2021 Battle of the Builders

2021 Battle of the Builders

A Survey of This Year’s Aspirants

Compiled by SEMA News Editors

Since the inception of the SEMA Show’s annual Battle of The Builders (BOTB) event in 2014, the nationwide competition series that culminates at the Show each November has become one of Show Week’s most anticipated events. While the cancellation of last year’s Show forced the competition to be held remotely, BOTB is back for 2021 with myriad offerings from the many builders and fabricators who’ve spent untold thousands of shop-hours in the past year to transform their automotive dreams into reality.

As of press time, some of the vehicles were only renderings, while others were completed builds and others still were in various states of progress. SEMA Show booth assignments for many of the vehicles were also pending at the time of publication, so confirmed appearances are noted in the text. Due to space constraints, we’re unable to publish every single entry received, but thanks to all for your support and dedication to the craft.


Neil Tjin, Laguna Niguel, California
’19 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The first of what eventually promises to be many Ford Performance EVs to enter BOTB, this Mach-E features numerous custom touches, starting with the Porsche Signal Yellow Orange paint and the custom front splitter, side skirts, rear valance and color-matched flares. The car rides on a one-off, fully adjustable Air Lift suspension and turns custom Rotiform rims and Falken tires that are braked by a custom Baer disc kit. Also on board are an e-bike and a boogie board mounted on a Yakima rack system, and custom LED lights provide illumination. Inside, the Ford sports a custom all-white interior with Recaro seats and a Kicker audio system, and custom solar panels can be found on the rear window and roof.


Mike Tilley, Runnels, Iowa
’70 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Built for speed, this ’70 Mustang sports a supercharged ’14 Shelby 5.8L GT500 engine that pumps out 800 hp. Backing it is a Tremec six-speed transmission, and a Mustang II front suspension incorporates rack-and-pinion steering. In the back, a Currie 9-in. rearend and a custom four-link coil-over suspension are integrated within a tubular subframe; Wilwood disc brakes bring the steed to a stop. Custom-molded ground effects adorn the exterior, as do a hand-built hood and deck lid, a custom front spoiler, tucked bumpers, flush door handles, shaved drip rails and painted graphics. A custom leather interior hosts modern amenities such as air conditioning and a digital instrument panel, and a custom center console and billet button array provide both enhanced functionality and aesthetics.

John Wargo, Flanagan, Illinois
’67 Chevrolet Nova
Booth: Sony Car Audio, #12229

Scarcely a stock body panel can be found on this Chevy, starting with the channeled body and shaved trim and rails and continuing on to the Tesla door handles, the flip-forward hood, a laser-cut grille and tucked bumpers. Then there’s the carbon-
fiber wing and ground effects, custom multicolor paint, relocated headlights, flushed LED markers, and the custom rear diffuser and smoothed firewall and engine-bay panels. Under the hood is an LSX engine that’s backed by a Tremec T56 transmission and a narrowed GM 12-bolt rearend. The suspension is courtesy of Air Lift, and Wilwood discs brakes provide stopping power. Inside, the all-custom interior sports a 5,000-watt Sony audio system and a 9-in. touchscreen.


Omar Cabrera, Dinuba, California
’95 Nissan 240SX S14
Booth: Mackin Industries, #22913 and #22813

A former Banzai and Super Street cover ride, this right-hand-drive conversion features a swapped-in Toyota 2JZ-GTE engine outfitted with a Tomei Titanium exhaust, a Mishimoto radiator and a Wiring Specialties pro harness. Backing the motor is a 370Z transmission, and an Air Lift suspension with extended adjustable control arms helps locate a set of Volk Racing TE37 wheels that are halted by a set of CTS-V brakes. Exterior mods include a Uras Type-GT body kit, a JDM grille, Origin front and rear fenders and panels, custom LED headlights and Lamborghini paint. Inside, the Nissan sports a complement of Bride Euroster seats along with a Cusco rollcage and seat harnesses. Tanabe gauges monitor underhood


Paul Garcia, Fairfield, California
’99 Nissan Skyline R34 GTR V Spec

According to its builder, this Midnight Purple ’99 V Spec is one of 282 ever made and is U.S.-legal under the NHTSA Show or Display exemption. A period-correct example of early-’00s JDM styling, the Nissan runs an upgraded 2.8L HKS motor with a single HKS turbo and a host of Nismo parts (including some that are not even produced anymore) to push out a total of 754 hp. Bringing all that power under control is a Midori Seibi big-brake setup that, the builder claimed, is “the first and only BBK of this kind that has been sent out of Japan for the build.” Inside, a full host of interior upgrades spans the Mines product catalog, and a set of limited-production Bride Venus seats are bolted in place of the stockers.


Cole Marten, Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
’91 Nissan R32 GTR
Booth: Oracle Lighting, #20547

Said to be sporting the world’s first all-wheel-drive 2JZ engine conversion, this Nissan runs a unique custom left-hand-drive steering setup nestled in a custom dash. Beside it is a custom center console atop a custom trans tunnel that accommodates a touchscreen laptop and a race display “so I can tune on the fly,” Marten said. The turbocharged powerplant, assembled from a bare block, is built to produce up to 1,000 hp. The custom-tubed front end has been shaved to give the engine a floating look, with no visible wiring or rubber hoses. In the rear, custom-molded bodywork and tubing allow a 6-in. increase in vehicle width. The car rolls on builder-fabricated three-piece rims, and the undercarriage and all related components have been powdercoated.


Josh Sanders, Enumclaw, Washington
’59 Chevrolet Corvette

The goal of this project, its builder said, was to retain the look and feel of a ’59 Corvette exterior, with only mild changes to the vehicle stance and trim details, but to go full custom under the hood, along with the frame, underbody and interior. Resting between the framerails of an Art Morrison IRS chassis lies an LS7 engine that’s backed by a T-56 Magnum transmission. “The engine bay was a blank slate for me to design and build inner fenders and an intake cover that has its design pulled from the exterior and is easily serviceable,” Sanders said. Other custom-built components include a stainless exhaust, metal-shaped aluminum panels, custom-machined hardware, a custom nose replacement, foldup taillights, and custom wheel tubs, paint, wiring, plumbing and panel fitment.

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