Last Month was the 2023 SEMA Show, complete with an assortment of epic vehicle creations, restorations, and examples of what people can do with the help of passion, imagination, and the right aftermarket parts. Each year, SEMA hosts the Battle of the Builders, a competition between the builders for the show and an opportunity to win the title of Champion. There are four categories with three contestants: Hot Rod, Sport Compact, 4-Wheel Drive, and Young Guns.
Check out the SEMA Show website to see who the 12 Contestants were for the competition. As for the top finishers in each category, the Hot Rod finalist was a 1960 Buick Invicta Custom built by Andy Leach; the Sport Compacts finalist was a 1987 Merkur XR4TI created by Jordan Henke; 4-Wheel Drive was a 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief S made by Jared Hancock; and Young Guns was a 1969 Chevrolet C10 built by Charles D Spencer.
2023 SEMA Show Battle of the Builders: Details
The 1960 Buick Invicta Custom was located at the CleanTools booth; dubbed the “X-60” this hot rod was meticulously crafted by Andy Leach at CAl Automotive Creations. The build showcases concept-car styling, featuring a wedge-sectioned body with machined brass trim. The unique chassis, complete with sculpted floors, is a one-off design boasting an I-beam style derived from an IFS and IRS. The car rides on nine-piece layered wheels and is powered by a 401 Nailhead motor equipped with a crank-mounted charger. Each component of the Buick is built from scratch, including the hand-made interior. On that note, the trim was machined to resemble what could have been a factory finish. The entire car took nine years to build, and the dedication and craftsmanship are reflected beautifully in the finished product.
Jordan Henke and his team assembled the 1987 Merkur XR4TI build located at the Toyo Treadpass booth. The body was 3D-scanned to make a custom widebody kit and carbon-fiber hood. A Ford Performance 2.3L EcoBoost short-block, turbo, and camshafts replace the original 2.3L four-cylinder. Tremec TKX five-speed and a 2018 Mustang rear 8.8 differential with Wilwood 14-inch front and rear disc brakes for stopping power. The suspension was re-engineered and based on Corvette C6 hubs and QA1 coilovers. On the inside, the car features leather-wrapped Recaro front seats featuring classic Recaro fabric inserts, which are also highlighted on the door panels. Custom gauges inset the leather-wrapped dashboard. A painted Ford Area51 blue and highlighter orange accent color has also been added to the American Racing VF529 wheels wrapped up with Toyo Proxes tires.
For the Four-Wheel Drive category, Jared Hancock built the 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief S, which was located at the HRIA booth. This 1978 Chief is powered by a GM connect and cruise drivetrain with an L96 6.0L crate motor and a 6L80E transmission. The frame has been replaced, and the Jeep now rides on a fully-linked, coil-sprung Art Morrison chassis. Baer disc brakes are located behind each of the wheels, along with 14″ rotors and six-piston custom-painted calipers. Speaking of the wheels, this build features custom-painted Fifteen52 Patrols, measuring 17″x8.5″ and wrapped in BF Goodrich KO2s-285/70/17. The body features PaintHouse Gold and is painted with black striping and patterns, while the roof features a custom rack and inset panoramic glass roof. McFarland Upholstery completed the interior work, featuring black leather seating surfaces and vintage gold fabric inserts.
Finally, we have the Young Guns category finalist, which Charles D Spencer built. This 1969 Chevrolet C10 sits atop RideTech suspension. It features a built 350 small-block and Wilwood disc brakes. It also has Vintage Air, TMI bucket seats wrapped in charcoal grey, and a Ron Davis Racing radiator. This build has been gapped, and the body worked until straight, then finished in Axalta Indigo blue. This project was started when Spencer was just 14 years old and finished four years later with help from his dad, grandpa, and brothers. Further customizations include a matte finish in the engine bay, the inside of the cab and shiny on the outside, custom tailgate hinges and latch, LED taillights, headlights, turn signals, marker lights, and a custom Flow Master 50 Series exhaust. The build also features Dakota Digital gauges and Pioneer radio and speakers. A Billet Specialties serpentine system, ididit steering column, Fast Fuel injection, and U.S. Mag wheels are topping this build-off.
While all those who made it to the top 40, 12, and 4 deserve attention and admiration for the hard work and dedication resulting in beautiful creations, there can only be one winner. For the 2023 Battle of the Builders competition, that was the “X-60” 1960 Buick Invicta built by Andy Leach. Congratulations to him and all the others who made something worth displaying at the 2023 SEMA Show.