Author: Driver

SEMA 2015 Product Highlights

Every year over one hundred thousand people involved in every area of the automotive industry walk for miles through the Las Vegas Convention Center to see what’s new and exciting in the automotive aftermarket world. Although the builds being shown off throughout SEMA are amazing, it’s the products on display that contribute to the finished products that are these amazing machines. Here are some cool products I got to check out this year at SEMA:

Billet Badges
Did you ever want the letters of your name in chrome across the hood of your car, or maybe you had a better idea to replace the famous mustang silhouette on the grill of your Ford? Well just give Billet Badges a call and they will help you create, design and manufacture whatever your imagination can concoct! They specialize in one off badges and emblems with no minimum order. They offer some standard badge shapes to start with, or you can create something completely from scratch. If you want to make your build that much more customized you should definitely get in touch with these guys. Check them our HERE

Classic Performance Products
If you want to raise the bar on your classic ride’s suspension, braking, or a long list of other components CPP is the place to go shopping. What’s great about CPP is that you can pick one kit that has everything you need for your particular car. Their Mustang II IFS package is one example, allowing you to add upgraded independent suspension to your Ford Mustang or truck, or even some Chevy models. But sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference – for instance their FitRite LS Engine Adjustable Brackets are a little piece that can make your LS conversion a lot easier. Whatever upgrade you have planned for your classic, I recommend taking a look at the Classic Performance Products website or talk to their customer service team for help with your next project.

Edelbrock was one of the original group of manufactures that came together to create SEMA, and over 50 years later they are still going strong. Edelbrock’s catalogue of performance equipment is always impressive – whether you’re a professional builder or a backyard hobbyist they have something that’s going to make your car faster! Many of their performance upgrades are bolt on packages, which makes getting some extra speed behind your ride that much easier. There is the Victor Series Manifold for the Ford 5.0L Coyote engine, which adds 27 ft-lbs of torque and 16 horsepower over a stock manifold, or the Cross-Ram LS3 intake, which is ideal for a Chevy LS3 with twin turbo applications and can add 27 horsepower and 28 ft-lbs over the average aftermarket intake. Of course they don’t stop with Chevy or Ford, there is something for the Jeep lovers, Subaru drivers and lots more. Take a look at their website and see what they have for your ride!

Fertan by CRP Automotive
When you endeavor to restore a classic dealing with rust is an inevitable enemy you’re going to encounter. There are lots of ways to get rid of it, from media blasting, to grinder, to the good old fashioned combination of elbow grease and a wire brush. Now you can add one more tool to the arsenal: the Fertan line of products by CRP Automotive. I got to watch the Fertan Rust Remover at work, and it was pretty cool. A rusted piece of metal was dipped into a bowl of the liquid, and a few minutes later it emerged looking like new (hence the photo). The possible uses rushed through my head as I watched this demonstration…rusty nuts and bolts, all those little pain in the neck pieces that are equally tedious and delicate…no more scrubbing and scraping (or just giving up and replacing), this stuff is the answer! They have a line of products including a Rust Converter, Metal Coating and Primer. If this sounds like something you could use start shopping HERE

LINE-X 3-D Effects
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as I walked by a Jeep that had a tire track pattern running up the side…was that 3-D or really good airbrushing? Turns out it was a combination of both! This year at SEMA LINE-X unveiled the newest application of their super-strong Body Armour protective coating, using it to create 3-D designs. The design is created, then transferred to the vehicle. Everything is sanded and prepped for the application of LINE-X coating, then it’s sprayed. Additional effects are painted onto the coating to give the 3-D effect even more life. This is a pretty cool technique, and I’m sure this is just the beginning! Check out their website to learn more about all the ways LINE-X can be used in any build.

Metro Moulded Parts
Unless you are lucky enough to come across a ride that’s been carefully stored in a heated garage or one that’s spent it’s life in a mild climate, your restoration will most likely include replacement of all those soft, rubbery parts. What may seem like a small detail is an item that can add up quick – this stuff is everywhere from the piece that seals the trunk to the weather stripping at the little vent window. If you are ready to get going on this replacement Metro Moulded Parts is a good place to start. They make all kinds of weather stripping and rubber parts for a long list of makes going back to 1907. Take a look at their website HERE to find out more.

POD – Power On Demand
The POD line of products has just about anything you might need to jumpstart your car, to charge your phone, or to signal for help if you’re stuck on the side of the road. Anyone who drives an old school should have one of these jump start kits – classic cars were made before “dummy lights” to tell us our headlight or something else is on, and since everyone has a “dummy” moment once and a while it’s good to be prepared! And if not for yourself it may come in handy for one of your driving buddies – breaking out one of these is quicker and easier then the old fashioned cable-style jump. Take a look at their website and see their full product line HERE

Tiarra Luxury Grilles
Who doesn’t want a little extra bling bling on their ride, and where better to put it than right up front on the grille? Tiarra Luxury Grilles specializes in giving both old school and new school rides a little extra shine when they’re riding down the street with a wide selection of grilles with customization options. So if you want to give your ride a little extra something for everybody to see when you pull up check them out HERE

Wheel Assist by Gaither Tool
Everybody has their own little technique for changing a tire…from the careful knee balance move to just having some good biceps so you can pick the tire up and put it in place, there are lots of ways to do it some easier than others. But if you’re dealing with heavy tires or big rims it gets harder to get them in place, and easier to damage them in the process. Enter the Winntec Wheel Assist by Gaither Tool. All you have to do is get the tire on its stand at floor level, and this tool does the rest of the work for you. Easy to use levers lock and unlock the wheel’s position, and raise it or lower it to the elevation you need. You can also rotate the tire into the position you need to line it up with the studs. This tool is super easy to use and something anyone who works on their car often should think about adding to their garage. Check it out HERE

The Genesis of a Classic

“On the first day God created the earth, on the second day he created the Corvette…” Dan Short jokingly answered when I asked him who this sparkling red Corvette was built for. Although I think he was only half joking – I could believe there was some divine intervention in the creation of a ride this beautiful!

On the third day of the SEMA show I was lucky enough to walk around the car with him and pick his brain about this cool build. Turns out a lot of this car was put together largely with spare parts they had around the shop, but the one part that sets this off from any other red Corvette on the road is the removable split window hard top. Dan and his team created this removable hard top by cutting the top off an original ’63 split window coupe and using it to create a mold. This mold was used to fabricate a fiberglass hard top that can be placed onto a convertible with a perfect fit and finish. The fiberglass construction and custom clip system makes it easy for two people to pop the top off and let their hair blow in the wind on the next ride.

As if the original Chevy small block wouldn’t have made this ‘vette fast enough, Dan decided to dust off an LS engine from his inventory and incorporate it into this build. He said the LS conversion was a smooth process for this build, and didn’t even have to modify the firewall or floor to accept the transmission he paired with this motor. A custom performance suspension set up gives this classic the tight handling any driver would want to handle the power behind the LS.

As cool as this car is, the story behind the builder is even cooler. Dan bought his first car – a 1967 Camaro – from a guy that he chased down the road, following the billow of smoke the car was puffing out. Not long after he did the deal he had to chase down the prior owner again…to ask him how to open the hood! It’s amazing to think that this same teenager went from struggling with a beat up ’67 to heading up a shop that puts out one of a kind builds on a regular basis.

But this transformation didn’t happen overnight. Shortly after he bought this car he enlisted in the U.S. Army and continued to serve our country for the next 15 years, retiring honorably as a Major in 2005. During his military career he traveled the world in service, while also honing his technical mechanical knowledge. The skills he learned while enlisted were not only used on military machinery, but on the piece of American muscle he had back home. Over time he built and rebuilt his Camaro, which he still owns and plans on restoring one more time.

Learning about Dan’s story was especially cool for me, because my first car was also a Camaro…and I still drive it today. Working on my car over the years has not only helped me gain technical knowledge, but also taught me the value of hard work and determination. Dan’s hard work, determination – and love of classic rides – resulted in the shop we know today as FantomWorks. His inspirational story is proof that amazing things can be accomplished, no matter where you start out!

The Tail of Three Customs

As I walked through the SEMA show I caught myself having a serious case of automotive ADD, I could barely focus on one amazing build before the next shiny piece of machinery caught my eye. But I will say that some of the shiniest builds always seem to be in the BASF booth…not sure if it’s the paint or the skill of the teams behind the builds, but either way they are awesome! This year I was lucky enough to catch the unveiling of three custom builds BASF featured in their display.

First was JF Launier’s 1967 Acadian, finished in a custom red R-M ONYX HD paint. Of course the customization didn’t stop at the paint. The cool stripe detailing is complimented by the custom chrome details throughout the car, and a Katskin leather interior. This car is dubbed “Adiamo,” a play on the Spanish translation of Nova which is “no go.” Well this car will definitely go with an LS3 engine putting out 550 horsepower!

Next came Chip Foose’s customized 1933 Ford Coupe, which was finished just in the knick of time for this show. Chip shared the behind the scenes story of how a stray spark flew onto the completely taped and masked body, causing it to burst into flames. This happened just 8 days before the reveal, but you would never know it looking at this gleaming hot rod on the SEMA show floor. It is finished in a BASF Glasurit 90 Line custom blue and silver two-tone paint, with a killer LS3 Corvette motor built by Street & Performance under the hood. The body includes lots of custom Foose touches, including re-fabricated front fenders and grill. His head painter looked both proud and exhausted as Chip spoke and praised the build team.

As anyone can imagine, a Chip Foose build is a hard act to follow. But the Ringbrothers definitely did their thing, finishing off the BASF reveal with their customized “Espionage” 1965 Mustang. This ride is given a one-of-a-kind look by its wide carbon fiber body, which is extended 2” on each side. The original car was disassembled and each piece of the body was used to create molds for new carbon fiber components, a process that took more hours then the build team would like to count! Although everything on the body except the floor was rebuilt with carbon fiber components the final weight comes in at 3400 lbs, a few hundred pounds heavier than this model’s original spec weight. This modification didn’t make the car lighter, but instead makes up for the additional weight all of the performance machinery lurking beneath the carbon fiber shell. It might be hard to decide which side of the American Muscle rivalry this spy green Mustang is on, as its powered by a 427 cubic inch Chevy LS7 engine. Either way this ride is cranking out over 900 horsepower and looks good doing it. But there’s a back story to this reveal too…today was the first time the owner of this car was seeing it, and I don’t know if the build team was more nervous about revealing it to the public or their client. I had a chance to ask the owner what he thought of his new car as he looked it over for the first time. When asked if it was everything he expected, through a slight smile he replied that it was everything and more. When I learned he was originally from Russia I asked “why an American muscle car?” He explained that he loves the spirit of classic cars, in his opinion new cars have no soul. Well this Mustang definitely has an old soul, and a new life as an amazing performance machine.

Thanks to BASF and all three build teams for bringing these amazing rides to the 2015 SEMA show. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year’s show!

This Bugatti Is Built To Drive

At the Mecum auction about one car crosses the block every 30 seconds – so for a three day auction that equals…well, a LOT of cars.  I had the chance to see this auction in action in Harrisburg, PA and saw some pretty hot rides as I wandered through the buildings and tents full of customs and classics (click HERE to check out the photo gallery from this trip).  But I couldn’t stop looking at one car – a 1931 Bugatti Royale replica.  The first thing that caught my eye was the wheels…I’ve never seen a 1930-anything sitting on a mean set of wheels like this one!  But this wasn’t the only thing that set this ride apart from the rest.   Powered by a Thunder V-12 702/425 HP engine, this car is built to move.  It’s heavy-duty suspension and rear were chosen for a reason: this was one massive ride.
The builder, Ed Murmillo of Ed’s Rods and Recks in Norfolk, VA said that he always wanted to build a car like this that could be enjoyed. It took 25 months to complete the build, and the end result showed the care this build team took in every detail.  Ed explained that unfortunately most rides of this vintage are a prisoner of their own value, but this Bugatti was built to drive!
However, driving this luxury ride is going to take the winning bidder some practice…it’s so long they almost couldn’t make the turn to get it on the auction block.  When it finally did cross the block it sold for $147,500, the second highest sale price of this auction.
Check out our gallery below and see why this ride was a total show stopper.  I would love to see this rolling down the road one day soon.

The Ford Mustang Turns 50

On April 17, 1964 Ford introduced what was dubbed the “1964-1/2” Mustang, the first production year of which was 1965. This went on to be their most successful launch since the Model A, and holds just as much popularity today. One day short of 50 years later at the New York Auto Show, Ford gave an anxious crowd the scoop on how they are going to celebrate this golden anniversary.
They have events lined up across the globe from New York, to Las Vegas to Dubai. But in my opinion the coolest thing they are doing to celebrate already happened in the wee hours of the night on the observation deck of the Empire State building: they assembled a bright “triple-yellow” 2015 Ford Mustang GT convertible up there for the world to see. But believe it or not, this isn’t the first time Ford pulled this off. Back in October of 1965 they did this for the first time, with a white convertible. Both times they disassembled the car so that it would fit piece by piece into the building’s freight elevator. Once the observation deck was closed at 2am the pieces were brought up and reassembled on the deck in time for it to reopen at 8am. This is no small feat to accomplish in a matter of six hours!
But back at the Auto Show Bill Ford introduced the 50th anniversary edition of the Mustang. It includes a number of details that give a nod to the first edition of this car, including the badges and chrome details. Ford sees the design of the 50th anniversary Mustang as a “Symbol of where ford has been and a vision of where we are going.” Take a look at the photos below and let us know what you think!

Presidential Rides – I bet you didn’t know…

These days we take for granted that the President rides in one of the most advanced armored cars that rolls down the street, but this wasn’t always the case. Until the attack on Pearl Harbor prompted the Secret Service to beef up security for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President usually rode in any car of his choice.

Read more

Standing Out at SEMA ’13


As I wandered through SEMA’s gigantic sea of cars, products and vendor booths one car stood out to me. Not because of how loud, bright or crazy it was but actually the opposite – it was so smooth and cool it immediately caught my eye. I have to start by saying I’m probably a little biased…green is my favorite color and I love Camaros, but still though, this is one nice ride.


The styling is very minimal, but there was a lot of attention to detail in order to make the lines sleek and simple. When you start looking closer you see that the quarter panels are flared to accept the wide race-ready tires. One look under the hood and you can see why there are some good tires on this ride…something needs to grip the pavement with an anniversary edition 427 L7 engine under the hood! The driver gets to handle all this power with a Keisler five-speed transmission and a 3-inch aluminum drive shaft.


Other modern touches include custom leather seats reminiscent of factory seats, but so much more comfortable (and probably a little safer too), and a digital dash designed to have a straight-off-the-assembly-line look. Every detail in this build was executed with the intent of creating a clean look with a stock feel, underscoring the beast of a machine this really is! Bodie Stroud designed and built this awesome ride for comedian and car lover Time Allen. I’m glad they shared it with the crowd at SEMA this year!

Duck Commander Truck Steals the Show

This year at SEMA LINE-X ushered in their new Truck Gear product line with the help of Mr. Duck Dynasty himself, Willie Robertson. To celebrate the release of Truck Gear LINE-X tricked out a 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 with all the bells and whistles this line has to offer, while integrating everything “Duck Dynasty” possible! This limited edition Commander Series truck will be available to customers soon, but in the meantime Robertson will be taking this one back to Louisiana. This truck has lots of duck details, from the duck silhouette cut into the bed-mounted rack to the actual duck camouflage. If you like ducks, this is the ONLY truck for you!
But the Truck Gear line has something for anyone who wants to upfit and customize their truck. The line includes step bars, bull bars, and grill guards, as well as things for the interior like seat covers and mats. Truck Gear is just another way LINE-X is helping people make their trucks extra tough! Check it out HERE

Chevy Unveils the Camaro Z/28

During the unveiling of the new Camaro Z/28 I saw the face of a man in love. It was the face of Mark Reuss, President of GM North America, as he spoke about the newest addition to the Camaro family.


The love affair started about two years ago when this model was in development. After a board meeting the team took a few of the board members for a ride in the prototype vehicle and the love was contagious! The team got the nod to further the development, resulting in the prototype unveiled at this year’s New York Auto Show.
This car was built for speed, and as Mark Reuss described it, “set up for track perfection, just like the original Z28.” The engine is a high revving, naturally aspirated, small block LS7 V8 with an estimated 500HP and 470 foot pounds of torque. Just to make sure you get where you’re going as fast as possible any extra weight was removed. This was done by removing extra insulation, using special glass for the rear windshield, eliminating most of the speakers, and if you really are a purist you can decide to go without air conditioning – yes, that is optional!

But as much as you’ll want to blow down the track in this street legal race car, you may need to stop once and a while. Don’t worry, you’re covered with carbon ceramic brakes made especially for track use.
During the press conference this car was described as “The defining point of the Gen-5 Camaro.” Inside and out this car is designed for the driver with the need for speed…it’s lean toward performance and away from luxury may not appeal to the masses, but for the racer Camaro fans out there this is the car for you!

Malik Yoba Visits the Pit Crew

What does “manhood” mean to you? This question was posed to the students of the Pit Crew when they were visited by actor Malik Yoba earlier this week. Malik generously donated his time to visit the students of Automotive High School as part of the mentorship program. He is a Brooklyn native who has created many years of success in his field as an actor, but also has experience teaching in various environments. His interest in sharing his insights with our youth and his appreciation of fast cars brought him to the program.


The discussion of manhood actually began outside the school as we walked up the steps toward the entrance. Looking up at the building Malik noticed the carving that reads “Manhood Service Labor Citizenship.” After we settled into the auto shop with the Pit Crew and introduced our guest to the students, he asked if they knew what the inscription said. The teachers in the room knew the answer but most of the students were stumped by the question. This sparked a conversation about what manhood means to these students, a discussion that yielded a variety of interesting and thoughtful answers.

We also talked about the possibility of the Pit Crew’s work being filmed for TV…so far this is only an idea, but it was great to hear what the students and teachers thought of this opportunity.

The Riding With Us Foundation appreciates Malik Yoba taking the time to visit Automotive High School, and we look forward to bringing more guests to this great group of students.