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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Top 12 Coolest Cars at the 2008 SEMA Show

One of the most interesting parts of the annual SEMA show is the sheer diversity of the cars and trucks built to either showcase specific products or just express an individual's personal taste. Many of these vehicles are over-the-top with paint, chrome and more glitz than Vegas itself. There's every style of motor vehicle imaginable, from fully functional rock crawling 4X4s to show boating low riders and even a few concept cars from the major automakers. Here are twelve of the coolest cars we saw at SEMA this year, and if that's not enough for you check out Mike Allen's picks for the 10 ugliest cars from the show here.
Published on: November 6, 2008

1. Ford Thunder Flite

Ford Thunder Flite

At first glance we thought this was a concept car from the 1960s. But it's not. This Ford concept was built this year by talented craftsman Dean Arnold. His goal was to create a vision of what Ford could have built back in 1962 as a Thunderbird of the future. Very neat, indeed.

2. Haul in Style

Haul in Style

We certainly don't like towing our own race machines and classic cars. But hey, if we had this truck in our garage, we'd never mind towing again. This early Ford cabover-style truck has a swapped in Cummins diesel engine. So it's not just a show truck.

3. Chrysler Hollywood

Chrysler Hollywood

Chrysler had plenty of cool Challengers (both old and new) on display at SEMA. But it was this one-off Chrysler 300 "Hollywood" that caught our eye. This 300 rides on a 136-inch wheelbase and is stretched 18-inches over the stock dimensions. It was inspired by the big beautiful cars of the 1920s and has suicide-style rear doors and luxury trappings fit for a Rolls Royce.

4. Adventure Wagon

Adventure Wagon

It's safe to say the PM auto staff is obsessed with the concept of a do-it-all adventure wagon. We'd like to build our own some day. But until we do, this Jeep from Earthromer Expedition Vehicles will fit the bill. It comes with a ton of neat features for adventurers, not the least of which is a solar-powered fridge. We'll need to test drive one of these soon.

5. Ecto-1


We're not entirely sure if this is the actual car from the Movie Ghostbusters or just an incredibly accurate reproduction. It was clear, however, from the throngs of fans surrounding "Ecto-1," that it was one of the stars of this year's show.

6. Hot Bunny

Hot Bunny

HPA routinely builds some of the coolest cars at SEMA. And each year these vehicles have one thing in common—surprising speed. This VW R32 Golf may look tame upon first glance. But it's an animal. HPA turbocharged the 3.3-liter V6 to produce 500 hp and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. The interior is stripped down aft the front seats and looks to have a serious roll cage. The wide fenders are hand formed metal. Impressive.

7. Rice Fink

Rice Fink

This little tyke was built as a tribute to the wild cars and cartoons created by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Roth's signature character "Rat Fink" is seen here on the side of this neat 1966 Subaru 360 micro truck. The Subaru may not need that huge rear wing though…there's only a 600cc Yamaha engine aboard. This was one of the most original cars we've ever seen at SEMA. We dig it.

8. Insanity


The prices of older, late 60s and early 70s Rolls Royce sedans are relatively low these days. So the owner of this Roller did the right thing—he made it into a fire breathing hot rod. Upfront is a blown hemi V8, so it should run far quicker than anything that came out of the Rolls Royce factory. Well, anything except the jet engines of course.

9. Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser

We're big fans of the TV show Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel. But the best part of the show is seeing the "TIV" in action. This beast is designed to withstand the tornados and twisters that might sneak up on the crew. To take the punishment, there's plenty of thick steel plating. Beneath the skin, this is a Dodge 3500 with twin Dana 80 rear axles to handle the weight. This thing could also double as the ultimate urban assault vehicle.

10. Superlift Jeep

Superlift Jeep

We're suckers for any Jeep painted some color close to resembling olive drab green. But when that OD green Jeep gets a diesel engine swap, beefier drivetrain components and a AEV Brute pickup conversion body, we really get excited. Superlift's JK project was one of the toughest Jeeps at SEMA.

11. Yaris Monoposto

Yaris Monoposto

The Toyota Yaris may be an acceptable daily economy car, but the basis for a tuner car? We'd never have guessed any Yaris could be transformed into something as cool as this chopped roof, one passenger speedster by Five Axis. Under the hood is a supercharger, and that ivory paint is a vintage Toyota color. No wonder we liked it.

12. The Hottest Camaro

The Hottest Camaro

Chevy brought at least a half dozen modified 2010 Camaros to SEMA including a racer that evoked the Trans Am cars of the 1960s. But the one we want is this red beauty powered not by the regular old 6.2-liter V8 in the SS models. Nope, this one has the 7.0-liter monster from the Z06 Corvette and pumps out 550 hp. If GM decides to build a top dog Camaro to take on the Shelby Mustangs, we'd guess it would have this very engine under its hood. We want one…now.