At the 2019 SEMA show, Chevrolet awarded six lucky builders with a custom 2020 Corvette trophy and the title of “best” during the annual Chevy SEMA Design Awards. We caught up with some of the builders after the show to discuss the custom creations, and to get their take of being recognized as one the most talented automotive builders in history.
Truck of the Year – Hammerfab / 1958 Apache
Kicking things off is a gorgeous 1958 Chevy Apache pickup produced by Texas fabrication specialist, Hammerfab. Shop owner and build mastermind, Levi Green, tells us he received his Chevy Apache as a gift from his late uncle when he was merely 14 years old. Twenty-five years later, Green’s slammed Apache has played guinea pig to a plethora of experiments — some of which helped it earn Chevy’s “Truck of the Year” award at SEMA 2019.
“It’s an honor to be the recipient of such a great award from Chevy. The Chevy Design Award is something I’ve always admired and looked forward to winning someday, but really had no idea how to make it happen,” Green explains. “I didn’t even know I was supposed to submit anything. I just barely made the cutoff for the award-participant deadline. It was seriously a last-minute decision.
“You could go so far as to say that GM played a major roll in helping me get to where I am today since the company employed my father and my uncle, who gave me the junky old truck to begin with,” Green elaborates. “It always amazes me how something like giving away a junk truck can inspire a young kid to be the best and win an amazing award like this Chevy SEMA Design Award!”
Innovative Use of Technology – East Bay Muscle Cars / 1968 Chevrolet Camaro
East Bay Muscle Cars was able to craft its 1968 Chevrolet Camaro in widebody form, via the assistance of a CAD design. However, where this car differs is in the materials used to form the sleek shell. East Bay Muscle Cars utilized 3D-printing and CNC-machining to make its award-winning Camaro. From the billet grille, taillight panel and surrounds, to those hideaway headlights with linear actuators, it’s all been designed, printed, and machined to spec. Heck, even the lower splitter is 3D printed.
Performance-wise, the East Bay Muscle Cars Camaro features all manner of accouterments, starting with a dry-sump-equipped Chevrolet Performance LT4 crate engine packing a Procharger. There’s also a cantilever-style suspension, an interior that’s as exotic as the vehicle’s exterior, and a specialized frame to hold it all together.
“Receiving the Chevy Design Award was a huge honor for us, as this particular build was our most complex yet,” says owner Steve Keefer. “From the original 3D scan of the vehicle we created three years ago, to some last-minute 3D printing of miscellaneous trim pieces before its debut at SEMA, to receiving this recognition from Chevrolet… [it] shows how far the custom car industry has come and how technology is raising the bar on every build.”
Best Off-Road Truck Build – Peter Verboom Jr. / 1955 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup
Moving on to the Chevy SEMA Design Award for the best off-road truck, we come to Peter Verboom Jr. and his 1955 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup. While Peter’s infatuation with ’55 Chevy pickups traces back to his early youth, the build he drives and wins awards with is what he likes to call “a four-wheel-drive, street-legal Baja truck.”
This pickup has seen everything from 3-inch coilover-suspension upgrades and engine overhauls, to a series of Baja Designs LED upgrades, which explains how the Apache ended-up at the lighting specialist’s SEMA booth this year. Peter still seems to be in disbelief over how it all came to pass, as he never once considered winning the 2019 Chevy SEMA Design Award for Best Off-Road Truck!
“Baja Designs invited me to the show, and I told them I would not make it until Thursday,” Verboom recalls. “I ended up getting there a day early and was very surprised at what they had to say. They told me I had won a Chevrolet Design Award, and they wanted me to come to a presentation. It was unbelievable, and I had no dream of winning an award at this show. I still can’t believe the reception my truck received in Vegas. It’s totally unbelievable with such an old build.”
Best Track Build – Dutchboys Hot Rods / 1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Paul Van Nus of Dutchboys Hot Rods went home with a 2019 Chevy SEMA Design Award for “Best Track Build,” thanks to his team’s hardcore 1969 Camaro. While its body has been dropped, the floor has been raised to achieve a super-low ride height. A few of this car’s high-performance bolt-ons include an LS7 affixed to a T56 transmission, Corvette ZR1 carbon brakes, F1-style air jacks, and custom carbon fiber throughout.
There’s also a ton of one-off pieces on this Camaro that helped secure the award. Some of these custom components include the car’s soft-close door latches, carbon-fiber wheels, Chromoly rollcage, stretched fenders and quarter panels, re-shaped wheel openings, unique carbon-fiber hood with heat extractors, and the fact the engine has been set back a full 6-inches.
Designer’s Choice – Fitzpatrick Speed Works/1935 Chevrolet Sports Coupe
Builder Peter Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick Speed Works is a Canberra, Australia-based hot rod mad scientist. Taking a 1935 Chevrolet three-window Sports Coupe — a car that came from the factory in right-hand-drive form, Fitzpatrick gave the vehicle a new life courtesy of an LS2 Corvette engine and drivetrain, as well as coilover suspension.
Instead of going too wild with the design, Fitzpatrick opted to follow many of the OEM lines, taking things like the original one-piece seat design, then replicating it with a one-off unit wrapped in a leather resembling the original color. Since Chevrolet never offered a dash or interior trim pieces made of timberwork, Fitzpatrick saw a lot of the interior was formed from American Oak.
Many of the aluminum pieces on the car are in-house-made billet replicas of the original parts — but with modern updates. These include the ’35s wheels, grille, head and taillights, steering wheel, inlet manifold, rocker covers, and a plethora of smaller pieces spread throughout the car.
Fitzpatrick admits the main goal of this coupe was to retain its original design intent. Therefore the car was reworked and remastered, not re-invented. Built almost entirely in a shed, in the middle of suburbia, in Australia, and then revealed to the world under the bright lights of SEMA, the story of this ’35 Chevy Sports Coupe is a winner unlike any other.
“Winning this award means a great deal to me. We built this car with the intention of payomg respect to the restrained and beautiful art-deco styling of the eras, and in particular, Harley Earl,” Fitzpatrick tells us. “To have the designers behind the modern Chevrolet cars — trained design professionals — recognize our efforts was immensely satisfying. The car was built in Australia using local talents. To bring it to SEMA and have it awarded this prize, with all the contenders we were up against, felt like great justification for the choices we made. Thank you again to the Chevrolet Design team and staff who made this award possible and decided we were worthy of it.”
Car of the Year – Ringbrothers / 1969 Camaro
When it came time to close things up and hand out Chevy’s “Car of the Year” award, a familiar name materialized: Ringbrothers. Jim, Mike, and Nancy Ring have been a powerhouse in the automotive aftermarket customization category for as long as we can remember. They are an international phenomenon.
We discover this car was initially designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ‘69 Camaro. Utilizing what is being referred to as “aggressive-stealth styling,” the team put together a vehicle that both stands out from the crowd and retains those iconic Camaro lines. Our contacts at GM tell us that in order to make this Camaro as perfect as possible, the entire vehicle was completely redesigned in CAD, machined out of high-density foam, and then produced entirely of carbon fiber.
Widened from tip-to-tail, every external aspect of this Camaro’s body — save for billet details — has been formed from carbon fiber. Powered by a Wegner-built 416 LS3 that has been boosted by a Whipple Supercharger, the Ringbrothers built Camaro makes a total of 890-horsepower and rolls atop one-off HRE forged wheels. We can’t wait to see what next year brings, as the Chevy SEMA Design Awards continue to recognize the very best in the biz.