By Tom Wilson
By now the resto-mod phenomenon -- that is, restoring an old car with updated and/or custom components and modern amenities -- is well-established. Over the past decade, it has become popular among aging enthusiasts looking to relive past glories or build the car they wish they’d had in high school. With a twist, of course.
With enough thought, time and money thrown into the project, a resto-mod can make for a fun occasional driver. But they are rarely ideal -- and by that we mean these rides are almost never hassle-free. Sure, they are often more powerful and have superior handling and braking capabilities than their forebears. But timed-out rubber parts, long-forgotten hidden damage, fatigued metal and ancient technologies can conspire to turn these dream cars into surreal nightmares quickly, and often without notice.
So why not come at the target from the opposite direction? Start with a new-model vehicle and make it look like a classic. Sounds logical, right?
By Evan Griffey
Our SEMA coverage might focus on the cool cars, trucks and SUVs on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but they are only part of the story. SEMA is actually all about the gadgets and accessories that you can buy to soup up your ride, and electronics are a huge part of that. From bumpin' car-stereo systems to slick remote-start devices, here are our picks for the eight coolest, most innovative and most useful of these new "plug and play" offerings.
iMotion CarPlay Direct Connect
Monster’s iMotion CarPlay Direct Connect charging device features an innovative in-car hand motion control connection that lets drivers use simple hand gestures to control their iPod, iPhone or iPad. You may look like a lunatic, but total control will be yours. Price yet to be announced; www.monstercable.com
Cobra iRadar iPhone Detection System
You may be looking at the future of radar detection. The Cobra iRadar links your radar detector with your iPhone, via Bluetooth, letting you view radar alerts, control settings, log alert history and be warned of upcoming speed and red-light cameras right through your iPhone’s display. It also allows you to control radar-detection settings through your iPhone. $170; www.cobra.com
By Evan Griffey
Hybrids found themselves on unfamiliar ground here in Las Vegas: Under the spotlight at the SEMA show.
This aftermarket show is all about generating horsepower -- a mindset counter-intuitive to hybrids' "green" side. And yet it was power-tuned hybrids that dominated two separate booths.
Honda featured the CR-Z gas-electric, with examples ranging from Bisimoto Engineering’s turbocharged 533-horsepower monster to styling exercises with body kits and basic engine bolt-ons. Lexus featured the LS 600h L and HS 250h hybrids, both tuned with big wheels, slammed suspensions and pristine paint.
By Greg Migliore
Shiny black Pirellis and chic-yet-surprising 20-inch polished alloy wheels on a Buick. Brembos, too. Seriously.
And that's the idea--to be taken seriously. The 2012 Buick Regal GS is now a reality, and with its SEMA-styled wheels and a turbocharged four-banger, Buick wants to carve a niche among enthusiast drivers who want something extra in their sports sedan, but all in good taste.
The car gets its public unveiling on Thursday in Miami, just 10 months after the "show car" bowed in Detroit. Make no mistake--with hardly any noticeable changes, that car is this car. It's an American version of the Opel Insignia OPC, albeit without the potent V6.
By Tom Wilson
Two SEMA must-haves: booth babes and muscle cars. And while the babes are forever young, the muscle cars are continuously upgraded in their quest for automotive immortality. A few go the classic restoration route -- cast-iron manifolds and poverty hubcaps -- but most celebrate the latest fashion of big wheels, heavily modified chassis and mega-horsepower, creating what is in reality a new breed of modern muscle. Here are five we’d take home to mother:
Mopar 1970 Plymouth Barracuda
Look up “muscle car” in the dictionary and you’ll find a photo of a Hemi 'Cuda -- which explains why the Mopar booth was showing this original 1970 Plymouth 'Cuda, built by Delany Auto Design. The first thing to catch your eye is the Grass Green PPG paint, but as the guys hanging around the hood in this picture show, the 572-cubic-inch Hemi from Stanton Racing Engines was another big attraction.
New 'Revive the Passion' campaign is marketing at its finest, but not much else.
That sense has invariably led Porsche to pastures previously not trodden with models like the massive Cayenne and similarly bloated Panamera. Despite initial grumblings by press and enthusiasts alike, Porsche’s recent moves have paid massive dividends, allowing the company to continue to produce some of the best-engineered sports cars on the planet.
That doesn’t mean Porsche is exactly following the blueprint created by its forebears, though.
By Evan Griffey
SEMA show cars are about form, function and flash. Few are practical -- in fact, a number of them don’t even roll under their own power -- and that’s OK. This show isn’t about practicality. It’s about the ultimate expression of passion, performance and style.
Tuner cars are a big part of the mix here in Las Vegas. While mostly associated with Asian brands, a tuner car is actually defined as any stock or factory-default automobile with, or suitable for, aftermarket modifications meant to enhance speed, power or style.
You’ll find them on every aisle in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here are our choices for the top five tuners here in Sin City.
Honda CR-Z by Fortune
This clean and functional build doesn’t go overboard with the actual cosmetic modifications. A carbon-fiber hood and front lip, sportier mirrors and custom Track Spec ADV10 wheels are about all the exterior modifications you can see. Underneath the sheet metal, you’ll find Baer Racing brake upgrades and Air Lift suspension, adding to the CR-Z’s fun-to-drive factor. Inside, an Image Dynamics audio setup, custom gauges, Trent’s Trick Upholstery and Status Racing goods add ambience.
By Brad Constant
Chevrolet will debut two new Corvette concepts at this year's SEMA show. The 2011 Corvette Z06X Track Car and the 2011 Corvette Jake Edition concepts are designed to show how Corvettes can be customized.
2011 Corvette Z06X Track Car Concept
Chevrolet teamed up with Pratt & Miller, partners in Corvette Racing, to design the Corvette Z06X concept. Their goal was to showcase how enthusiasts can turn a production Corvette into a full-on track car.
“This concept car represents a midpoint between our GT race car and the production Z06,” said Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer.
The powerplant is an LS7, 7.0-liter V8 engine that is upgraded with a low-restriction air-intake system, a high-capacity radiator and a racing-spec cooling system. Power is transferred to the rear tires through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission.
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5