Five Standouts From SEMA ’19

Posted December 02, 2019

By Dean Larson

The number of cars and trucks you’ll see on a single day at the SEMA Show is mind numbing. But that being said, you’ll always have a few cars that stick out for one reason or another, and those are the cars that you talk about when you reconvene with your friends that night. The following five cars have almost nothing in common, other than the fact that they made an impression on me for one reason or another.

1957 Ford Fairlane Gasser

I’m a huge fan of vintage drag racing history going back to gassers, altered-wheelbase cars and early nitro. Combine that with an affinity for things that are tastefully imperfect, and this Fairlane gasser was a perfect storm in my head. It’s gotta be funny to watch a guy gawk at a rusty old Ford when you’re at the automotive mecca that is the SEMA Show.

But this Fairlane was cool as hell, and it took a second glance to realize that this thing was a recent build completed by Classic Cars by Lloyd. The car was an original barn find wearing a nice, ratty patina. The corroded Ansen mags coupled with the jacked up front end just screamed nostalgic drag racing. The straight axle was fit just as you’d expect and a coat of surface rust even hid all the recent metal work. I mean, the front shocks even leaked from their seals — now that’s some next-level patina.

The mechanicals chiefly consisted of 1960s gear, maybe a bit late for this car, but definitely in the wheelhouse. A 390 ci FE V8 sent power through a Ford TopLoader four-speed to a 9-inch rear with a Detroit Locker. If you’re looking for something that will hop out of the hole like a ’60s gasser, this is it.

1965 Plymouth Barracuda

If I mentioned a Plymouth Barracuda at the SEMA Show, most people probably think of the burly ’70 to ’71 E-body Barracuda, or ’Cuda. Or just maybe, the stylish, fastback A-body Barracuda of ’67 to ’69 comes to mind. It’s less likely that you’ll think of the Valiant-based, first-generation Barracuda of 1964, ’65 and ’66. The first-gen Barracuda is quirky and interesting, but it’s a car that’s infrequently modified, and almost never built up to SEMA Show caliber. All that makes this ’65 Barracuda in the Stewart-Warner booth even better, and easily one of my favorite cars from the show.

The car was built by the Skunkworks Racing Division of Hot Rod Chassis & Cycle with an aluminum 433 ci third-gen HEMI with Hilborn fuel injection. The low ride height, coupled with the modern wheel and tire fitment worked so well on the car, and its excellence likely goes beyond looks. A-plus for taking the road less traveled!

1965 Pontiac 2+2

Just like the A-body Barracuda in the Stewart-Warner booth, it’s a total diversion from the beaten path that makes this 1965 Pontiac 2+2 built by The Roadster Shop way cool. Billed as the GTO’s big brother, the 2+2 was based on the full-size Pontiac Catalina, and equipped with special interior features and exterior trim. Given that it’s a full-size, the Catalina is infrequently modified to such an extent, and The Roadster Shop nailed it.

The 2+2 rides on a full custom chassis, giving the car a low ride height and a firm base for the four-cam Mercury SB4 7.0 V8. As if installing the 750 hp 7.0-liter engine wasn’t enough, The Roadster Shop also significantly reworked its presentation, making it look remarkably at home in the 2+2.

Another defining feature of the build was the custom, eight-lug wheel set. Mimicking Pontiac’s wide, eight-lug design in a larger diameter brought the 2+2 into the modern era, all while maintain proven elements of its design.

Porsche EVs

EVs? I guess so, as this pair of Porsche EVs really made an impression on me, both as Porsches and as radical alternative fuel vehicles. The first, Streetfighter LA’s white ’77 911, was tucked away in a corner with nothing more than an open trunk bay pointing to its controversial conversion. Builder Dylan Coleman worked with EV West of San Marcos, California to install a retrofitted Tesla power unit offering 563 ewhp (electronic wheel horsepower), which is comparable to 700 hp at the crank. The best part is, is that the conversion has not maimed the 911 in any way, and is 100% reversible.

The Streetfighter LA 911 EV was clean, not just as an EV, but as Porsche nonetheless. I’ll lament the loss of the flat-six’s thunderous tone and manual gear shift every time, but this clean 911 promises a more exciting battery-powered future than the Nissan Leaf and its compatriots.

It’s along that same thinking that I want to toss this radical 935-style build into the ring. Developed for Group 5 racing, the 935’s radical lines are always going to grab attention, but this vibrant build was getting loads of attention for other reasons as well. Read through the sponsor graphics, and you’ll find the name EVMOTO, and even an EV West logo tucked in on the rear. That’s right, this 935-style racer built by BISIMOTO is powered by the same type of EV West powerplant.

Exhaust rumble or no, manual shifter or not, this car is a spectacular build, and if it offers the same performance as the Streetfighter LA car, it could potentially show an original 935 a thing or two on the track.

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Electric EV West SEMA 2019