SEMA 2023 Highlights: A Countdown of the 10 Most Bonkers Cars

Showcasing the Top 10 Wildest and Most Creative Automotive Marvels from SEMA 2023

The 2023 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show was a standout event in the automotive industry, showcasing a unique blend of engineering expertise and artistic creativity in vehicle design. Held in the bustling and vibrant Las Vegas, the show transformed the city into a central gathering place for car enthusiasts, industry professionals, and forward-thinking innovators.

SEMA has always been celebrated for its ability to showcase vehicles at the forefront of design and performance, and this year was no exception. The event featured an impressive array of cars that exemplified the very edge of what is possible in automotive design and engineering, living up to its well-earned reputation as a showcase of cutting-edge and inspirational automotive developments.

A Brief History of SEMA

Tracing its origins to the early 1960s, SEMA began as a modest assembly of aftermarket manufacturers. It has since grown into an internationally acclaimed event, drawing the most brilliant minds in the automotive world. It has become a significant platform highlighting the latest trends and innovations in car customization, performance enhancements, and technological breakthroughs within the automotive industry. Over the years, SEMA has evolved from a simple gathering into a pivotal event that sets the tone for future automotive trends and serves as a testament to the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the automotive sector.

10. The World’s First Cummins Swapped Lamborghini

In extraordinary automotive transformations, 1WayDiesel has set a new benchmark by creating the world’s inaugural Cummins-powered Lamborghini. This ambitious endeavor began with purchasing a bare Lamborghini chassis for $3,000 from Facebook Marketplace.

Incorporating a 5.9L Cummins common rail engine into this Italian marvel was no small feat, resulting in an exceptional build. This machine is equipped with a tactile, gated 6-speed manual transmission and emits a deep, purposeful sound that surpasses a mere roar.

But just how swift is this vehicle? It surpasses the Tesla Plaid, previously the fastest production car in existence, in speed. This Lamborghini stands alone in its class, redefining the essence of unique speed. The 1WayDiesel team, led by Chase, has created an extraordinary vehicle. They’ve upgraded the engine to a twin-turbocharged Cummins diesel, which now generates a staggering 1100 horsepower, far exceeding the original Gallardo’s 493 hp, while maintaining the same six-speed gearbox from the Gallardo.

One of the most challenging aspects of this project was accommodating the large twin-turbo Cummins diesel straight-six engine within the Gallardo’s engine bay, initially designed for a five-cylinder engine. The speed shop’s solution was to custom-build a new firewall, successfully marrying the heart of a diesel giant with the finesse of the Italian supercar. This seamless integration and polished execution showcase the team’s exceptional engineering skills and creative ingenuity.

9. Carbon Aston Martin Vantage S

Sema 2023 highlights
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The Carbon Aston Martin Vantage S at SEMA 2023 was more than just a car; it showcased engineering brilliance, a blend of aesthetic beauty and raw power. The Carbon Vantage S grabbed attention with its audacious wide-body design, now wholly enveloped in carbon fiber. This isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade; using carbon fibre in the bumpers, arches, bonnet, and even the tail light insert speaks volumes about the meticulous attention to detail and the pursuit of performance enhancements. The car stands out with its iconic green racing headlights and bronzed Volk TE37 alloys, a nod to its racing pedigree.

But what’s a beautiful exterior without a heart to match? The engine of this Vantage S has undergone significant modifications at the hands of Velocity Automotive Performance, a renowned Canadian tuning brand. They have reimagined this British sports car with modified air filters, headers, and a reworked ECU. The original 430bhp? That’s a figure of the past. Under the guidance of car enthusiast Daniel Song, this Vantage S has seen its power significantly increase, rumored to be around an awe-inspiring 800 HP.

The Aston Martin Vantage S is a testament to the successful collaboration between Velocity Automotive Performance and Aston Martin. This alliance has birthed a vehicle that is not just a car but a statement on wheels. It’s a bespoke masterpiece that merges British elegance with unparalleled power and performance.

It has set a new benchmark in automotive design and performance, leaving an indelible mark in car enthusiasts and industry experts’ minds. This car is not just a vehicle; it’s a dream realized on four wheels.

8. Ferrari 612TR by SKLUB

Sema 2023 highlights
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The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, often criticized for its lackluster aesthetics, has undergone a dramatic transformation at the hands of custom builder SKLUB. The result is the 612 TR Teppista, a retro-inspired marvel that reinvigorates the grand tourer with a nod to the iconic 500 TR of the late 1950s.

SKLUB’s design philosophy for the Teppista was simple: blend the charm of old-school Ferrari design with modern nuances. The original bulky Pininfarina bodywork has been replaced with a more sculpted and voluptuous form. This harmonious blend of eras is especially evident in features like the color-matched side skirts with integrated exhausts and the juxtaposition of a prominent diffuser with classic lines.

Beneath the stunning exterior, the essence of the 612 remains intact. The hallmark round taillights and the powerful 5.7-liter V12 engine, which initially delivered 533 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque, are the critical elements preserved from the Scaglietti. This powerhouse could propel the Grand Tourer to 62 mph in four seconds, with a top speed of 199 mph. The Teppista, with its aerodynamic enhancements, is expected to surpass these figures.

The Teppista’s speedster-style design parallels the Ferrari Monza SP1, significantly departing from the 612 Scaglietti’s design language. Its creator, Slang500, on Instagram, has imbued this creation with years of thought and passion, resulting in a vehicle that is both a tribute to and a departure from Ferrari’s traditional design.

While the exterior has been completely overhauled, the interior of the 612 has been lovingly retained and enhanced. It now boasts a retrimmed cabin in vivid blue leather with striking yellow accents, blending luxury with a bold, contemporary vibe.

Slang500’s company, S-Klub LA, is no stranger to the custom car scene. Known for their breathtaking builds based on classic Mercedes and Porsche models, including Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing replicas with Tesla drivetrains, S-Klub LA has established a reputation for combining traditional designs with modern technology.

While modifications to Ferraris are often met with skepticism, the 612 TR Teppista stands as a testament to SKLUB’s craftsmanship and respect for Ferrari’s legacy. By retaining the iconic V12 engine and skillfully blending past and present designs, this vehicle offers something unique to enthusiasts and collectors.

7. Tesla-powered Datsun 240Z

Sema 2023 highlights
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The Legacy Electric Z, a pioneering creation combining Tesla technology with a Datsun 240Z, is a testament to inventive automotive engineering. This unique vehicle, crafted from the ground up, might stir mixed feelings among Z-car enthusiasts and EV skeptics. However, its presence is undeniably captivating, especially given its custom matte carbon fiber finish. Despite being showcased at a bustling trade event, it drew significant attention.

The brainchild behind this electric marvel is Tim Hicks of Industry Garage, also known for his YouTube channel Street Bandito. Hicks’ channel, devoid of scripted gimmicks and overt product placements, focuses on high-end automotive projects. Viewers gain insights into various aspects of car building, especially in areas like carbon fiber work and fabrication.

Finding a 240/60/80Z family car at an affordable price is increasingly rare, but Hicks managed to acquire one for $500. This model was far from pristine, lacking an engine, drivetrain, windows, suspension, and doors, and it came with its share of rust and structural damage. Hicks’ team at Industry Garage undertook a comprehensive restoration, which included removing the roof and floor for a significant overhaul.

Designers Ash Thorp and Carlos Colorsponge collaborated with Hicks to conceptualize a custom body design for the car. The result is a fusion of the classic Z-car aesthetic with a more comprehensive, aggressive, and futuristic look.

Hicks invested weeks in 3D printing and carbon fiber application to bring this design to fruition. The car features oversized front fenders and rear quarters, extending beyond the original body lines. These house large BBS RS wheels are equipped with Toyo Proxes TQ tires, measuring 16×10 -140 at the front and 16×11 -165 at the rear.

The car’s design includes a unique feature on the driver’s side: a seven-inch wheel lip that showcases the BBS wheels. On the opposite side, Hicks added carbon fiber turbo fans with a curved edge to encase the wheel’s face. The vehicle also boasts functional venting and strategic cuts for aerodynamics, including a large rear diffuser and a sleek spoiler. The familiar Z-car taillights have been replaced with a minimalist design featuring support bars and a slender LED brake light.

The car uses a Tesla Model S rear drive unit with a custom tubular frame mounted in the cargo area for its powertrain. This setup integrates TechnoToy Tuning control arms and various suspension components, including Evolved coilovers. A pair of CSF radiators cool the Tesla unit. The car boasts an impressive 450 horsepower and substantial torque.

Josh Hutchins contributed a complete roll cage, surrounded by Hicks’ expert carbon fiber panel work. The interior features reupholstered Status bucket seats, a reworked dashboard, and an OMP flat-bottom steering wheel. AEM’s CD7 digital cluster and carbon fiber weave panels add to the modernized cabin.

Hicks also modified the original transmission tunnel to accommodate Chevy Volt batteries, covering them with a large carbon panel and an Alcantara armrest for a seamless interior look. The front hood, replacing the traditional internal combustion engine setup, now houses another Volt battery beneath multiple carbon fiber layers, maintaining an almost factory-like appearance.

Despite its humble beginnings as a rusted $500 shell, this Legacy Z project showcases the remarkable potential of garage-built electric vehicles. It represents a bold statement in the evolving landscape of car customization, bridging classic design with modern electric vehicle technology.

6. 1987 Merkur “RS4Ti”

Sema 2023 highlights
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JH Restorations recently revealed their latest project at the SEMA show, a reimagined version of the iconic 1987 Merkur XR4Ti, now dubbed the RS4Ti. This car is a tribute to the Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500, known in the U.S. as the Merkur XR4Ti, which explains the quirky name.

The 1987 model was initially equipped with a 2.3-liter Lima inline-four engine, offering power ranging from 145 to 175 horsepower, depending on the transmission. The new RS4Ti, however, boasts a significant upgrade with the same size engine – a 2.3-liter turbocharged Ford Performance EcoBeast engine, delivering an impressive 450 horsepower. This power is channeled through a Bowler-modified Tremec TKX five-speed manual transmission, and it utilizes an 8.8 differential from a 2018 Mustang for enhanced performance. Although the car’s weight is not explicitly stated, it’s anticipated to be comparable to, or lighter than, the original’s 2,952 pounds, giving it the potential to eclipse the performance of a 2024 Mustang GT.

For handling, the RS4Ti is outfitted with advanced Wilwood six-piston brakes and a QA1 suspension system borrowed from a C6 Corvette. It rides on American Racing VF529 wheels, encased in Toyo Proxes Sport tires for optimal grip.

The vehicle sports a bespoke body kit that marries perfectly with its original design. The flared wheel arches, front splitter, and a pronounced power bulge complement the original wing, creating an aesthetic reminiscent of wine and cheese. It’s coated in Ford’s striking Area 51 Blue, adding a touch of class.

The interior of the RS4Ti is equally remarkable. The Recaro seats feature a blue shade pattern with hints of orange on the steering wheel, channeling an authentic 1980s feel. Modern amenities like a Dakota digital instrument display and a contemporary sound system are integrated seamlessly yet retain a retro look with classic gauge designs. The inclusion of a Sony Walkman cassette player completes the nostalgic experience.

5. Nissan Safari Rally Z Tribute (2023)

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Nissan, a brand synonymous with innovation and tradition, has outdone itself. At the 2023 SEMA show, the automotive giant unveiled the Safari Rally Z Tribute, a modern masterpiece that pays homage to its storied motorsports legacy, particularly the iconic Datsun 240Z rally car. This unveiling was accompanied by showcasing a meticulously restored replica of the Datsun 240Z, a testament to Nissan’s enduring legacy in rally racing.

The Safari Rally Z Tribute: A Modern Take on a Legendary Car

Building on the success of the seventh-generation Nissan Z, the Safari Rally Z Tribute is more than just a nod to the past. It reimagines how a contemporary sports car can embody the spirit of rally racing. Designed by Tommy Pike Customs, this vehicle is not just a tribute; it’s a statement.

Key Features and Enhancements:

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  • Upgraded Suspension and Tires: The Safari Rally Z Tribute sports a custom KW Safari suspension and NISMO suspension parts, elevating its stance by 2 inches. This modification is complemented by 17 x 7.5-inch prototype NISMO Safari wheels, wrapped in Yokohama GEOLANDAR M/T G003 tires, ideally suited for the rugged off-roading demands.
  • Reinforced Protection: A new front bumper guard and skid plate have been added for increased durability.
  • Interior Refinements: The interior is included with a custom roll bar, 4-point harnesses, and custom-trimmed Recaro Pole Position seats, ensuring both safety and comfort.
  • Performance Upgrades: The car’s heart is an AMS-tuned, 400+ horsepower VR30DDTT engine, bolstered with a NISMO Track cat-back exhaust system, cold air intake, and a range of other enhancements, promising both power and reliability.

Historical Significance:

The tribute car draws inspiration from the #11 Datsun 240Z, which clinched victory in the 1971 East African Safari Rally. This win, a milestone for Nissan, was the second consecutive triumph for a Datsun racer in this challenging rally. The Safari Rally Z Tribute aims to encapsulate this proud history, bringing it to life for a new generation.

The Rally-Winning Datsun 240Z and the Seiko Safari Z Watch:

A particular highlight of the SEMA show was the side-by-side display of the Safari Rally Z Tribute and a vintage replica of the Datsun 240Z, owned by collector Randy Jaffe. This pairing visually narrated Nissan’s journey from past triumphs to future aspirations. Adding to the excitement, Nissan also announced the limited-edition Seiko Safari Z watch, with only 240 pieces available, further cementing the Z car’s legacy in automotive culture.

4. Lightweight racing 1967 Mustang Fastback

Sema 2023 highlights
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At the SEMA 2023 event, an unconventional and highly captivating Mustang garnered considerable interest. This vehicle was engineered explicitly for exhilarating track experiences. As highlighted in a report, its designer, Chris Ashton, remarked that the car is a tribute to the Shelby Cobra, drawing inspiration from the European-raced FIA variant, known for its simplicity, lightness, and speed.

Chris Ashton, a seasoned auto enthusiast with 35 years of mechanical expertise and 25 years in racing, leads the project. His projects reflect a commitment to excellence and a penchant for overcoming challenges. His enterprise, Ruffian Cars, transforms classic cars into stunning, drivable masterpieces. Their dedication to innovation is evident in every project, backed by a wealth of experience and a desire for uniqueness. The small, skilled team at Ruffian Cars operates in a well-equipped workshop, ensuring efficiency and high standards in their builds.

The Mustang is notable for its lightweight design, tipping the scales at just 1,315kg. An aluminum small-block Shelby engine propels it. The interior features an exposed transmission tunnel, continuing a bronze theme in the six-point cage. The minimalist design is further emphasized by just six switches inside, reflecting Chris and his team’s philosophy of simplicity.

3. Finale Speed Candy red carbon Camaro

At the recent SEMA Show, the spotlight was on Finale Speed’s latest masterpiece, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. This vehicle stands out distinctively with its shimmering candy-red carbon fiber shell, a testament to the company’s expertise in modernizing classic cars with cutting-edge materials and techniques.

Finale Speed has meticulously reconstructed the Camaro’s structure using lightweight carbon fiber, which involved intricate sanding and priming before applying a unique BASF Candy Red paint. This approach to coloring carbon fiber, once pioneered by elite carmakers like Pagani and Koenigsegg, has become a hallmark of Finale Speed’s craftsmanship.

However, the car’s allure extends beyond its striking exterior. It boasts a robust LT4 6.2-liter crate V8 engine, enhanced with a custom supercharger and mated to a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission and a twin-disc clutch. This setup generates an impressive 650 horsepower, channeled through a robust Ford 9-inch rear end and a limited-slip differential. The car’s performance is further augmented by a 2.5-inch stainless steel exhaust, new headers, and MagnaFlow mufflers, ensuring optimal airflow.

The Camaro rides on sleek Forgeline wheels, sized 18×10 in the front and 18×12 in the rear, and is equipped with high-performance Toyo R888R tires. The vehicle’s precise weight remains undisclosed, but its speed capabilities are evident, necessitating the installation of powerful six-piston Wilwood brake calipers and oversized rotors at both ends, alongside enhanced sway bars and Fox coilovers for superior handling.

The Camaro has been extensively upgraded with modern comfort and safety features. It features new seats with four-point harnesses, a console adorned in Alcantara, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a four-point rollbar. The interior also boasts an Alcantara headliner and a rear seat replacement with carbon fiber. For an immersive audio experience, an Alpine head unit is complemented by Focal speakers and a subwoofer.

2. Gas Monkey Garage Ferrari “TESTA” EV

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Gas Monkey Garage has transformed the iconic Ferrari Testarossa into an entirely new beast by converting it into an electric vehicle (EV). The Testarossa not only stands as one of Maranello’s most legendary machines but also serves as a symbol of the extravagant 1980s era, thanks to its distinctive cheese grater side intakes that have inspired countless tuners.

The electric conversion of the Testarossa was expertly executed by Legacy EV, a specialized company based in Arizona. They integrated a $15,000 Cascadia Motion IDM-190 powertrain into the Ferrari, which consists of a BorgWarner electric motor producing 300 horsepower and 368 lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque, coupled with a single-ratio transmission with an 8.28:1 ratio (explaining the substantial 3,053 lb-ft/4,140 Nm axle torque) and a CM200 inverter.

When the Testarossa was introduced in 1984, its 4.9-liter flat-12 engine generated at least 380 horsepower and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque. Therefore, this EV-converted Testarossa may have less horsepower than the original, but it boasts a bit more torque and delivers that torque instantly. To power the electric drivetrain, 36 Kore Power batteries are distributed across three housings. Most of these batteries are located in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank, preserving the supercar’s original weight distribution.

Given that the vehicle is well over three decades old, other technological components have also been modernized. Notable upgrades include Bilstein AS2-R adjustable race coilovers and 15-inch Brembo brakes.

Gas Monkey Garage has given the Testarossa a distinctive appearance, describing it as a “custom chop design” with a half-sized, sharply slanted windscreen and a reconfigured rear passenger cell that now serves as a rollover bar. It’s worth mentioning that this Italian exotic has been transformed into a single-seater with no roof.

1. Gunther Werks Porsche 993 911 Speedster

The latest creation from the renowned restomod specialists at Gunther Werks was presented at the 2023 SEMA. This extraordinary rendition of the Porsche Speedster stands out as a masterpiece of design and performance. Its exterior is sculpted entirely from carbon fiber, featuring a distinctive deep dish wheel design, a sleekly reduced windshield, and a prominently elevated duck-tail rear. This model, the Gunther Works 911 Speedster, is a testament to the fusion of classic Porsche elegance with cutting-edge materials and aesthetics.

Beneath its striking exterior, the car boasts an impressive powertrain: a Rothsport Racing 4.0-liter flat-six engine delivering a robust 435 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. While these numbers may not break records, they are sufficient for the vehicle’s lightweight build, tipping the scales at just 2,590 pounds thanks to its all-carbon fiber construction. For enthusiasts of traditional driving experiences, the vehicle maintains a retro charm with its updated Getrag G50 five-speed manual transmission. This exclusivity is heightened by its limited production run of only 25 units.

Each of these rare vehicles features a unique aesthetic, with this particular model showcasing an exposed carbon weave complemented by vibrant purple accents, dazzling onlookers at the auto show. Gunther Werks’ signature refinements are evident, including the intricately designed steampunk-inspired side mirrors, a sleek, modern taillight bar, and an interior that elegantly harmonizes with the purple theme.

2023 SEMA highlight video