Each year upon the conclusion of the SEMA show, one builder is crowned as the winner of the Battle of the Builders. It’s a great event that showcases some of the best automotive constructors in the country. According to SEMA, the 2020 SEMA Battle of the Builders competition included more than 330 submissions from a talented pool of builders from around the globe. These individuals are the best of the best, showcasing their extreme talent, creativity, and craftsmanship in modifying cars, trucks, and SUVs.
For fans of Chevrolet, it was a great year as Brady Ranweiler and his family operated shop, Show Cars. Brady, his brother, Cory, and his dad, Bradley, have definitely built a car deserving of this honor. “It’s very important to me that we are all credited in the building of the car,” says Brady. “Winning the SEMA Battle of the Builders was an amazing experience. My only regret is, because of Covid, only one of us was allowed on set for the shooting of the upcoming television show.”
Brady told us the wagon began its storied life as a 1963 Bel Air four-door wagon. “To my knowledge, GM didn’t produce a two-door wagon in 1963,” he quips. “It was originally purchased in 2005 to be a parts runner. Our company specializes in aftermarket and reproduction parts for 1958 through 1964 Chevys. Dad started the business in 1973 as a body shop. Then around 1985, Show Cars was born because of the interest around my father’s restored 1963 Impala SS. At the 2010 SEMA show, with that same 1963 Impala and its original restoration from 1982, dad was honored to win the GM design award for best restored GM at SEMA.
Way back then, although the Ranweiler family had never built a custom car, the three men decided it was time to go all-in and build a show-stopping custom ride. “We only had one choice, that crappy shop wagon,” says Brady. “No one would really care if it turned out to be an abomination.”
Of the original sheetmetal, all that remains is about a 6-foot section of the original roof ribs. Speaking of the roof, it has been chopped and lowered 2 inches. The rake of the windshield is also changed, and new A-pillars were built to carry the style on the roof edge to the fender. The roof was then slid forward and pancaked while reestablishing a B-pillar. A complete, hand-built sail panel area, as well as rear gate with a spoiler, were built.
“We wanted the look of an Impala, so we used two-door Impala quarter panels and modified them to fit the wagon,” says Brady. “We also used Impala doors and modified them so they would have Bel Air style window channels with the vent windows removed. The front clip is unitized to the body with a custom cowl, firewall, inner fenders, header, core support, lower inner fenders, valance panels, and the floor all tied into one unit.”
The floor is an original style that has been channeled, and hand-built rockers and lower body filler panels were constructed to fit a custom-made Art Morrison Chassis. All body mounting and bumper hardware is hidden, and not just by removable panels. Rather, Brady tells us the car has an assembly/disassembly sequence that has to be followed. The bumpers are sliced and diced, and then pulled in for a tight fit.
Brady also tells us there are more than 300 one-of-a-kind pieces on the car. EVOD Industries created the taillight assembles and rear trim, steering wheel, horn ring, and the wheels. Brady says EVOD and Show Cars worked together to create the custom grille that was once a 1000-pound piece of aluminum.
Both the hood and rear gate are now power actuated, and all wiring is hidden in the hinging mechanisms. The driver’s outer taillight extends and then rotates under power to expose the gas filler and then retracts to the original closed position.
“All paint and bodywork were done at Show Cars,” Brady affirms. “All paint products were provided by PPG. Its PPG’s DCC 9300 for the deepest black. The Red is a custom blend that PPG mixed for us. There isn’t a painted surface on the car that hasn’t been cut and buffed. The number of hours spent on painted surfaces alone is more than enough to make one’s head spin.”
All of the remaining one-off pieces were created at Show Cars (many of them by brother Cory). “Early in the build, we purchased a CNC mill, and my brother began programing and cutting custom pieces,” states Brady. “He created everything from one-piece drip edge moldings, one-piece windshield and back window trim and quarter trim, to the acrylic speedo lens that matches the center of the fender emblem. Even the smallest detail pieces were done in house. If you happen to find an exposed fastener, they were all custom cut at our shop for each application.”
The engine is definitely old school, as what else can you call a cast-iron 409. It is bored and stroked to 509 cubic inches, uses a Hilborn fuel injection, and is backed by a TCI Auto 4L80e transmission. There are more than 100 custom pieces on the engine alone. Two of them are the three-piece valve covers that help hide the plug wires and appear to be without fasteners as well. Custom headwork to the Edelbrock aluminum heads as well as the stainless exhaust collectors was done by Smithberg Racing. A custom aluminum water pump and serpentine belt set up was made in-house by Show Cars. Next, custom aluminum radiator tanks were created by Show Cars and a completed radiator was assembled by Griffin Radiator. GP headers infused their expertise with the headers and tailpipes.
Looking inside, you will find a custom hand-built interior by M & M Hot Rod interiors. The design work of the interior is a Ben Hermance creation. If you like the subdued shade of red, it’s Italian dyed Ox Blood leather. Finally, Dakota Digital created the custom dash cluster.
“We are really thankful for every opportunity to show off our car,” says an appreciative Brady. “While the competition was different in its set up this year, it definitely allowed us to really look at each other’s work and bounce questions off one another. Each time you get to a different show and get to know the other competitors, you truly feel lucky. This year, we were only able to show the car four times. At Detroit Autorama, it won a Ridler. At Chicago, it won Legend Cup. At Des Moines Iowa Goodguys, it won the finalist for Custom Rod of the Year, and now, SEMA Battle of the Builders. During this entire process of building and showing the car, we’ve made countless friends from all over the country. We plan on showing the car around the country for the next two years or so.”