My feet ache, my back is stiff, I am on an oxygenated high while suffering the withdrawals of a Red Bull overdose. I have survived Vegas ... well SEMA 2016 that is. To a victim of attention deficit disorder like myself, SEMA is every bit a nightmare as it is automotive seduction. The constant bombardment of bright shiny objects and winged creations assaults the mind with information overload. Match this with trying to work my way through 190,000 like-minded auto fanatics who were in a similar drooling zombie-like state for eight hours a day, and the brain takes a savage beating.
However, I can't complain about the good fortune I had to witness SEMA first hand, to see such automotive magnificence in person, and to talk to the dedicated people who built the creations you are about to learn all of the little details about. As full as the SEMA halls were with automotive works of art, I have selected six very different and special vehicles that stood out in the sea of concentrated performance splendour. I give you the best of SEMA:
CAtuned BMW 2002
Of all the cars I absorbed at SEMA 2016, this was one of the first to fall under my gaze, and it likely left the greatest impression on me. Situated right at the front doors to the main causeway, this little BMW 2002 stood above an impressive group of cars flush with RWB 911s, drift cars, GT racers, and fantastic rat rod creativity.
German car-tuning specialists CAtuned whipped this bare-metal BMW 2002 together in a matter of weeks, rather than months. Literally being put together on the way to SEMA, the little Bimmer sits nice and low on AccuAir air suspension with a set of 15-inch wheels tucked nicely under the body with a wicked set of D-LNG turbo fans. However, this isn’t just a stance car, thankfully, as the bonnet-less engine bay shows.
A 3.2-litre inline-6 M20 stroker motor assembled by BimmerHeads, with all forged internals, powers this lightweight BMW. If that wasn’t enough, how about tossing a large Garrett turbo into the mix with a couple of wastegate zoomies with rain flappers for good effect.
A custom gauge cluster built by a 3D printer, and mounted with Stack gauges, garners the majority of the interior’s attention. The minimalist and naked-metal interior theme is finished off quite nicely with a set of bare-aluminium seats. This car has it all: looks, stance, old-school character, performance, and even a healthy dose of classic artistic impression. I absolutely love it.
LTMotorwerks Nissan Silvia
In North America, were I'm from, we never received the Nissan Silvia S14, only a rather watered-down-looking 240SX. For those JDM lovers in this part of the world, it sits as a bit of a sore spot. So whenever we get to see a proper Silvia, there tends to be quite a bit of excitement.
This particular Silvia had more than just its name and lineage going for it, and it sparked huge crowds. Let’s start with the obvious: this Silvia is rocking the Rocket Bunny Boss kit that completely transforms the front fascia and gives this a truly unique look. The fender flares help hide 18-inch Rotiform RB1s shod in Toyo R888 rubber. All that covers the rear is a carbon diffuser and a lovely little spoiler off the end of the boot — and you gotta love the BRE Racing livery.
However, things really got interesting once I peered into the engine bay. While Silvias are known to get extravagant engine swaps with more modern Nissan mills — a 2JZ or even an LS V8 swap — the sight of a BMW N54 straight-six lumped deep into a Nissan threw me for a loop at first. However, it all makes sense with the LTMotorwerks logo along the side of the car, who are well known for their BMW tuning. The big straight-six gets a little helping hand thanks to a Turbonetics turbo that is superbly set into the engine bay with the aid of some flash aluminium tubing and shiny wastegate and pressure regulator.
Toyo/TCP Magic Mazda RX-7
If you have never been to SEMA, the size and scope of the event is absolutely overwhelming. Ironically, despite being on-site, I never would have found this rotary masterpiece had I not been messaged from the ed halfway around the world back in New Zealand. Sure enough, Toyo had a display set-up deep in the nether regions of SEMA, which turned out to be a treasure trove of tuning excellence. If there was ever a car that so perfectly displayed the artistic aesthetics of Mother Nature, i.e. the flow of wind, this TCP Magic G-Face-equipped FD3S RX-7 is a prime example.
Bulletproof Automotive have been known for building some truly mind-blowing project vehicles, and this FD RX-7 was well worth the extra game of hide-and-seek to find. Other than the carbon-fibre glory that is the G-Face aero kit, this RX-7 sits on Stance air cup three-way adjustable coilovers with external reservoirs and Swift springs. Brembo brakes finish off the chassis with a set of RAYS Volk Racing TE37 wheels rocking Toyo 888Rs, which gave me the impression that this RX-7 is ready to terrorize a racetrack in the near future.
A freshly massaged twin-rotor engine sits under the vented bonnet and sends an undisclosed amount of power back to a Kaaz limited-slip diff. However, it is the sum of all its parts that makes this a truly amazing car, one that had me mesmerized in the hot Vegas sun for far too long considering my pale Canadian skin.
UAD Audi R8
Many fads come and go — nearly on an annual basis at SEMA — however, the act of bodying a car in carbon fibre just never seems to die. And hey, I think that's a good thing. With the myriad of exotics littering the performance car–focused Central Hall, I nearly walked right past this Audi R8 with barely a glance from my peripheral. However, my peripheral is well tuned to spot greatness, and a quick 180-degree turn confirmed my suspicions.
Built by Umbrella Auto Design (UAD), this R8 looks like an Audi Sport R8 LMS for the road ... would you believe that is exactly what this is?
This R8 is the culmination of two cars: a street-going R8 and a proper Audi Sport LMS retired racer. Ravi from UAD managed to get his hands on the racing machinery, which included all the cooling hardware and cooling tunnels, suspension, and dry carbon bodywork. Mix in a stock R8 chassis and bake for a couple months, and what will pop out of the UAD oven is a carbon-cladded wide-body Audi R8 that is still all-wheel drive, has turbo power, and race car handling for the street.
UAD took the racing suspension (JRZ RS Pro external reservoirs), and added their own variable-ride-height (VRH) lift system that allows the suspension to be raised or lowered by 75mm to help make the suspension work on both the street and track.
While a race-tuned engine would be fantastic, a stock 4.2-litre V8 made more sense for daily-driver duties. However, by running a CFi Designs twin-turbo kit, this R8 is still developing more ponies than the heavily restricted competition mill.
Acura/Honda NSX GT3
Going from a virtual GT car to the real deal, the GT3 class of racing has offered us some of the best racing of the modern age. With huge performance numbers and beautifully extravagant bodies, it seems every car builder wants to get in on the excitement.
Enter the NSX GT3, the future look of Grand Touring racing. I absolutely fell in love with the NSX GT3 hiding in the back of the Central Hall, finally bringing some Japanese flair back to GT racing. Yes, Lexus and Nissan run some potent coupes, but a low-slung NSX will bring a new modern look to the brutish field of GT3s.
Looking ready for action, already loaded up on an aluminium and carbon-fibre trailer, Honda are in the midst of getting the NSX homologated for the 2017 racing season, and should get the go ahead by the end of the year. With all the obligatory vents, fins, splitters, and diffusers needed to cut a downforce-sucking hole through the air, the NSX GT3 will make use of a 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 come race time.
With the car lifted high on the trailer, I was not able to get a view into the interior, which is fine, as this is likely a show car with some sexy racing bits on the exterior to sell the real deal that is waiting in the pipeline. I can’t wait to see an NSX in action.
In the words of Canada’s Yank neighbours to the south, “If it dun go fast nuff, git a bigger V8 in’er.” American drifting is all too familiar with this strategy, which translates into, “Put a GM LS in everything.” However, Ryan Tuerck strayed away from this ham-fisted tactic and decided to take a much more sophisticated route, something more ... Italian.
Thus I give you the Toyota GT4586, a wonderful play on words that describes precisely what we have here. Yes, that is one of Maranello’s normally aspirated finest that has been squeezed into the engine bay of this little GT86. Now packing 4.5 litres' worth of displacement, the Ferrari mill now gives Tuerck a reliable 425kW (570hp) with which to break the rear end loose at his beck and call.
It’s hard to miss those lovely intake manifolds sticking high above the bonnet line — however, it shows the packaging problems Huddy MotorSports had to overcome. Set to be mid mounting in a Ferrari, the tall intake manifolds required the throttle bodies to be set into the windshield with an air-box fitted behind the dash.
Likewise, engine bay space is at a premium thanks to the quad-cam heads, so Huddy transplanted all the cooling to the rear, fed by a roof-mounted air intake. This frees space up front, where they stretched custom titanium straight-pipe exhausts forward into the void, where they are vented to atmosphere just in front of the front wheels.
As one would expect, the abuse that drifting puts on the gearbox has resulted in the standard Getrag dual-clutch seven-speed getting scrapped in favour of a Fortin Racing five-speed sequential unit, matched to the block with a Tilton bellhousing and clutch.
There is all too much to talk about with this car, but be sure that this is a fabricator’s masterpiece with looks that could kill ... and a sound that likely will.