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SEMA 2022's 8 most bold, brash, and beautifully bonkers cars

  • SEMA allows custom tuners to show off their fabrication chops
  • Outrageous builds are the norm, not the exception
  • The industry-only show runs every year in Las Vegas

The annual SEMA (Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, if you want to reach into the pages of history) show in Las Vegas is a sure-fire spot in which to find some of the year’s most, erm, expressive custom and concept vehicles.

For those unfamiliar, SEMA started life as a trade show for businesses toiling in the automotive accessory industry. Over the years it has grown to out-sized proportions, with companies bringing outrageous car and truck builds as a vessel with which to show off their wares, not to mention the OEMs which now use SEMA as a test-bed for umpteen different concept vehicles. Add in a Vegas atmosphere and you’ve a madcap event for gearheads which runs at full throttle for nearly a week and encompasses over a million square feet of floor space. As a student of over-the-top-iary expression, this author thinks it is all just tremendous. I’ll get there someday.

Until then, enjoy our selection of rides which caught our attention – either for good, bad, or raised-eyebrow reasons – at this year’s soirée in the desert.

Ringbrothers 1948 Chevrolet Super Truck “Enyo”

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Ringbrothers’ 1948 Chevrolet Super Truck “Enyo” Photo by Ringbrothers

One can always count on the Wisconsin-based speed freaks at Ringbrothers to bring the wild-‘n’-crazy goods to SEMA. This year, one of the multiple machines they rolled out onto show floors in Vegas was this 1948 Chevrolet pickup, the result of over 10,000 laborious build hours and probably multiple pots of late-night coffee.

Nicknamed “Enyo,” this beast is powered by a Goodwin 1,000-horsepower tall-deck racing engine displacing 510 cubes, while the chopped and channeled body is crafted using extensive carbon-fiber components. Fun fact: the side pipes are made from 58 feet of titanium pie-cut welds and are connected to a set of one-off custom headers.

Quadratec “JTe” Two-Door Jeep Gladiator Hybrid

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Quadratec “JTe” Two-Door Jeep Gladiator Hybrid Photo by Quadratec

Built as a support vehicle for Quadratec’s “50-for-50” trail clean-up initiative with the Tread Lightly! crew, this JTe began life as a 2022 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe Rubicon, which was then sliced and diced behind the front doors before a factory Gladiator truck bed and factory Mopar body replacement panels were added, though the 4xe gubbins are largely untouched.

This being SEMA, the build crew then went ahead and added a 2.5-inch lift with adjustable control arms, 17-inch Lynx TrailGunner wheels, and a set of 37-inch Nitto Recon Grappler tires. A bed rack with gear like a rooftop tent and collapsed-sun lighting completes the build.

Lifted Rippers Ford Super Duty

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Lifted Rippers Ford Super Duty Photo by Lifted Rippers

Here’s an example of what many imagine (and our editor was probably thinking when he assigned this article) to be the type of rigs which dominate SEMA. This enormous Super Duty dually was built by a shop in Florida which has been focusing on custom-vehicle builds for approximately the last year.

Underneath all that chrome and yellow vinyl is a 2020 Ford F-350 which has an air-ride lift, an eye-popping wheel and tire set, custom trim panels, and perhaps more lights than the Las Vegas strip which sits just outside the SEMA show. Left unsaid is what will happen to the truck’s U-joints and other suspension pieces when trying to deal with these extreme angles, to say nothing of weight added by a bed full of stereo equipment. This is the archetype of SEMA.

SBN 2021 Ford Bronco Wildtrak

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But not every build is a garish expression of metallic paint and ginormous tires. The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN), a dynamic group of professionals representing the women of SEMA through elements like mentoring and networking opportunities, have come together to construct a Ford Bronco which marks the 10thanniversary of their first award-winning all-female build.

Using a 2021 Bronco Wildtrak donated by the Blue Oval, the project began in July and has since included the talents of over 100 SBN members to modify the truck’s powertrain, suspension, lighting, and more. Organizers estimate over 15,000 hours of work have gone into the project, with nearly 200 hours spent spinning wrenches on the build itself.

Kevin Hart’s 1987 Buick “Dark Knight” Grand National

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Noted gearhead Kevin Hart tag-teamed with Magnaflow to create a 1987 Buick Grand National GNX which has a modern Cadillac V6 stuffed up its retro nose. Plucked from the V-Series catalog, the mill pays homage to the GN’s six-cylinder heritage while firmly hauling it into the 21st century.

A bespoke MagnaFlow exhaust has been fitted to the car, though other elements such as the T-tops and rectilinear body lines hew to its ’80s roots. A slick carbon-fibre hood and splitter are nearly invisible – as they should be on a car called “the Dark Knight” – while a smattering of interior upgrades are sufficiently subtle so as not to ruin the old school aesthetic.

1966 Toyota Stout Drift Truck

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1966 Toyota Stout Drift Truck Photo by Alex Bernstein

Apparently built with the blessing of Toyota TRD, this is pro drifter Ryan Tuerck’s first project utilizing a tube chassis built with computer-aided design. He and his team worked with automotive artist Jon Sibal on the custom body, leaning on Advanced Fibreglass Concepts to convert body design files into cut molds on their five-axis router.

Mix in a throwback Mobil 1 livery plus a TRD front end and you’ve a guaranteed recipe to send vintage foreign truck nerds into an absolute tizzy. Power comes from a Toyota four-cylinder built by PSI Racing using a 5S block, custom 3S crankshaft, and first-gen 3SGE cylinder head.

Pullman Fabrications 1977 Ford Pinto

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Part of the Sport Compact class in the SEMA-recognized and Mothers-sponsored Top 40 Builders program, this Pinto two-door wagon’s now beats to an EcoBoost rhythm, specifically a 2.3L four-banger which is now found in numerous modern Fords. In a twist of irony, that’s an identical displacement to the largest four-cylinder engine on offer in a Pinto back in the day — except this one makes a lot more horsepower. Old-time retro stripes flit about the exterior, while the cabin pays homage to the big-lapel ‘70s with a red leather finish and patterned textile.

Auto Definitions 1978 AMC Sno Gremlin

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Auto Definitions 1978 AMC Sno Gremlin Photo by Quake LED

It isn’t the first year the Oklahoma build team of Auto Definitions has trotted out this track-ified AMC Gremlin — but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous. Details are slightly scarce other than to say it has a 5.0L V8 engine of unspecified vintage, but when we’re talking about a Gremlin on a Dominator track system, that hardly matters.

The Okies partnered with a number of other brands such as vinyl outfits for appearance and Quake LED lights, the latter of which boasts this thing is a star of the ‘Freak Show Builds’ program. With tidy proportions, this so-called “Sno Gremlin” can likely take on any snow-covered terrain — just don’t get it wet.

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