HomeCar CultureLifestyleYoung car builders compete for SEMA honors

Young car builders compete for SEMA honors


Editor’s note: Get more news from the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas by checking out our dedicated page for daily updates.

Friday evening at SEMA Ignited, the big celebration party staged at the conclusion of the annual gathering of the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show, the winners of the Battle of the Builders will be crowned. 

Three finalists have been selected in each of four categories, and one of those categories is called Young Guns and is open only to car builders aged 27 or younger.

SEMA, Young car builders compete for SEMA honors, ClassicCars.com Journal
Kyle Kuhnhausen’s 1972 Datsun 240Z

Those three finalists are Dylan Goacher for his 1968 Chevrolet Nova, Kyle Kuhnhausen for his 1972 Datsun 240Z and Zach Lagrenne for his 1998 BMW M3.

While the Hot Rod, Sport Copact and Truck or Off-Road vehicle categories are open to all builders, the Young Guns is designed to encourage and feature those just starting in the profession.

Indeed, Lagrenne’s BMW project was done with help from his fellow students at the University of Colorado.

SEMA, Young car builders compete for SEMA honors, ClassicCars.com Journal
Dylan Goache’s 1968 Chevrolet Nova

Of the nearly 300 entries in the builders competition this year, 14 were from those in the Young Guns category, SEMA said. 

Preliminarily, cars were displayed at various regional car shows with 14 of the Young Guns selected to expense-paid trips to the finals at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

The 2018 SEMA Ignited celebration runs from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. in the Platinum parking lot on Swenson Street on the east side of Las Vegas Convention Center. Unlike the trade show itself, Ignited it open to the public.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Seven years ago we introduced our 3 year old granddaughter Kaia to wonderful world of custom car restoration when we presented her with a broken down 1955 Austin J-40 pedal car. Kaia and I spent the next three years working with SoCal custom car builders to transform the J-40 into a fully functional mini-car with a key start gas engine, Infinity Box computer system, Bluetooth stereo, engine turned dashboard with state of the art LED gages, leather interior, etc.
    Kaia assisted in every phase of the build and once completed she competed head to head with legendary car builders and beat them most of the time. In fact Kaia’s 1955 Austin J-40’s first public viewing was at the 2014 SEMA Show where it was a huge hit with everyone that saw it in the Infinity Box booth. Many guests stating “it was the best vehicle they saw at the show!”
    Barry Meguiar said “Kaia is proof positive that you do not have to be a guy and you don’t even have to be old to be a Car Guy…Kaia is a true Car Guy.”

    See Kaia’s Motorized Austin J-40 Pedal Car on YouTube, Parts 1 & 2
    And Kaia’s Mini-Teardrop Trailer.

    • Congratulations to Kaia!
      With young people like your granddaughter, and those that built the cars seen here; it appears the future of the car hobby is in good hands!
      It will experience radical changes as young people today simply are not interested in the same vehicles that their granddads liked, let alone their great-granddads! For example we are seeing that many younger builders are not afraid of fuel injection or onboard computers in a custom car. Whereas older builders are gutting the computers and EFI and reverting a vehicle back to carburetion because many simply don’t want to deal with the complexities of learning a new skill. I’ve seen many Fox-body Mustangs of the late 80’s to early 90’s that have been reverted back to a carburetor simply because someone didn’t want to take the time to learn a new skill.


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