Since 2014, the SEMA Show has been home to one of the coolest automotive competitions in the world: the Battle of The Builders. Hundreds of shops and builders alike enter their vehicle to be considered the best of the best, all in the hopes of highlighting the skilled people and manufacturers in the aftermarket space. However, over the course of the last six competitions, four of the winners had built a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. As we eagerly await the 2020 SEMA Show (which hopefully happens) and its iteration of the battle, we’d thought we’d take a look at the previous winners.
The very first SEMA Battle of The Builders was indeed won by a 1969 Camaro, specifically the one built by Kyle Tucker of Detroit Speed fame. His experience with the Camaro is unquestionable, as he once did battle with the likes of Jake Rozelle in a 1970 car prepped for GTV Class racing in USCA. The first champion was certainly a beautiful car, but it looks too much like a normal pro-touring build to capture much attention in today’s crazy world.
In 2015, Bobby Alloway won the SEMA Battle of the Builders competition with the exquisite 1933 Ford Roadster he built for Larry Olson. Bringing pride to all of the fans of tried and true hot rods, this Alloway car was finished in a beautiful PPG black paint, complete with old school flames down the front. It was a genuinely striking example of an idea that we all can recognize, done to the highest of standards.
Things started to change a bit in 2016 however, as HS Customs walked away with a 1st place finish thanks to their Chevrolet Camaro called “Under Pressure”. The car was unlike other pro-touring builds we’d seen at the time, as the shop dramatically altered the looks of the, while keeping true to the original shape. Finished in white with gold and grey accents, the car was marked a turning point for the competition. Now the challenge seemed to be who could take a classic design and reimagine the product.
That is exactly what happened in 2017, when Troy Trepanier’s ’29 Ford Model-A Tudor sedan took home the title. The car was totally hand sculpted, and completely riffe with custom touches and shapes. The hardware was just as impressive as the looks, as the car packed a 377ci small-block V8 with Offenhauser 3×2 induction mated to a Legends five-speed transmission. The car was recognizably a ‘29 Ford, but you could drool over the details for hours. A truly deserved victory for the hot rods, once again.
Kyle Tucker and Detroit Speed weren’t done reminding us all why they captured the inaugural trophy when 2018 came around. Their entry that year was dubbed TUX, and it was yet another 1969 Chevrolet Camaro dialed up to 11. Visually it looks very different from the 2016 champion, as the changes done to the bodywork are much more subtle. That said, the black muscle car is still striking, and its performance hardware is what truly set it apart. From a hydroformed frame to the Kurt Urban-built LS3 equipped with a Harrop supercharger, the car was top-notch.
The 2019 Battle of the Builders competition was of course won by the one-of-one Ringbrothers VALKYRJA. This $750,000 carbon fiber bodied 1969 Camaro is one of the single coolest muscle cars ever to exist, and it proved that this old platform still has a lot to offer for creative builders. Sure it is hard to imagine something worth ¾ of a million dollars being anything but awesome, but the execution on this project was what made it so special. Everything was touched on the car, yet it came together like it was always supposed to be that way. A Wegner Motorsports V8 producing 890 horsepower mated to a good ole six-speed didn’t hurt their chances either.
Rinbrothers has made it clear that they would like to repeat this victory in 2020, though this time they aren’t bringing a muscle car, but rather a K5 Blazer. History has shown however, a ’69 Chevrolet Camaro isn’t necessary to win the competition, even it if helps.