What We Liked Best
The reason many enthusiasts flock to SEMA is to be inspired. The rolling stock that debuts in Vegas is often created by some of the automotive world's most creative minds and skilled hands, many of whom are complete unknowns. Discovering these gems remains one of the most important reasons to be in Nevada in November.
There were two cars that stood out. The officially licensed "Gone In 60 Seconds" 1967 Mustang (named Eleanor) built by Jason Engle was one. This resto mod exemplifies the best of the breed (retro exterior covering a fully updated interior, powertrain and chassis) while encouraging rediscovery of H.B. Halicki's 1974 all-time-great smash'em up car movie. The detailing and quality was excellent, as it should be for a Mustang that will cost you dearly. But it will run an honest 171 mph, much faster than H.B. ever dreamed of taking the original Eleanor.
A second was the 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow built by Joe Richardson from Denver, North Carolina. The Roller sports a fuel-injected 572-cubic inch Chrysler Hemi that twists its crank with the help of nitrous oxide and a 671-style supercharger. Richardson, who owns Little Joe's Street Rod Shop, dynoed the Hemi at 1,350 horsepower.
Once the sheer surprise of seeing a slammed Roller with a blower sticking out of the hood wears off, you can begin to appreciate the craftsmanship and overall design restraint exercised by Richardson and the vehicle's owners (a couple from Florida). The chassis rides on an air suspension, but beyond the requisite billet wheels and the modified hood, the exterior is as it was when it left Crewe in 1970. Stock bumpers. Stock door handles. Stock lights. Stock Spirit of Ecstasy. Very cool.
Inside, the execution is less stock, but compared to what one often sees at SEMA, it's still restrained. Leather hides that would make Connley proud cover the interior, including the integrated roll bar. The jar of Grey Poupon mustard sitting on the rear armrest between was a nice touch.
The automotive aftermarket wins when new vehicle sales are running strong. Conversely, the aftermarket also wins if people keep their vehicles longer. Owners of older cars turn to the aftermarket to refresh older vehicles with new accessories and technologies. So regardless of what happens in 2009, the aftermarket is healthy and remains an exciting thing to track. After all, where else can you study a Roller that does wheel stands and call it work?