Every year, hundreds of shops across the country rush to finish their builds, and ship them–hopefully intact and complete–to show them off at one of the automotive industry’s biggest shows of the year’ SEMA (Special Equipment Market Association) in Las Vegas. As well as shops showing their building skills, parts manufacturer’s use the venue to debut tomorrows technology, while OEM’s tend to debut their own project cars and special editions.
While I was not there, the coverage of the event is so extremely all-inclusive that I certainly saw almost everything at the show. Rather than picking a random few cars I liked, I decided to split the show into categories: OEM cars, parts and accessories, and custom shop builds, choosing one of each.
Best OEM Production Vehicle: 2018 Hennessey Performance Venom F5
Ok, ok, calling Hennessey Performance an OEM, and their new 300mph-capable Venom F5 a production vehicle might seem a bit of a stretch, but bear with me. While the company–and the man behind the company–have made their name by modifying other manufacturer’s cars to absurd power levels, that is not the case with the Venom F5.
Rather than utilizing a Lotus chassis and a Chevy drivetrain as in their previous Venom hypercars, Hennessey has developed their own bespoke chassis and engine design, allowing them to push the capabilities of what a modern automobile can do. This independence from other companies is also what sets Hennessey Performance apart as an OEM in my mind.
Claiming 301mph on their website as the top speed, the company has yet to reach the speed due to testing location availability and tire development. To power the car to these absurd speed claims the car is equipped with an as-yet finalized twin-turbo V8 producing 1600hp, routed to the rear wheels through a seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission.
Why did the Hennessey get top-marks from me for an OEM? Because, c’mon…300mph.
Need I say more?
Best Accessory or Part: Ford Performance “Drift Stick”
The Ford Focus RS is a hooligan of a car, having 350hp and 350lb-ft of torque, as well as the ability to use that power to shove the car sideways via the car’s revolutionary ‘Drift Mode’, despite being equipped with AWD for traction. The car achieves these AWD slides with electronic tom-foolery, and tops off the package by coming wrapped in the unassuming body of a Focus hatchback.
It is absolutely a case of Ford listening to the enthusiast, and it is fantastic because of it.
With the release of Ford Performance’s new ‘Drift Stick’, shown at SEMA this year, the car has gotten even more fantastic. The stick, when pulled, uses the AWD system with the anti-lock braking system, while simultaneously opening the rear-drive unit’s clutches while applying pressure to the rear wheels, initiating a drift.
Did Ford Focus RS owners need such a stick? Of course not. I can guarantee you though, that a good number of those owners certainly want such a stick. It is for this reason–Ford making something useless but fun–that the Drift Stick is my favorite accessory or part from the show.
Best Build From SEMA: Gunther Werks 400R Porsche 993
Nowadays, seeing ‘GT3 RS’ on a Porsche is usually a sign that that car can eat a track for lunch and then calmly drive home for dinner. However, Porsche did not offer the moniker until the 996-generation of 911’s, the first to feature a water-cooled block.
But what if Porsche had made a GT3 RS for the last air-cooled Porsche, the 993?
It was this question that the company Gunther Werks set out to answer, with their 400R 993. The car starts out in life as a 993 Carrera 2, which the company can supply at cost, or the customer can provide one to the company.
Once obtained, the car is stripped down to the steel body, and the engine is removed. After this, the company widens the front and rear to combat the 993’s widow-maker levels of understeer. To contain the newly bulged suspension, the company crafts new carbon fiber fenders, body work, bumpers, hood, rear decklid, spoiler, and roof panel. What do they keep? The doors, to maintain the stock side-impact beams, and because the increased width does not effect their operation.
The engine is also thoroughly re-worked, maintaining it’s air-cooled nature. The engine is given all-new heads, Mahle pistons, a modern GT3 RS’s 4.0L crankshaft, Camillo rods, and various other sport-themed modifications. As the picture above shows, it is topped by a beautiful custom carbon fiber intake.
The engine breathes through a 997-generation GT3 RS’s dual-mode exhaust and has a loud, Sport mode, and a quieter normal mode. In Sport, the engine produces 431hp and 315lb-ft of torque, spinning all the way to a 7800-RPM redline. In quiet mode the muffled engine loses 30hp.
All of this work is not cheap, as if an air-cooled Porsche could ever be cheap, and the final price comes in at $525,000 before further options. That price does not include the cost of the original car. The company had serial number 000 on display, and plans to build a further 25 more if the demand is there.
Judging from fellow Porsche builder Singer and their success, I strongly suspect the demand will be there, and then some.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.