Top 10 Pony Cars at SEMA

Spend a lot of time around classic cars and car shows these days and you’d think everybody is building a Mustang or a Camaro (or maybe a Challenger, for the Mopar guys). Our own Kevin Tetz already built the spectacular “Jaded” Mustang, and is working on a pro touring 2nd generation Camaro Z28 that promises to be great as well in the Hands on Cars series of videos on our YouTube channel. With everybody and his brother in-law building a pony car, you’d think there was nothing new under the sun to be done with them. It takes a show the size and scope of SEMA to really show you new and different ways these cars can be built. We take so many pictures and video over the course of the week SEMA takes over Las Vegas it takes us almost a year to get through all of the media! While going through our photos we decided to put together this list of our favorites from this past years show!

Here are 10 cars spotted on the floor, in no particular order, which show it hasn’t already all been done.
10) Ford had a special display at SEMA celebrating 50 years of Mustang. There were a sea of 1st generation fastbacks, notchbacks, convertibles, Shelbys and California Specials. There were a nearly equal number of Fox Body and SN-95 cars in every possible configuration. And then there was this lone Mustang II. Now sure this particular car has most of a 5th generation’s fenders and bumpers grafted onto it (I think), but the overall shape is pure Mustang II liftback. And why not? These cars get a bad reputation for being based on the bones of the Pinto, but the Pinto suspension geometry was miles ahead of the 1950s design that underpinned the 1960 Falcon, and stayed under the Mustang until 1973. There is a reason Mustang II/Pinto front end set ups are practically the standard when building pre-war hot rods: They simply work. Plus, disc brakes and rack and pinion steering come standard. You also have the choice of V8 power, or toss a turbo Ford 2.3 Lima motor in it if you prefer that route. On top of all that project cars are cheap, when compared to 1st Gen or Fox body cars.

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9) How about this mash up? Take one 1st generation Chevy Camaro and cross breed it with 1970s IMSA GT wide body road race designs. This allows you to fit huge tires all the way around, for massive grip and serious G-forces in the corners. I hate to suggest it, but it could use the huge whale tail the Chevy Monza used, while actually beating up on Porsche 911s in IMSA GT racing. With a nicely integrated roll cage, and your choice of power plant this Camaro could like be made to do sub-13 second quarter miles, run a track day, go 150mph or more in open road events, and autocross too. And it’s flat white (because black is so overdone) too, with no chrome: It just may even be radar and laser invisible.

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8-7) Now sure, both these cars owe a debt to Kevin’s “Jaded” and “Eleanor” from Gone in 60 Seconds, but there is no denying that those cars look great, and so do these two. You would think too many cars done in a similar theme would get boring, but it’s hard to argue with their continued popularity. These two cars were in adjacent booths, purely by chance, but it allowed me to see how even two of the same car done in the same style could be different, while still sharing so many similarities. Take one late 60s Mustang, updated and improve the drivetrain, suspension and brakes, paint it black and dark grey or green (I like to call it McQueen Green), and enjoy. Much like the fries at McDonalds, people love them and keep coming back for more. The beauty of building one of these cars is literally every piece is available in reproduction, including body shells. Plus you can practically order a full road race chassis and just bolt it in (if your credit card can take the strain). The hard part in many places is finding a donor/project car in build-able shape for a reasonable price.

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6) Just like Sylvester Stallone, go Over the Top, like this GoPro sponsored early 2nd generation Camaro, with chassis by the Roadster Shop. I’m not certain what exactly this was built for, but it looks too purposeful and focused to just be a show car. My guess is that this is a full tilt, open road race/track day toy. The roll cage inside looks good enough to allow this car on the starting grid of an FIA rally stage, and the wheels and tires look ready for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Build your Camaro or Firebird like this and no one will mistake you for a mullet sporting pizza delivery dude who’s never seen the sweet side of 100mph. Hell, this car looks like it could do twice that easily, depending on exactly what motor that is under the hood, and not just in a straight line either.

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5) Why not Fox body restomods? This will make some guys feel old, after all these aren’t classic muscle/pony cars, these are from the 80s. For those of us in our 40s these cars were one of the few flickering flames or performance during the Malaise Era, and they struggled to put out 150hp from 5 liters of V8. Now a days you can get 300hp easily, and these cars have all the other modern parts already baked in: Rack and pinion, disc brakes, modern chassis geometry, limited slip differential, etc. This particular one appears to be lightly modded with period correct touches (gold mesh wheels, headlight covers), or is a well preserved special edition from back in the day. But you can build a Fox Mustang into practically anything you want, with the help of one of the deepest aftermarket catalogs of any model in the past 50 years.

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4) Did you know the 1st generation Camaro and the 2nd generation Chevy Nova were cousins under the skin? I’m not certain exactly how hard this was to pull of but here we have the one of a kind Nomaro. Why? Besides doing it to be different, I would gather a 1969 Camaro project car is a lot more expensive than a 1972 Nova. At the very least give the builder credit for thinking outside the box.

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3) Everything old is new again. Don’t know about you, but seeing a new Camaro parked right next to an old one really brings the differences to light. The new one is just so much bigger, chunkier and more angular. The 1st generation is just more curvacious, lighter and better looking. The 1969 Camaro in the background doesn’t seem to have much more done to it than wheels, tires, brakes and bolts on suspension improvements, on a cleanly restored car. That red interior really makes it pop though. This car gets the nod only because the new version is right next to it showing just how good the original looked.

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2) Ken Block’s Hoonigan Gynkana Mustang is just sick. Who but Ken Block would build a 1st generation Mustang notchback into one of the craziest drift cars ever? This car look like the puppies you’d get if someone left a Mustang and a 1970s Can Am car in the garage unsupervised for a while. It would be interesting to see this car, the GoPro Camaro and the flat white IMSA car (once its got a motor) race against each other on a big wide opened road course like Road America, where you can really use the power.

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1) It hurts all car guys to say this, but you really have to work hard to do better than what you can buy off the showroom floor these days. The 2015 Ford Mustang is so good it can make you throw down your wrench and shout “why bother!”. Ford had specially modified versions with professional drivers giving people demonstration rides, sideways with the wheels spinning, all week long.

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So there you have 10 pony cars that show that it’s not time for the glue factory yet for these old stallions. Next, we’ll have 10 SEMA cars that show the awesome alternatives you have to the Mustang and Camaro if you just have to be different.

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