Rod Authority’s Top Pre-War Vehicles from SEMA 2016


This year’s SEMA Show was an absolute blast, and while there weren’t quite as many hot rods and classic cars on the show grounds as in years past, we still found more than a few incredible examples of pre-WWII vehicles to admire.

These certainly aren’t the only ones (who gets to see all of the cars on the SEMA Show floor anyway?) but the hot rods we chose for our top 5 pre-war vehicles of SEMA 2016 feature represent builds from some of the biggest builders in the business. These builders are winners of some of the highest awards, and creations that are moving the hot rod industry forward when it comes to innovation, customization, and the integration of modern technology. We present these amazing builds in no particular order.


1) Billy & Debbie Thomas’s 1939 Oldsmobile Convertible “Olds Cool”

Built by Customs & Hot Rods of Andice (CHRA), this 1939 Oldsmobile convertible is one of the top most honored hot rods in 2016, having beaten out dozens of incredible builds from all over the world to take home the one and only Ridler Award at the 2016 Detroit Autorama. Yes … this is THAT car.

Featuring a fully custom coachbuilt body with styling cues borrowed from the 1939 Oldsmobile Model 60 convertible, this incredible car sits on a full custom chassis built by CHRA equipped with a RideTech suspension system and one-off wheels wrapped in Pirelli rubber.

Powering the one-of-a-kind Olds is a potent 455ci Oldsmobile V8 bored and stroked to 470ci and assembled by legendary engine builder Joe Mondello. This beast boasts a Wilson Racing intake, among other spectacular components. Mounted on the back of the powerhouse is a bullet proof 4L60E automatic transmission.


Inside, the Olds’ interior is just as custom as you can get thanks to Jay Schulter of JJs Auto Upholstery, who fitted the car with plush custom buckets in the front, a custom bench in the rear, and matching door panels (right down to the French stitching).

The addition of many one-off components, including the steering wheel, vents, and Classic Instruments gauges put a signature look that will be referenced by other customizers in the future. The build is topped off in a custom PPG Kona Brown paint scheme, laid by Charley Hutton’s Color Studio, and just enough chrome and polished stainless to aptly adorn the one-off custom convertible.


2) Jerry & Josie Kiensrud’s 1939 Chevy Hardtop Coupe “Halo”

Built by A&M Deluxe Customs with the help of Byers Custom and Restoration, Stitches Custom Auto Upholstery and Crazy 8 Hot Rods, this 1939 Chevy features more modifications than we can list, and for good reason. This car wasn’t meant to be just any ’39 Chevy coupe, but a full custom that would give its owners, Jerry and Josie Kiensrud, the perfect custom rod with an ideal blend of performance, design and innovation.


Sectioned by two inches, wedge-channeled by one inch, and chopped with a custom roof and curved rear glass, this gives the car a complete new roofline. This impressive Chevy coupe has had every body panel massaged and then some. Besides being chopped, channeled and sectioned, the body modifications on the car range from frenched headlight buckets, smoothed decklid and custom running boards.

The crew also widened and relocated the fenders, added a completely restyled hood, and added all new custom glass. The completely reshaped car is finished off in PPG Blue Heaven paint with five coats of clear over it.

Inside, the plethora of custom modifications continues with custom C2 Corvette-style dash pods and instrument cluster, a custom console, custom knobs and bezels, Rolls Royce carpet, and of course, custom Dark Brown and Irish Cream leather upholstery.


While the body and interior modifications are certainly the highlights of the Chevy, the car is also fitted with some pretty stellar performance components as well. To start, the cars body sits  on a custom A&M tube frame chassis with Heidts front and independent rear suspension systems.

Other performance components on the car include Wilwood brakes, billet wheels, and BFG tires. Powering the car is a Corvette LS2 V8 featuring custom headers and exhaust, topped with a Magnuson supercharger. This potent mill is backed by a 4L65E automatic transmission.


3) Ed Scarla’s 1934 Ford Pickup “Khaos”

Built by Tony Arme of Browns Classic Autos, this 1934 Ford pickup known as Khaos has been described as “a blend between hot rod and sports car.” But how do you get to that definition? Well, if you’re Arme, you take a classic ’34 pickup and fit it with an LSX 454ci V8 featuring an Inglese fuel injection system coupled with a FAST fuel management system, and custom heads. Tied to a 4L85E automatic transmission, this massaged LS is pushing out a hefty 627hp.

Now you can’t have that much power on a stock ’34 frame, so Arme shored up the pickup a bit with a custom chassis featuring custom sway bars and a custom shock brace. He added performance components such as a 4-wheel independent Kugel suspension system and a Winters quick-change rearend for good measure. The truck also features Schott wheels fitted with Nitto shoes and modified six-piston Wilwood brakes.


Wanting to keep the old-school cool in the classic Ford, Arme kept many of the truck’s factory styling cues intact while adding custom details to the build like a fabricated rear cab, custom back window, and a Brookville ’32 front grille. The custom Brookville bed, and a custom rear roll pan that doubles as a storage compartment, is accessed by lifting the wood in the truck bed.


Inside, the truck features a suede-wrapped United Pacific ’32 five-Window dash, fitted with custom Speedhut gauges. The bench seat is upholstered in black suede with red diamond pleated inserts, with matching door panels, and premium air conditioning, thanks to a Vintage Air front runner coated with Cerakote Ceramic Coatings.

The entire build is topped off with a custom “Khaos Red” paint scheme from Sherwin-Williams Automotive.


4) Chris Rusch’s 1930 Ford Model A “12 Pack”

Built by its owner Chris Rusch, with the help of some pretty high profile friends including Kyle Yocum, Mike Wagner, Jimmy Shine, Bob Bleed, Mark Gerish, Patrick Tillbury, Austin Paruch, Troy Temme, Gerald King (Smitty), and Rusch’s son, Dylan Rusch, this one-of-a-kind 1930 Model A is a craftsman’s dream. The only catch is finding all the intricate metalwork details it has to offer.

Built to promote Rusch’s business, Rusch Machine and Design, Inc. (RMD), a company that designs and builds metal fabrication machinery, this Model A takes the art of metalsmithing to the extreme. Perched atop a custom tube chassis, which was left exposed to promote RMD tube benders, the four-inch chopped 1930 Ford features all custom machined body panels fabricated using RMD equipment.

These brand new panels, handcrafted from sheet metal, include rear quarter panels, inner fender wells and roof insert, matching interior panels fabricated by Yocum to match the car’s exterior shape and body lines, and custom headlights machined from two solid blocks of aluminum.

There’s also a custom windshield frame machined out of ¾-inch plate, a custom lift-up roof feature, a firewall machined out of 3/8-inch plate, and a fully custom grille also fabricated by Yocum out of five pieces of metal that were shaped and welded together. In the back of the car sits a custom fuel tank, which was made using an aluminum casting taken from a sand mold before being machined.


Inside, the Model A is just as custom. In addition to the aforementioned metal interior panels, a custom laminated dash featuring 190 pieces of 1/16-inch maple and walnut veneer with a piece of blood wood through the center. This one-of-a-kind dash is fitted with Stewart Warner gauges, highlighted by a completely custom steering wheel made out of the same wood as the dash.

The driver and passenger sit comfortably in steel forged in-house, and custom handmade tube seat frames, covered in tan leather. If you haven’t figured out that this car is just about as custom and handmade as it gets, you haven’t been reading.


Powering the amazing custom Model A is a 2001 BMW V12 engine with a custom Borla injection system and 12-pack stacks, a custom RMD-built intake machined out of two pieces of 3x3x24-inch 6061 aluminum, custom handmade manifolds, and all custom adapters, from the oil pickup adapter to the transmission adapter and everything in between.

Behind this impressive work of art-meets-power is a 700R4 automatic transmission pushing what is sure to be an impressive amount of power to the rear wheels via a Currie 9-inch rearend. Unfortunately the team did not have dyno numbers yet, but promised to have them soon.


Underneath the car, you’ll find a Speedway 4-inch drop straight axle up front and a 4-bar setup with coilovers in the rear. Stopping power for the hot rod is provided by standard GM brakes in the front and Ford brakes in the rear.

So incredibly custom, this is one of those hot rods you have to see in person if you ever get the chance.


5) Andrew Faris-Built 1929 Plymouth Sedan “Plymouth Rock”

One of the coolest hot rods on the SEMA Show floor, this 1929 Plymouth Sedan is nicknamed “Plymouth Rock” and is known for being a blend of old-school hot rod and new-school industrial-style design.

It may sound like a strange combination but if the crowd around this car all week long is any indication (we could hardly get to the car for a couple of photos), this is one sweet custom ’29 sedan!


Fitted with a crazy custom 5.9L Cummins engine, this impressive “show car” has 1,200hp at its disposal, as well as a custom chassis, integrated roll bar and an Eaton differential to back it up.

The car also features components like a custom MagnaFlow exhaust system, an AccuAir suspension system, one-off EVOD wheels with built-in whitewalls, and Pirelli tires, to name a few. Yes folks, it’s fair to say this radical hot rod is not your average show queen.


The interior of the car is just as custom, from the woodgrain transmission tunnel to the bomber style seats. You’ll also find a custom dash, which is also fitted with wood inserts, a Lokar shifter and Classic Instruments gauges within the cab of the sedan. The hot rod is topped off with a limited edition House of Kolors “Blue Indigo” paint scheme.


Honorable Mention:

“Edsel’s Shop Truck”

A 1932 Mercury pickup built by industry icon Gene Winfield, with Curt Ukasik and GIS Automotive, this truck was just too cool not to mention. Owned by Mike Tarquinio, the truck was built as an ode to what could have been had Edsel Ford been in charge of the Ford Motor Company in 1932.

Custom features on the truck include a 1956 Canadian Mercury Hemispherical code P-875 V8 engine that was found in Simcoe, Ontario in its original wood crate. Featuring one-off artillery wheels, custom “art deco Chrysler-style” taillights, and a 1932 Chris-Craft boat dash joined to the truck’s stock dash. The truck also boasts a 3-inch chop, 2-inch channel, custom shortened bed and hand-crafted grille shell. Another simply marvelous build.

About the author

Lindsey Fisher

Lindsey is a freelance writer and lover of anything with a rumble. Hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles - she's owned and driven it all. When she's not busy writing about them, she's out in her garage wrenching away. Who doesn't love a tech-savy gal that knows her way around a garage?
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