January 01, 2023

SEMA 2023 - Billetworkz Recap

After pulling several late nights, we barely got the car finished in time to load it into the trailer to ship across the country. We woke up at 2 am to fly out to Las Vegas on the Sunday before SEMA to meet the transporter. We spent most of the day installing the custom tail lights from Germany that were overnighted to the hotel to have them in time. 

Monday was roll-in for SEMA. Since we didn’t even have time to drive the car before shipping it to SEMA, we decided to drive it from the hotel to the Las Vegas Convention Center (a really cool feeling, especially because many cars at SEMA don’t even run). After getting set up at the Toyo Tires Treadpass booth, it was time to network with fellow builders in Treadpass while we waited for the SEMA Battle of the Builders judge to come around. Unfortunately, we had no idea when they would make their way to the Treadpass booth, so we were left waiting until judges arrived around 7-8 pm (UberEats chick-fil-a FTW to hold us over until then). The judges made their way around to each of the cars that entered BOTB. With only a few minutes of time, they could spend with each car, I did my best to fully educate them on the entire build. After finishing with the judges, we went back to the hotel and passed out early since we were still not used to the time zone change.

Tuesday/Thursday we were very excited for the first day of SEMA. The car was getting amazing reactions and a ton of compliments right off the bat. The Top 40 Battle of the Builders was announced around lunchtime, where the car placed in the Top 10 Sport Compact and Import Performance class. After receiving the great news, the judges requested our build sheets in order for them to choose the top 3 in each class. Many of us didn’t have build sheets since we were too tight on time, so we were scrambling to put a quick email together with the modifications. This was a little confusing to builders, as we expected the judges to make their rounds with the top 40 cars to judge them even further. With the level of competition amongst the top 40, the level of execution and attention to detail was important to capture, but instead, the judges based their decisions on the few minutes they spent with each car on Monday, as well as the unprepared build sheets.

Wednesday, they announced the top 3 in each class. For our class, the Import Performance/Sport Compact class, the judges chose a 1977 Ford Pinto, a time attack R32 GT-R, and a very well-built 911 Baja. Of course, we were disappointed with not being selected, mainly for the partners and everyone who put so much time and effort into this build. 

We still had the rest of the week to enjoy the show and receive manycompliments on the build. The car was getting compliments from all types of attendants, even the Porsche purists! The most meaningful compliment was “this is my favorite build of SEMA”, which was received many times! Multiple people even tried to buy the car, and even a few people tried to convince us to put our rendition of the 911 into production! 

Friday night was the end of SEMA, where all of the running builds drive through SEMA Ignited. Thousands of enthusiasts lined the path to check out all of the cars leaving the event. With the Vegas sunset hitting at the right time, many fans were stoked to see the 911 pass by.

At SEMA, we were able to link up with a lot of friends from all over the country, as well as meet a lot of new friends. One new friend, Al Norris, invited us to photograph the car in Red Rock Canyon. Little did Al know that I had a small emotional connection with that location. The last time my (late) father and I were at SEMA with my WRX in 2018, he spent one of the days exploring Red Rock. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to explore with him as I was busy with the WRX at SEMA. I jumped on that opportunity with Al and drove the car to Red Rock Canyon Saturday morning. It was a special experience driving through Red Rock alone in the car with my father looking down. I know he would be super stoked on the build and right by my side if he were still here.

All in all, I want to thank everyone involved in the build that allowed us to get the car (that started from a shell on a rotisserie) finished in 5 months. If it weren’t for all of you, the build wouldn’t have turned out the way it did! Hopefully, winter passes through quickly, as I’m ready to show and enjoy the car in 2023! Thank you all again! 

If you're interested in seeing the complete build, visit our Billetworkz Builds page and see what went into everything.

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– Austin Barnett / Owner

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