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Factory Hot rods at SEMA

It seems that both Chrysler and GM are placing something of an emphasis on hot rods at this year’s SEMA show, while Ford has gone all European with customised versions of the Focus.  Do you remember when the ’05 Mustang hit the street?  Ford asked several independent tuning/styling companies to produce customised versions of the ‘Stang, which were then revealed at SEMA.  Well, the company has done the same thing again with the Focus.  The only reservation we have is that Focus has been around for such a long time now that it has almost become passé – well, at least in Europe.


“The small-car market is now the largest vehicle segment in the country, with more than 2.7 million sales annually,” says Al Giombetti, Executive Director of Ford's Customer Service Division.  “We want to signal that we have what it takes to help small-car buyers make a big statement in their vehicles.  That’s why we’re offering a full spectrum of personalization options, ranging from full body kits and wheels to audio systems and racing parts for under the hood.”


I guess it’s significant that Ford is placing so much emphasis on small cars at the moment, and perhaps a clearer indication that the age of the traditional, big V8-engined passenger car is rapidly coming to a close.

Ford Flex by Foose


Back at SEMA, it’s not just the Ford Focus that has received the custom treatment on the blue oval stand, as company marketing executives enlisted the help of Chip Foose to design a special, customised version of Ford’s forthcoming Flex model prior to production commencing in 2008. To our eyes, it doesn’t seem to have worked, perhaps proving once again that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.


SR 392 Roadster

Of more interest to readers, however, will no doubt be the SR 392 Roadster from MOPAR (a simple contraction of the words “Motor” and “PARts”).  This boasts a 392 HEMI in a new, steel Shadowrods body, which is based on a 1927 T roadster.


The project is the brainchild of a couple of members of Chrysler’s Mopar Underground SEMA design team – a group of in-house, automotive enthusiasts who donate their spare time to SEMA project vehicles – and Michigan-based  auto supplier, Quality Metalcraft (QMC).

SR 392 Roadster


It seems the team wanted to demonstrate that the 6.4-litre HEMI crate engine could be used in vehicles other than traditional muscle cars.  The team’s mission statement was “to redefine the classic hot rod with a more functional urban and industrial attitude to create a distinctly ‘Detroit’ roadster” – whatever that means!



After several design variations were discussed, QMC stamped and performed the initial assembly on the reworked Shadowrods body, then fabricated and fitted the revised hood, hood side panels, lower rocker panels and doors to the body.


With the car’s extremely low stance, Shadowrods was asked to build a custom frame using a unique, “staggered-truss” concept.  For the final build of the SR 392 Roadster, QMC turned to long-time concept- and show-car builders, Wheel to Wheel Powertrain of Madison Heights, Michigan. 


As you can see, the roadster is finished in gloss black with a one-piece hood/grille incorporating the familiar Chrysler “egg-crate” design.  The SR 392 definitely helps to illustrate the potential aftermarket appeal of the mighty new HEMI motor, and in spite of its diminutive size, this one-off roadster, which appears to run with open headers, will no doubt grab plenty of attention when the ignition key is turned.  


GM Coupe

Over in the GM camp, the company seems to have had a similar idea (hopefully, not the result of F1-style industrial espionage).  They’ve built a similar, low-flyer concept from a heavily modified, steel, three-window coupe body, but in this case, powered by GM’s much-lauded 2.0-litre Ecotec four-banger, which has been turbocharged to produce 500 horsepower and runs on either E85 Ethanol or pump gas.   

Chevy Ethanol Coupe


It seems GM may have missed a trick, though, as the company also launched its new Anniversary 427 crate engine at the show.  This is a limited-edition, all-aluminium big-block based on the legendary ZL-1 engine, which, you have to say, would have been a great, traditional hot rod engine to have dropped into their coupe.   Alongside this motor was a more affordable GM Performance Parts ZZ427, a regular, production crate engine that features most of the same, high-performance components of the Anniversary 427, but uses a cast iron cylinder block.  



Caresto Hot Rod returns
Not to be outdone, Volvo brought back its Caresto hot rod concept, first shown at last year’s SEMA show.  This completely hand-assembled, aluminium and carbonfibre concept vehicle features many Volvo/Ford parts, including that mid-engined, 311-horsepower V8.  There’s no doubt it’s an amazing car, which clearly demonstrates both the metalworking talents at Caresto and the company’s grasp of what it takes to build a head-turning, contemporary-looking street rod. 


Caresto V8 roadster 

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