SEMA 2018: The Best, Most Awesome, Most Incredibly Radical Cars

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

By Alexander Stoklosa, Daniel Golson, Car and Driver

Like the Fourth of July, National Cat Day, and the day McDonald's releases the McRib, the SEMA aftermarket show in Las Vegas is a staple of our calendar, year in and year out. The annual show draws hundreds of thousands of attendees, automakers, and the makers of parts, accessories, and automotive electronics to the Las Vegas Convention Center for a celebration of all things custom and aftermarket. There are huge lifted pickup trucks, hot rods, modified motorcycles, cleavage, old people on those mobility scooters getting in the way, and more. We witnessed a man with a parrot on his shoulder walking the show floor, as well as an honest-to-God head-on mobility-scooter crash that we think was accidental.


Emory RS Porsche 356 / 964

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

Approaching this wild, unpainted Porsche 356 build in Momo's booth at the SEMA show, we could hardly tell what it was at first. Is it a chopped-up air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle? An early Porsche sports car that had suffered a rear-end collision? Sort of. It's really the wonderfully unholy marriage of an actual 1960 356B body with a 1990 Porsche 964's structure and brakes, put together by Rod Emory's shop (of modified "Outlaw" 356 fame). Emory provides its signature Outlaw 4 flat-four engine, which is derived from the relatively modern Porsche 964's flat-six. Momo, of course, provides those sweet-looking center-lock 17-inch wheels. As you can see, the build is ongoing, and the radical aluminum bodywork is slightly unfinished front and rear.


Volvo TP21

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

We don't know much about this modified Volvo TP21. Heck, we'd never even seen one-customized or otherwise-before stumbling across this lifted, yellow-painted example. These oddball, truckish-sedan Volvos were originally pressed into service as military vehicles in Sweden in the 1950s and are extremely rare, as only a few thousand were built. This one has had its 90-hp Volvo six-cylinder engine ditched in favor of a big ol' Chevy V-8, and those wheels definitely aren't stock.


"The Gullwing" Mercedes-Benz 300SL

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

Consider this Mercedes-Benz 300SL to be SL adjacent—that's because it isn't really a 1955 Gullwing SL. Okay, so it looks like one, but underneath, it's an early-2000s-era Mercedes SLK32 AMG roadster. The SL-lookalike body is a custom-laid fiberglass assembly, while underhood sits the AMG supercharged V-6 engine modified to produce 400 horsepower. Before you dismiss this as some chintzy replica, we should point out the incredibly high workmanship displayed throughout. The interior is a wild cobalt blue color, which is matched on the leather straps that buckle the hood and trunk shut, just like on the racing SLs in the 1950s. And the body really, really looks like a 300SL's, though those modern wheels and the low suspension (barely) give up the ruse.


1987 BMW E30 3-series by CAtuned

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

Tuned E30-generation BMW 3-series are a dime a dozen at shows like SEMA, and it can be tough to find one that stands out. Dubbed the Grape, this Daytona Violet–painted 325is by CAtuned breaks the mold with a look unlike that of any E30s we've seen recently. The square headlights transform the front of the car, and the Rotiform wheels, Mtech body kit, and other custom styling touches add to the '80s aesthetic. A fully rebuilt S52 inline-six taken from an E36 M3 provides thrust, and it's aided by a supercharger. The car was built over a period of three years, with the 3-series getting stripped down to just its shell in the process.


Slammed and Supercharged Toyota Sienna

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

At SEMA, the outdoor areas are dominated by massive, gaudy pickup trucks and SUVs. This lowered Toyota Sienna minivan at the Spyder Auto booth was a breath of fresh air among all the brodozers, and the closer you look, the better it gets. It's got an HKS supercharger kit, an air-suspension system, dished wheels covering larger brakes, and an aggressive exhaust. The interior has been completely refinished with quilted black leather, and a Kenwood stereo system is fitted behind the third-row seat. There's just something indescribably awesome about modified minivans, especially when they are done as well as this Sienna.


Bisimoto-Modified Honda Civic 4WD Wagon

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

This heavily modified Honda Civic wagon-the breed is now affectionately known as the "wagovan," for its pairing of the wagon and minivan body styles-isn't new. In fact, it was built in 2010. We didn't see the car in 2010, so it's new to us, and it appears as though the Bisimoto wagovan has undergone a few changes over the years. So why is this cool? Keep in mind that Bisimoto has created some epic street mods over the years, including the 1029-hp, stick-shift Honda Odyssey minivan it whipped up for SEMA five years ago. This one is similarly overpowered, with a claimed 700-hp K-series Honda engine sending torque to all four wheels. Our favorite part? That it still utilizes the donor car's oh-so-late-'80s motorized door-track shoulder belts.


1963 Ford Galaxie

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

Technically, this custom Ford Galaxie built by Steve Cook Customs for Judy and Bruce Ricks is a hot rod. Yet it's so well done, so subtle, it almost looks like the Galaxie is stock in the most perfect way possible. It isn't. The suspension has been lowered, black-painted 15-inch steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps have been fitted, and the interior has been given a period-seeming amplification by way of lots and lots of chrome stripping. The dark-green paint (shined up real nice by the nice folks in the Meguiar's car-care booth) is heart-stoppingly gorgeous when paired with the thin red-line-striped tires and the saddle-colored interior. Even better, there's a T-56 six-speed manual transmission corralling the 456-cubic-inch engine's might.


1983 Toyota Celica Supra

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

In addition to the lineup of stock Supras that Toyota brought to the show, there were plenty of modified ones, too. This highly modified 1983 Celica Supra was our favorite of the bunch thanks to its period-correct, JDM-inspired styling additions. It's no slouch in performance, either, with a turbocharged 1JZ engine swap and a number of chassis modifications. The owner has had the car since 1989, and said he "built it to [his] own liking-to enjoy." You can tell when a car has been lovingly worked on, and this Supra was no exception.


Tesla-Powered RWB Porsche 911

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

At this point, Porsche 911s modified by the Japanese tuner RAUH-Welt Begriff (RWB) are no longer novel. In fact, at a show like SEMA, they can be downright common. The formula has been perfected: Take a 911; fit huge fender flares, wide wheels, race-car-like styling elements, and a hugely powerful engine; and watch the internet go wild. Why did this RWB stand out, then? Created by StreetFighter LA, this 1977 911 is an EV, using Tesla-sourced electric motors to produce 563 electric wheel horsepower, according to RWB. The electric conversion was done by EV West, and no changes to the 911's chassis or engine bay had to be made. The subtle styling-for an RWB 911-makes the car even more of a sleeper.


Weistec-tuned Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

The Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG is a rare beast-with allegedly around 200 units sold worldwide and just a few dozen of those in the States, it's 10 times rarer than the Mercedes-McLaren SLR supercar. The extremely low sales are no surprise when you see the specs: It's an all-wheel-drive Mercedes minivan with dumpy styling, a 507-hp 6.2-liter V-8, and a near-$90K price when new. This example has been fitted with a supercharger by Weistec. Its lowered suspension and aftermarket wheels, which ape '90s-era AMG monoblocks, greatly enhance the look. Weird, rare, and (somehow) very cool, the R63 ticks the three best SEMA boxes.


Bonus: Ironman Stewart's Toyota Trophy Truck

© Daniel Golson - Car and Driver

We've already talked about this Toyota Trophy Truck that was raced by Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, so it isn't technically part of this list of favorites. But it was the raddest thing at SEMA, especially thanks to the Super Off Road arcade game that went along with it, and we really just wanted you to take another look at this awesome truck.

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Autos - U.S. Daily News: SEMA 2018: The Best, Most Awesome, Most Incredibly Radical Cars
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Autos - U.S. Daily News
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