The greatest car builders in the business gather in Las Vegas for SEMA. We take a look at the top 12 finalists from 2022 SEMA Battle of the Builders!
The Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, better known as the SEMA Show, is one of the largest vehicle conventions of the year. Nearly every automotive brand is in attendance and the showcases on display feature some of the most radical vehicle concepts of the year. SEMA has always brought out the most eye-catching builds as brands try to leave their mark on the show, so they decided that adding a nationwide competition to the event made sense.
Battle of the Builders first debuted in 2014 and has been a staple of the SEMA Show ever since. Hundreds of custom car builds converge in Las Vegas, Nevada in hopes of winning their class and the SEMA Battle of the Builders Championship. The entrants are narrowed down by a panel of industry experts before letting the builders themselves decide which custom build is the best of the bunch. There were tons of hot rods, off-roaders, exotics, and some great builds from young talents all on display at this year’s event, but we unfortunately can’t ogle at all of the great cars in attendance. Instead, here are the best of the best – the top three from each category and the 2022 Battle of the Builders Champion!
The Young Guns category features builders that are aged 29 & under. Don’t discredit these builds as parking lot tuners just because these entrants have fewer years under their belts. These Young Guns have hundreds of hours put in, extensive custom fabrication, and have pulled together some of the best-looking cars in attendance. Here are the top three Battle of the Builders Young Guns.
First up is a car that’s commonly referenced as a great project car, the discontinued Scion FR-S. Cameron Cocalis took the sports car and completely rebuilt it into a street beast. The original structure of the 2015 Scion FR-S has been almost completely replaced with a tube chassis and interior roll cage. Cocalis added custom fabricated paneling throughout the build, added a Pandem V3 widebody kit, threw on some Work S1 3P wheels, and had the thing painted in two-tone black.
The real show stopper of this build is what’s in the engine bay – a modified LS376/525 6.2L V8 engine that’s been outfitted with additional aftermarket adornments and features a custom 8-into-1 header setup. Other performance parts include a sequential setup Tremec Magnum F transmission, Haltech Elite 2500 engine management, Radium Fuel system, and a rear-mounted radiator setup. Keeping that power under control through the corners is a fully built aftermarket suspension, Wilwood brakes, and some wide Toyo Tires.
Austin Phipps also dropped an LS3 engine into his build, but his 1966 Chevrolet Nova is looking to hit the dragstrip rather than the circuit like the Scion. Phipps LS3 inside the Nova is outfitted with a BTR stage 4 PDS cam, custom titanium dual filter intake, a stainless-steel oval exhaust, and a Whipple 2.9 Supercharger. This car is ready to run the quarter mile on those Nexen Nfera AU7 tires and it’ll be kept in check thanks to the Wilwood four-piston brakes all around.
The blue Nova is otherwise a clean restomod example with metallic tan accenting throughout. Phipps shaved door handles, installed a ‘59 Impala metal dashboard with custom gauges, and was able to get some one-of-one Rushforth Prowler wheels. The build really comes together at the rear where spectators could witness the beautifully designed rear trunk showcasing the air suspension management.
Josh Michels is the 2022 Young Guns finalist with his ‘66 Chevrolet C2 Corvette build. On the outside the car looks like a wonderful restoration piece. It’s painted in a nice Laguna Blue that meshes well with the classic chrome accenting. The inside of this Corvette is composed of Lamborghini Italian crème leather surrounding custom built interior components. Under the skin though is where this Corvette build gets interesting.
The engine is the 755-horsepower, supercharged LT5 6.2L V8 from a 2019 C7 Corvette ZR1. The C7 components don’t stop there though, this build also integrates the paddle-shifted automatic transmission, ZR1 spindles and controls arms, and ZR1 carbon ceramic rotors installed with Brembo calipers all derived from the ‘19 C7 Corvette. The rest of this Corvette build is rounded out with an independent rear from a Camaro ZR1, a McLeod dual disc clutch, custom Forgeline wheels, and modifications to allow for wide 355-millimeter tires at the rear.
The 4-Wheel Drive & Off-Road category is primarily composed of wonderfully crafted truck and SUV builds. This category can go anywhere from true to form restoration pieces up to insanely custom-built models that showcase an extreme level of engineering for conquering the outdoors. If you enjoy knobby tires, substantial ground clearance, and setups that can handle some gnarly angles, this is the Battle of the Builders category for you!
We don’t get to enjoy the classic FJ40 enough, so I appreciate Greg Ward’s entry here. Ward’s 1971 Toyota FJ30 Landcruiser took nearly 3,000 hours to complete and he considers this build one of the nicest he’s put together to date. At a glance, this FJ40 looks like a nicely restored example that’s been given a little bump in off-roading performance with those Black Rhino wheels, Bilstein shocks, custom bumpers, and the Warn winch at the front. However, this thing carries with it some substantial power inside that can’t been fully appreciated without lifting the hood or hearing the engine.
Inside this FJ40 is a LS3 V8 crate engine mated to a Toyota H55F five-speed manual transmission/transfer case combination. Other additions to this build include a cold air intake, a True Dual Systems exhaust, power steering, and much more. It may not be true to form, but this FJ40 has the look that fans love and the performance to boot.
The first Ford we’ve gotten to talk about comes from Cody Dabney in the form of his restomodded 1970 Ford F-250. Dabney’s Velocity Modern Classics team primarily does work on classic Broncos, but they’ve carefully restored this ‘70s F-250 truck body and set out to bring the automotive icon into the modern age. The exterior looks great with that two-tone paintjob, chrome trimmings, and the custom-machined exterior additions. On the underside, this truck has all-new Dana axles, an Atlas II transfer case, custom Fox Shocks, and some Baer brakes mounted behind those retro wheels.
The engine bay brings things further forward as Velocity Modern Classics installed a far from original 5.0L Coyote V8 engine that produces a nice rumble through the custom-made exhaust pipes. The modern touch continues inside, where the interior introduces a nice mix of retro style and tech advancements. You’ve got the matching two-tone scheme throughout, leather appointed bench seating, an updated version of the original dashboard, updated Vintage Air air conditioning, and a new sound system from Morel that’s controlled by a RetroSound Huntington Radio.
This isn’t Jim and Mike Ring’s first time out at SEMA with custom builds. The brothers are well known around the industry as some of the best custom car builders in the business as they continue to outdo themselves every year at SEMA – and this year is no different. Two Ringbrothers builds made it into the top 12 of Battle of the Builders this year, the first of which being this 1972 Chevy K5 Blazer “BULLY” that won the 4-Wheel Drive & Off-Road category.
The fit and finish on this completely custom Blazer is immaculate. No corner has gone untouched and it makes for a truly impressive ride. The entire thing has over 8,500 hours of work put into it and there isn’t much left of the original Blazer really there anymore. The silver/blue metallic truck features unique badging, a completely custom interior, custom leather strap weaved seats, carbon fiber fender flares, HRE wheels with Cooper Discoverer tires, and a custom hood featuring supercharger vents.
Under the hood of this Ringbrothers BULLY is a 1,200-horsepower Wegner Motorsports 6.8L LS3 V8 with a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger on top. Power is transferred through a Bowler Tru-street GM 4L80E automatic transmission. The Blazer also features a Dana 44 at the front and 60 at the rear, Fox coilovers, Baer six-piston brakes all around, a Holley Dominator EFI system, along with Flowmaster headers and mufflers.
Looking for builds centered around some fun sports cars and exotics? The Sport Compact, Import Performance, Luxury & Exotics category features some of the most ritzi and racing ready examples of the bunch. All the most iconic cars from the likes of BMW, Lotus, Lamborghini, Toyota, and Porsche make appearances here. This year had a good mix of extravagant sights and outright track ready performance, so let’s check them out.
Fist from this category sticks out like a sore thumb, but there’s no denying the effort put into this 1977 Ford Pinto. CJ Pullman gave all the attendees a burst of nostalgia with this ‘70s-tastic Pinto. The wagon’s three stripe design on the outside is such a classic look that pairs well with all the other classic adornments like the rear bubble window, roof mounted luggage rack, and those classic BFGoodrich white letter tires wrapped around some American Racing wheels.
The completely red interior with plaid accenting also screams retro style, but there are some subtle updates all around that definitely weren’t around for 1977. There’s a digital radio display with a modern sound system, bolstered seating, and then there’s the motor. Pullman dropped in a 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder that’s been installed with a Precision turbo running through a Garrett intercooler. It’s smallest engine of these finalists, but it’s a fitting unit for restomodded Pinto.
All of the JDM fans are going to love Shan Bassett’s 1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R build that introduces modern racing elements to the Japanese icon. This Skyline started out at a NISMO car that had never seen the track until Bassett gave it a rebuild. Under the hood is an RB26 2.8L straight-6 engine that’s been fully built and stroked. That engine is mated to a BMW dual-clutch transmission to provide quick shifts via the steering wheel fitted paddle shifters.
This Skyline is featured at the Moton booth since it implements their engine management, power distribution modules, three-way coilovers, and an air jacks system. The carbon fiber body of this Skyline was fabricated by Bassett and his team along with the custom aero additions. The racer also features custom billet suspension arms, a custom dry-sump oiling system, an AP Pro5000 Big Brake kit, Volk TE38 wheels wrapped in with Toyo Tires rubber, and a chassis-mounted APR Performance 70-inch Dual Element rear wing.
Top spot for this category goes to TJ Russell and the Russell Built team with their Baja inspired 1991 Porsche 911 Carrera. The 911 has a brief history of tackling off-road racing, but Russell’s entry sure makes us wish that Porsche would keep doing it. The “BAJA 911” is a prerunner inspired Porsche that combines luxury with racing engineering to create something that every car enthusiast would love to toss around in the desert.
Russel Built gave this 911 a race-prepped chassis, wide fender flares, a long travel suspension, installed their very own Baja Wheels wrapped with Toyo Tires, front and rear bull bars, and all of the rally inspired lighting you could want. At the rear is an impressive engine design that’s powering an exclusive AWD drivetrain. Crawling inside this 911 looks feels like a true racer with the custom upholstered Sparco SPX seats, the Momo race wheel, and that digital screen for a gauge cluster. But then there’s a booming sound system that emphasizes that this thing is made to have some fun while you push it over the bumps and jumps.
Finally, we have the Hot Rod/Hot Rod Truck category which should be considered the heart of this competition. Hot rods have been a major staple for car builds as they are essentially the first examples of car modifying and fully custom building. These final three are some of the best Battle of the Builders has to offer and the group includes the overall champion for this year’s competition.
Tim Devlin and his team from Devlin Rod already took the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award at this year’s 2022 Roadster Grand Nationals and the Goodguys Street Rod of the year with this 1934 Chevrolet Roadster, but it was only able to make the top three in its category at SEMA. The Chevy roadster is a sleek, traditional example that actually holds a little rarity with it. It’s one of only 31 examples ever built by GM’s Australian subsidiary, Holden, in 1934.
The team removed the fenders, removed the running boards, and had the body channeled over the frame rails to achieve its low street rod style. Then they shaved the door handles, removed any original trim, and dumped the bumpers to narrow down the design just to the body’s original curves. Devlin Rod installed a custom-made grille, a screened exhaust opening at the rear, some E&J-style headlights, and gave it a dark blue glossy paint to really bring the exterior look of this hot rod together.
Powering this Chevy Roadster is powered by a Dart LS3 that was custom built to give it more of a traditional look and the team even went as far as to hide the electronics for the injection so it appeared to be a mechanical setup. The team rounded out the build with a wonderful interior that features dark blue/gray leather upholstery and elegant, classical appointments all around the cabin.
This Ford F-100 is going to push some trends in the hot rod community. Tyler Nelson’s 1958 Ford F-100 is a clean build for an old truck. The white-grey-orange scheme can be seen throughout the design and it inspires a new age style for builders to draw from. There isn’t any chrome trim to be seen, the door handles have been shaved, the rear has been simplified, the bed design integrates the raised position of the rear axle, and that engine bay is one of the cleanest looking ones I’ve ever seen.
That engine bay makes the color scheme matching Ford Racing Coyote 5.0L V8 with a Whipple supercharger the center piece of this hot rod truck build. The theme continues moving inside where there’s a modern styled interior featuring black and orange leather upholstery all over. The classic bench seat is replaced by two bucket seats with a custom-built center console between them. Nelson also added custom-machined pedals and shifter along with specialized gauges in the reimagined dashboard.
Here it is. Not only the top pick for the Hot Rod/Hot Rod Truck category but the overall champion of Battle of the Builders for 2022. Ringbrothers have a winner with their original-cab 1948 Chevrolet Pickup Loadmaster hot rod truck they dubbed “ENYO”. The Chevy underwent 2,500 design-engineering hours and took over 8,600 hours to put together to get where it is now. The Ringbrothers team were able to craft a vehicle that looks like the 1940’s was met with modern open wheel Formula 1 racing and we’re in love with it.
The Chevy truck body underwent a 4-inch chop to drop the roof, was lengthened 2 inches, narrowed by 4 inches, was slammed mere inches from the ground, and features a ton of carbon fiber parts that range from the clamshell hood down to the steering wheel. One of the most notable components of this design is the open wheel setup with those wide Goodyear racing slicks wrapped around some Porsche 911 pin drive HRE wheels. The suspension working with this open wheel look is a looker itself. Looking at the bed of the truck you’ll notice the pushrod-actuated dual-wishbone suspension that works in association with custom Öhlins coilovers.
Also in the bed area, you’ll notice the rear-mounted radiator and the Corvette torque tube transaxle to the engine. Speaking of that engine, Ringbrothers made sure it was a key piece of this Chevy pickup build. They dropped in a 510 CID LS-based racing engine built by Todd Goodwin that features a Kinsler eight-stack fuel-injection, custom SS headers, titanium side exit exhaust, and a whole bunch of custom machined parts. Ringbrothers claims that the engine is capable of 1,000 horses when running on race fuel. The Ringbrothers ENYO is a dream come true for gearheads and a remarkable build that truly deserves the Battle of the Builders honors that were bestowed upon it.