Top 8 Custom Car Builds for 2023

December, 2023

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Custom car building has evolved from a limited number of cosmetic modifications in the early days of motoring, into what now can be considered an art form. These creations illustrate the skill and ingenuity of their builders, as well as the vision of their owners. A testament to what is possible when cost is no object, these Builds are literally hand fabricated from headlight to taillight, integrating only token pieces of metal from their namesake to establish their identity by year and make.

In 2023 this group of top Builds made the show circuit, with stops at premier classic car events such as Detroit Autorama in Michigan, Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, CA, Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, KY, SEMA in Las Vegas, and Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, OH. Along the way, these best-of-the-best wowed show attendees and received some of the most coveted awards in the hobby. Here are our picks for an 8-bay dream garage, filled with 2023’s crop of masterpieces.

Top 8 Custom Builds
1960 Buick Invicta “X60”

Award: 2023 Grand National Roadster, Al Slonaker award, SEMA Battle of the Builders winner, World of Wheels Legends Cup, and Goodguys Custom Rod of the Year

Owner: George Eliacostas of Chicago, IL

Builder: Cal Automotive Creations of Bennington, NE

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

In 2023 this Buick Invicta, built by Andy Leach at Cal Automotive Creations, won practically every major national award possible.  What is even more amazing is that it won events with different judging criteria, which is a testament to its appeal at hot rod show cars as well as shows featuring state-of-the-art street machines.  How do you do this?  For starters, the original body design of the ‘60s era Buick was cleverly emphasized without making the car look modified.  Inside the custom interior looks period-correct but is so much better than anything Detroit ever envisioned.  The drivetrain and power are also totally custom with an iconic “nailhead” engine, both fuel-injected and blown.  Andy’s X60, as he named it, will be long remembered as THE custom car for 2023 and as a benchmark for custom builds in the future.

For more on this incredible car, click here see Speedway Motors extensive writeup.   Photo’s by Damon Lee, Goodguys Rod and Custom, unless otherwise noted.

 

1950 Mercury 2-Door “Maximus”

Award: 2023 Detroit Autorama Ridler Award

Owner: Luigi Deriggi of Toms River, NJ

Builder: Pro Comp Custom of Glenshaw, PA

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

This year the highly coveted “Ridler” title went to a 1950 Mercury named “Maximus.” Although Maximus may look a lot like an iconic Lead Sled, the Candy Root Beer-colored Mercury is really an up-to-date show car with all the latest features. The amount of bodywork and level of detail is off the charts. As an example of the level of detail, every fastener on the car has a 12-point head which was also used in the design of the stands used to display the car. This showstopper is the definition of eye-catching custom build.

For more about Maximus, check out our interview below with the builder, Bruce Harvey.

1967 Chevy Nova “Rome”

Award: Great 8 Finalist

Owner: Shawn Nichoalds of Foristell, MO

Builder: Samson Design LLC Customs & Hot Rod Interior Design of Marshall, MO

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

The owner, Shawn Nichoalds, told us with a smile that “Rome” wasn’t built in a day. That sums it up well, since it’s obvious this beautiful Nova took a while to create. Once Chevy’s economy model, this particular Chevy Nova has been enhanced throughout, making it a definite piece of show car art. The combination of gorgeous silver paint, abundant bright work, and rich brown leather make this a standout in any gathering of custom-built cars.

Check out our below interview with the owner, Shawn Nichoalds, and builder, Derick Samson.

1967 Mustang “DS-500R”

Award: Goodguys Rod and Custom Street Machine of the Year

Owner: Danny Shaffer of Bakersfield, CA

Builder: Ironworks Speed & Kustom of Bakersfield, CA

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

Although countless Mustangs have been customized, the guys at Ironworks Speed & Kustom have taken this first-generation pony car to a whole new level. The iconic fastback silhouette is still there but with a more refined muscular look. Its dark gray paint with striking gold spoked wheels attributes to its “take no prisoners” posture. Inside, there’s a racer’s cockpit covered in a one-off red and black design, just like the engine compartment. But this is not just a show car. Under the sheet metal is a state-of-the-art chassis and suspension.

1967 Chevy C10 Pickup “ZR/10”

Award: 2023 Goodguys Truck of the Year (late)

Owner: Rod Parsons & Zach Ingram of Knox, IN

Builder: Zrodz and Customs / Fiber Forged Composites

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

In addition to being awarded Truck of the Year, “ZR/10” became the first truck to make the final five in the Goodguys Rod and Custom Street Machine of the Year. Although it was edged out by “DS-500R” (the 1967 Mustang described above), it is an outstanding street machine – an all-out race car that just happens to have a truck body. Its all-carbon fiber exterior, as well as many of the parts inside being made of carbon, has resulted in an impressive weight savings. The truck, including all the add-ons needed for racing safety equipment, is less than 3,000 lbs. Probably a better way to gauge the advantage of carbon fiber is visualizing the weight of the bed and tailgate which tip the scales at less than 80 lbs.

Check out our below interview with the owner/builder, Zach Ingram.

1932 Roadster “Champ Deuce”

Award: 2023 Grand National Roadster Show, America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR)

Owner: Jack Chisenhall of San Antonio, Texas

Builder: Jack Chisenhall Fabrication Shop

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

If the name Jack Chisenhall sounds familiar, it’s because Jack is the founder of Vintage Air, the well-known aftermarket A/C supplier. His passion for hot rodding got him into this business, and this passion kept him thinking about customizing cars. In the ‘80s he began visualizing a highboy roadster that would eventually become the “Champ Deuce,” the 2023 AMBR winner. From a distance, his award-winning roadster appears to be just another clean-looking Deuce highboy. But what makes this build special is the level of detail in the form, fit, and finish. And yes, it has a Hemi – a totally tricked-out first-generation Red Ram powerplant.

For more on this incredible car, click here to see Modern Rodding Tech’s extensive writeup on the build.

1927 Ford T Roadster “Track T”

Award: 2023 Goodguys Rod and Custom, Street Rod of the Year

Owner: Jon Hall of Saginaw, MI

Builder: Shadow Rods / Greening Auto Co.

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

Typically, the Goodguys Street Rod contenders are traditional hots rods or cool ‘40s/’50s show cars. This year, however, the winner was a 1927 Model T Roadster, customized in the spirit of a race car. The most striking feature is the rounded front grill commonly found on Indy 500- styled roadsters. Jon Hall’s street rod also sets low to the ground, making it look ready for the track. To maintain the racing theme, it’s powered by a custom all-aluminum flathead.

1955 Chevy Bel Air Convertible “Chrome Blues”

Award: Great 8 finalist

Owner: David and Kenny Snodgrass of Melbourne, FL

Builder: Snodgrass Restoration of Melbourne, FL

Vital Stats: Engine, Transmission, Chassis, Wheels, Paint, and Interior

The guys at Snodgrass Restoration have restored many Tri-Five Chevys to their original show room grandeur. Several of these cars have been sold on the auction block for record prices. For this project, they started with their Tri-Five building experience and added extensive customizing. Although the distinctive look of a coveted ’55 Chevy convertible is still there, it is modified from bumper to bumper and top to bottom. The combination of bright blue paint, abundant chrome, and underside display mirrors made a standout on the show floor at the Detroit Autorama. One of the many unique features on this car is a leather convertible top.

Check out our below interview with the builder/owner, Dave Snodgrass. 

If you feel we missed a top custom build in 2023, send us a message. We’d certainly like to hear from you and may do a special shoutout post on social media.