As the end of the year draws near, we have been talking around the offices about our dream automotive gifts, from improbable crate-engine transplants to benchmark production cars. The team who attended the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show last month was eager to share their personal picks from this massive Las Vegas event, with a decided classic-car bent. So we present a few of our favorite things... from SEMA.
Jim Travers: If you missed your chance to snap up a Yenko Stinger Camaro back when they were available to Nehru-jacketed customers in 1969, you've got another chance. Classic Automotive Restoration Specialists of Belews Creek, N.C., will be happy to build you a brand-new one. Using a new body shell from Dynacorn, a crate 427 motor from General Motors, and suspension, interior, trim and pieces from other suppliers, the Stinger Camaro shown at the 2007 SEMA show is accurate right down to the Yenko striping.
For those of you too young to remember, Don Yenko was the son of a Pennsylvania Chevrolet dealer who started a little cottage industry in the 1960s modifying Chevys for more performance and distributing them through a network of dealers in the Northeast. His Camaros got a 427-cubic inch V8 engine in place of the biggest powerplant offered in the Camaro at the time, a 396. Yenko also made suspension and cosmetic modifications, and, with very few built, his cars remain some of the most sought-after by Camaro collectors today.
Classic Automotive Restoration will even update the car if you like, keeping the look but adding a greater measure of safety and drivability with options like four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension. The cost? The Hugger Orange model displayed at SEMA was priced at $125,000. That may seem like a considerable chunk of change for a brand new old car, but consider this: Vintage car pricing guide Cars That Matter shows a 1969 original Yenko Camaro in excellent condition could fetch about $399,000 today. Try getting that for your Nehru jacket.
Tom Mutchler: You can take Tom to SEMA, but you can't quite take the minivan out of Tom. Way in the corner of Honda's SEMA stand sat a Honda Odyssey. This isn't any Odyssey though; it competed in the One Lap of America race. With a gutted interior, this Odyssey packs a turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower at the wheels mated to a six-speed manual borrowed from an Acura TL Type-S. Forget rear video screens, heated seats, and "Lazy Susan" under-floor storage compartments. This hot-rod Odyssey had two racing seats with race harnesses, no air bags - and no dashboard, with just a racing digital display. (For some reason, the DVD drive remains.) Sure, the One Lap Odyssey is a bit extreme, even for me, but it gets me thinking about an Odyssey with an Acura RL AWD drivetrain underneath...
My other pick is something completely different: a Volvo-based street rod. The Caresto V8 Speedster has a rear-mounted Volvo V8, Volvo's egg crate grille, and an aluminum and carbon-fiber body. Beautifully rendered, it updates a classic form (and I'm a sucker for the deep copper brown Scottish leather seats).
Bob Huerster: My favorite car among hundreds at the massive SEMA show was a humble 1965 Ford Mustang that appeals to me as much for the automobile as the story behind it. This Mustang revived a lot of fond memories. I recall being taken by the car's styling when it first came out. It was amazing how many of them quickly appeared in my neighborhood where my friend and I used to sit on the front porch of my house and count them as they went by. As sales grew, even two of my sisters bought a blue convertible and a red hard top.
This pristine example belonged to the wife of a former high-school drafting teacher of Scott Drake, a budding car enthusiast who went on to start a company that sells parts for Mustangs. This Mustang deteriorated badly over the years, and Drake decided to restore it as a gesture of gratitude to his former teacher, who he said helped shape the attitudes that lead to his success in business. A heart-warming story and a job well done, both recall the introduction of an American classic and fuel for my own automotive passion that still burns strong today.
We're interested to hear what automotive gifts you would most like to receive. Post in the Comments below.
—The CR Cars blog team.