The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is taking over Las Vegas as we type. Driven picks out our favourite cars from the show so far.
Who knew the MX-5 could look so purposeful and extreme? The Mazda Speedster as it is called is built to evoke the spirit of the early 1950s racers – similar to the Jaguar Project 7 F-Type that debuted last year.
With no windscreen, roof, or even roll cage the Mazda Speedster has an incredibly smooth silhouette.
The Speedster has a purposeful stance, sitting beautifully on custom 16-inch Rays Extreme Gram Lights wheels with wide 225/50 profile Kumho tyres. An adjustable suspension setup that’s brings it closer to the ground enhancing the racer look, bringing it 30mm lower than the production MX-5.
It is the styling that really sets off this concept though, with a centre-mounted exhaust, carbon fibre doors, and carbon fibre seats trimmed in Alcantara.
All that carbon fibre means the Speedster weighs in at only 943 kilograms, or 113kg less than the donor vehicle.
Under the bonnet is Mazda’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine, which arrives in New Zealand next year as an option for the 2016 MX-5. While it only puts out 118kW it should have no problems with the light weight Speedster.
Hopefully like Jaguar’s Project 7, we’ll get a limited production run of this insanely cool little Mazda in the near future.
- Mathieu Day
Lexus RC F GT3
The road-going Lexus RC F has received mixed reviews ever since it touched down earlier this year. Some labelled it too soft to compete with its supposed rivals from Germany, while others failed to warm to its fussy styling.
But the GT3 version of the RC F looks to be a knock out of the park on at least a visual level, where its little design idiosyncrasies blend into the loud aerodynamic nuance that comes with any GT3 racer.
SEMA saw the marque confirm their newly formed American-based team; F Performance Racing. They also confirmed that Nascar, open-wheeler, and sports car veteran Scott Pruett would be their top pilot in their opening season.
The Lexus will have to be a weapon if it’s to challenge the barrage of Ferraris, Porsches, Bentleys, and Nissans for on-track GT3 supremacy. But what can be confirmed is that it’ll be one of the nicest looking — and probably one of the nicest sounding — cars on the grid.
- Matthew Hansen
Hennessey Venom GT
While the Hennessey Venom isn’t a new car by any means, the power it is pushing certainly is, with a certifiably insane 1082kW (1450HP) now waiting to be unleashed.
The Venom is based on the already quick Lotus Exige, but instead of a supercharged four-cylinder nestled between the rear strut towers there’s now a 7.0-litre twin-turbo V8 running on E85 fuel.
Hennessey are claiming some equally insane performance times out of the updated Venom, with a 0-60mph (0-97km/h) time of 2.4 seconds, 0-100mph (161km/h) in 4.4 seconds and racing to 200mph (322km/h) in 12.8 seconds.
But wait that’s not all! The Venom will keep going with a time to 300km/h of 10.9seconds, and a 0-400km/h time of 18.1 seconds. It’ll then top out in excess of 450km/h Hennessey says.
Look out Bugatti…
- Mathieu Day
All-wheel drive Dodge Challenger GT concept
Traditionally, the formula to American Muscle nirvana has been set in a bed of stone and country musician’s tears — big power, rear wheel drive, low tech.
But this all-wheel drive Challenger concept might have something to say about that middle bit. Named the Dodge Challenger GT AWD concept, it’s propelled by the same 5.7-litre V8 heart as the current production Challenger, except the power is channelled to all four wheels, instead of just the two on the rear.
They’ve made it wider too with a wide-body kit, officially rendering it undriveable if the width of a stock Challenger is anything to go by. Topping it all off are some snazzy looking hi-viz orange accents. The amount of horsepower the accents and striping add is strangely absent from the press release, but we’re sure it’s lots.
Jokes aside, the notion of muscle cars going all-wheel drive is an interesting one, and I raise my Kenny Rogers cassette collection to Dodge for showing that it can be done.
- Matthew Hansen
Ludacris' restored Acura (Honda) Legend
A 1993 Acura Legend, really?
This makes the list purely out of unique factor since who in their right mind would restore an old Honda? Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Acura that's who.
Rapper Ludacris has a special connection to his old Acura, so you can let him off some of the jokes. Fans of the rapper and Fast and Furious franchise star will recognise the Legend from the cover of his latest album, Ludaversal.
However after an unfortunate incident involving another car (we're not going to point fingers) the Legend was in a sorry state.
Acura USA saw an opportunity and took the car in for a full rebuild taking the time to update a few aspects of the aging luxury car.
Ludacris' Legend was refinished in a custom shade of Warm Cashmere with Ice Pearl and now rolls on 18-inch Rays alloys and suspension lowered by two inches with H&R springs and Eibach camber kit.
They've also seriously upgraded the brakes with six-piston calipers up front and four-pots at back, and a Pioneer audio system with Alpine subwoofers and Apple CarPlay integration.
With all that who wouldn’t fully restore their first car love if they had the chance (and backing from a major manufacturer)?
- Mathieu Day
Scion’s iA sedan
There’s something deeply lovable about the moment a car maker knowingly throws all of its effort behind an enterprise that is, ultimately, completely useless.
Enter this ... thing, produced by Scion (an American arm of Toyota, pitched predominately at the Bebo generation). Try not to look directly at it — to do so might result in a sudden passionate interest in blaxploitation cinema.
For SEMA, Scion have produced four vehicles as part of their Annual Scion Tuner Challenge. All of them are a bit bonkers, but this is the pick of the bunch.
This is a Scion iA, which is actually a rebadged Mazda 2 sedan for the American market, and as you will have picked, it’s a fantastic visual rendition of ’70s lowrider cool — with its wire wheels and airbrushed bodywork.
However, this is more than just a nerd with a perm. Underneath it sports hydraulics, and inside it features every option from the manual of tacky lowrider throwbacks — the custom front seats, the speakers, the chain-link steering wheel.
Car makers have never been terribly good at humour, but here, Scion has nailed it. I love it — almost unironically.