BMW M4 – a.k.a. the ex-M3 Coupe – is dynamite…but what if you want an M4 that’s C4 (the plastic explosive, not the second-longest-running generation of Corvette)? Well Vorsteiner has a remedy in the form of the M4 GTRS4. The stock BMW bodywork is buffed up with a set of prototypically-Vorsteiner flared fenders and fascias, while a monumental set of 20” wheels and tires does its best to cope with the 550 horsepower now being divvied out by the twin-turbo 3.0L inline-six thanks to the fitment of a power kit from ESS Tuning.
Gordon Ting and Beyond Lexus RC F
The Lexus RC F is the latest challenger to the BMW M3/M4’s throne, both in terms of sales and, as it turns out, tuner support. Gordon Ting and Beyond equipped this RC F with a diabolical body kit, Tein coilovers, Sparco reclining carbon fiber front bucket seats, and (an undisclosed amount of) extra power from Greddy-developed intake and exhaust upgrades and a 100 horsepower wet shot of nitrous from Nitrous Express.
Vegas Off-Road Experience Ford Transit
For the first time ever, Ford has brought its global large van – the Transit – to our shores, where it will gradually replace the ancient E-Series. And while it might not be available with four-wheel-drive from the factory (unlike the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter), that didn’t discourage the folks behind Vegas Off-Road Experience (VORE) from turning a high-roof Transit into a tricked out shuttle bus of sorts. The body cladding, brush guards and knobby tires help out when there’s no pavement to be found, while passengers will still feel like they’re in civilization with five LED monitors, a 60” LED flatscreen TV in the partition, and a video game station.
Kylie Tjin Special Edition Honda Fit
The third-generation Honda Fit is starting to make its way into showrooms so, naturally, Honda asked some tuners to customize the diminutive hatchback to mark the occasion. Designer Neil Tjin (and his young daughter Kylie) came up with this pea green pipsqueak; Neil dreamt up the radical fender flares – which fabricator Josh Freeman translated into real metal – and the distinctive color scheme, while Kylie specified the pink brake calipers. And you know what? The combination totally works.
Ringbrothers Chevrolet Chevelle Recoil
There’s no shortage of resto-modded 1966 Chevrolet Chevelles out there, but are any of them as extreme or pressed-out as the one known as Recoil? Created by the renowned Ringbrothers shop, this beast is loaded to the brim with interesting details. It’s also loaded with horsepower (980 of them, to be exact) from a heavily upgraded LS7 V8.
Panoz Esperate Spyder GT 25th Anniversary Edition
Has it really been 25 years since the father-son team of Don and Dan Panoz got into the sports-car-building biz? Apparently it has, and to celebrate, the Georgia-based company is rolling out an updated and upgraded version of the Esperante. The revised bodywork makes it look meaner than any road-legal Panoz since the GTR-1 homologation model, while a 560 horsepower supercharged V8 under that lengthy hood provides muscle to back up that buff body. If you want one of the $204,750 25th anniversary models, you’d better hurry up and order, because only 25 will be made.
Cartel Customs Scion FR-S T1
You know what the Scion FR-S really needs (besides the obvious more power)? Styling tropes from 1980s sports cars! Seriously, take a good hard look at Cartel Customs’ take on the pancake-motored sport coupe – with a removable targa roof and a louvered panel that fits over the rear window – and try to tell us you wouldn’t rock it. We’re just disappointed they didn’t attempt some sort of pop-up headlight conversion…
Dodge Viper ACR Concept
The Dodge SRT Viper TA may be more track-focused than the regular and GTS versions, but there is room to make it even more hardcore. Enter the Viper ACR Concept, which builds on the legacy of prior production ACRs with a special downforce-adding body kit, air extractor vents, a big rear wing, carbon-ceramic brakes and a mildly-stripped interior. We have a sneaking suspicion that this beast won’t remain a concept very long…
Ballast Point Kia Sedona
Generally speaking, minivans are 180° from cool. Such criticism absolutely cannot be leveled at this new Kia Sedona, which was co-created with San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. The silhouette may look stock, but the roof flips up and the panels where the side and rear windows used to be fold down to reveal a fully-furnished bar stocked with two Micro Matic taps and room for four half-barrel kegs of Ballast Point suds. Finally, a minivan where everybody knows your name!
360 Elite Motorworks Lexus NX200t F Sport
The Lexus NX – the new small crossover that houses the brand’s first turbocharged engine behind a face only a illustrates-manga-whilst-tripping-balls mother could love – is just starting to hit showrooms in earnest, but the crew at 360 Elite Motorworks was able to get its paws on an NX200t F Sport early enough that it was able to have a sharp new bodykit installed in time for SEMA. It also gave the turbocharged 2.0L four-banger some slight breathing upgrades to uncork more agro of the aural and acceleration varieties.
RENNtech Mercedes-Benz Metris DJ/Party Van
The success of the Sprinter (and the subsequent introduction of similar European-bred vans from Ram and Ford to the U.S. market) has emboldened Mercedes-Benz to offer its smaller sibling over here as well. However, instead of keeping either of the names used for the model elsewhere in the world (Vito and V-Class), Mercedes-Benz has instead cooked up a new North-America-only moniker: Metris (No, we don’t get how or why they came up with something that sounds like a portmanteau of “metro” and “Tetris,” either…). In any case, the world’s oldest automaker invited four tuners to offer different takes on the Metris and bring their submissions to SEMA. Each member of the quartet was interesting, but we dug RENNtech’s entry – a mobile DJ booth with a piano-hinged roof that opens to provide unlimited headroom and a backdrop for the person tending to the turntables – the most.
Ford Mustang King Cobra
The Ford Mustang Cobra Jet is pretty awesome, except for the whole not being able to register it for road use thing. Ford Racing has figured out that this is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a real drag, and has introduced the King Cobra upgrade package for the new Mustang GT. A host of chassis and suspension upgrades help this pony hook up when the Christmas tree turns green, while a supercharger for the 5.0L V8 (which lifts output above 600 horsepower) gets it to the finish line in 10.97 seconds.
Jeep Cherokee Dakar Concept
Although the latest vehicle to wear the Jeep Cherokee label has caused its share of consternation among the faithful (mainly due to its Fiat passenger car lineage), it still knows its way through the rough stuff, especially in Trailhawk guise. Yet Jeep decided to take this car-based SUV’s off-road capabilities even further and created the Cherokee Dakar Concept. Additional skid plates and shielding protects the soft(-ish) underbelly, while a suspension lift kit provides both additional ground clearance and more room for the 33” tall BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires. Best of all, there’s a chance that the lift kit (and those sweet fender flares) might someday be available through the Jeep Performance Parts catalog.
Mazda MX-5 Cup
Since its formation in 2006, the Mazda MX-5 Cup has grown to be a respected series on the North American racing scene. Come 2016, however, Mazda plans to take the formula international, with the Mazda MX-5 Global Cup, which will see the best drivers from each championship meet up at season’s end for a worldwide winner-take-all showdown at – Where else? – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. And the car that will be used – an all-new second-gen Cup car based on the fourth-gen ND MX-5 road car – certainly looks ready for action with that beefy rollcage and other trick, track-ready bits.
Revorix Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
You wouldn’t normally expect tuning parts for the new Corvette Stingray to come out of Japan, but that’s exactly where the new C7 body kit from Revorix originates. The front splitter, rear fascia/diffuser and side skirts give the Vette’s lower flanks a snazzy new look, while the new split-spoke wheels kick it up still another notch. Domo arigato, Revorix.
Kia K900 Performance Concept
Kia might be one of the last brands you’d expect to offer a full-size luxury sedan, but the K900 is exactly that. And this Kia K900 Performance Concept gives some idea of how an S8/Alpina B7/S63 AMG-hunting hot rod version might look. And with a Garrett twin-turbo setup attached to the 5.0L V8, it performs like one would, too; Kia says the whole enchilada is good for 650 horsepower. Sadly, the company also says a production version isn’t in the pipeline.