Think back to the last contest you won. To commemorate your success you might've taken home a certificate, plaque, trophy, or at the very least, a t-shirt. As cool as you think your prize was, it doesn’t come close to what the GT Awards kicks down.
At the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas - the largest trade show catering to the automotive aftermarket - the crew behind the most epic of racing video games, Gran Turismo, descends upon Sin City in search of the wildest modified cars that best represent the spirit of their game.
Divided into five classes (Best Asian Import, Best European Import, Best Hot Rod, Best Domestic Car, Best Truck/SUV), each category winner is then judged by the creator of the GT franchise himself, Kazunori Yamauchi, for the ultimate prize: “Best in Show” GT Award winner.
The stakes? Immortalization. The winning car is digitally modeled by the Gran Turismo team to be made available as a playable "character" in the game. Think Sonic, but only way faster... and cooler.
Just weeks from Gran Turismo 5’s release and in its eighth year, the GT Awards were bigger than ever. So much so that a few of the categories saw ties resulting from the overwhelming number of entries.
BEST DOMESTIC CAR
CAR: 2011 CHEVY CAMARO SSX CONCEPT (pictured at top) | OWNER: GARY MULDER
With Ford, Dodge, and Chevy resurrecting some of their strongest models, not since the Pony Car wars of the late ‘60s, the Civil War, or Rodney King have we seen such a domestic battle brew. Each camp has their staunch supporters, but the Camaro, with its Hollywood roles and modified variants such as this “SSX Concept”, is making its mark. Utilizing goods straight from the GM Performance Parts catalog, such as the cams, cylinder head, and dry-sump lubrication, this Camaro makes 500-plus reliable horsepower.
CAR: 2010 CHEVY CAMARO SUPER SPORT | OWNER: TOMMY Z
For further proof that the Chevy crowd is strong, one need not look further than this custom-painted, gold twin-turbo Camaro owned by Tommy Z. Unlike the SSX Concept - done with mild on the mind - this '10 Camaro’s been completely reworked with custom interior and audio, one-off fenders and grill, and 21-inch wheels, helping it to land as the other top Domestic.
BEST ASIAN IMPORT
CAR: 2006 SUBARU WRX STI | OWNER: JAMARII WHITESIDE
With a last name like Whiteside, how fitting is it that Jamarii’s ’06 WRX STI is – gasp – white? Peppering the aspen-colored sheetmetal are carbon fiber doors, splitters, hood and rear spoiler, with gold wheels and stickers to add some contrast. Pop the hood and the gold theme continues in the upgraded turbocharged engine bay.
CAR: 1986 TOYOTA COROLLA | OWNER: STEPH PAPADAKIS
To the untrained eye, this ’86 Corolla might look as if it was the East L.A. commuter car du jour. Well, it is. Or at least it was, up until half a decade or so ago when a Japanese manga/comic-turned-cult-cartoon called Initial D about drifting caught on, turning the then-cheap, rear-wheel drive Corolla into the iconic platform for the quasi-motorsport (read: now expensive). This thing is rocking a crazy widened body kit and matching wheels; too bad we couldn’t squeeze more info out of the builder.
CAR: 2007 CHEVY COLORADO | OWNER: NICK MONCURE
A truck in Gran Turismo? Okay, before acronyms like “OMG” or “WTF” start spinning through your Ritalin-deficient mind, this isn’t your average ’07 Chevy Colorado. First of all, it isn’t lifted nor does it have any Affliction stickers (thank goodness). Instead, the chassis was lowered on fully adjustable custom coilover suspension and the LS7 engine’s been tactfully finessed. Inside the cabin, there’s no Sublime CD to be found (or so we think) – but what you will find in the interior is a roll cage and racing seats.
BEST EUROPEAN IMPORT
CAR: 2010 HPA SCIROCCO | OWNER: MARCEL HORN
Despite the polarizing wheels, this is a pretty damn cool VW. Not only is it the ’10 Scirocco that isn’t available here in the States, but the factory 2.0-liter turbo engine was swapped with a beefier twin-turbocharged 3.2VR6 motor. Not to be outdone, the drivetrain was converted to an all-wheel drive system, making this VW capable of 3.2-second 0-60 mph blasts and 11.4 quarter mile passes. Fukenmuvin.
BEST HOT ROD/BEST IN SHOW
CAR: 1969 CHEVY CAMARO | OWNER: MARK STIELOW
Straight from the “less is more” school of thought is Mark Stielow’s ’69 Chevy Camaro. From the outside, the black wheels and red brake calipers are the only things that belie the stock body. It’s very “less.” Where “more” takes over is under the hood, where you find a tweaked LS9 engine swap, putting out 762 hp. But “more” importantly than what this car has, is what this muscle car’s going to do. Stielow’s packing his bags and his Chevy and heading to Germany to drive his pristine Camaro on a lap around the notorious Nurburgring race track. What could be more deserving of a Best in Show than that?
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