The SEMA show in Las Vegas always has some pretty mad stuff on display (we'll get onto that), but this year it was a collaboration between Ford and Webasto that has stolen the show.
Called the Mustang Lithium, the car is a test bed for next-generation EV technologies which will see use in future models. Under the body of the fastback Mustang is a powertrain that delivers 888bhp and more than 1000lb-ft of torque – instantly. This ludicrous power output is sent through a drag-strip proven Getrag six-speed manual transmission with billet internals to handle the monstrous power. The Super 8.8 Torsen diff is similarly stout, and sends drive to the rear 20 inch wheels through beefy Ford half shafts.
In a world where the Porsche Taycan's two-speed rear axle gearbox is considered a stand-out engineering feature, the employment of a six-speed manual by Ford and Webasto is almost off-the-wall. However, reports from SEMA suggest the Mustang Lithium has a small battery, so a track-proven manual 'box for full-bore, quarter-mile sprints makes sense.
Another stand-out feature the Mustang Lithium shares with Porsche alongside a multi-speed gearbox is an 800 volt battery system – double the power of most EVs. This sends power into Webasto's Phi-Power dual core electric motor and dual power inverters. In total, this can supply a mega-watt of electrical energy.
There are no plans to produce the Mustang Lithium; it is just there as a very cool way of testing battery, motors and thermal management components. But with Ford's Mustang-inspired EV on the horizon, and in the US an electric F150 coming in down the line, some of this tech – and hopefully more than a bit of the power – will be seen on the road in due course.
Whilst the Mustang Lithium might have millions of pounds worth of engineering thought and hardware invested in it, SEMA is all about the bonkers conversions and custom cars. And whilst most still have massive V8s, increasingly modifiers are looking to electric powertrains. Just like Lunaz and other companies are undertaking EV conversions in the UK, the US has its own unruly take on classic EV power. Here's just a few...
Pushing around 450bhp and running the quarter mile in the high 13s isn't mind boggling performance from an EV, but the Chevrolet E10 is more about the entire package. Built by Chevrolet itself, it uses a double stack of Chevrolet Performance Concept motors with power from two Chevrolet Bolt 400v batteries located under the tonneau cover in the flat bed. An interesting feature is a sound emulator that makes the E10 sound like it's running an LS7 V8 rather than zero-emissions electric motors.
Taiwanese electric mobility firm, Xing, didn't just pick up an old Chevvy Camaro and slot its EV powertrain conversion system into it. It used CEO Royce Hong's 1969 Chevvy Camaro for the conversion. It has a 56kWh battery which is apparently good for around 200 miles in range and a 311bhp motor running through the car's four-on-the-floor manual transmission. Apparently the 400lb-ft of torque available from zero to 4500rpm makes it possible to cruise around all day without shifting from third gear.
Whilst the Mustang Lithium might run quick quarter miles, it's still a big, heavy road car at heart. The Swamp Rat 38, on the other hand, is pure EV dragster. It was developed by Don Garlits – a veteran, all-conquering drag racing legend – and runs a DC motor worth around 800bhp and 1500lb-ft. Coming in at little over half-a-ton, in July 87-year-old Garlits set an electric drag record at 7.23 seconds and 189mph. His next target with the Swamp Rat is 200mph down the 'quarter.
Whilst it's not new, having made its SEMA debut back in 2012, the Bigfoot 20 is worth a mention in these pages for sheer novelty alone. Weighing in at nearly 5000kg, running a multiple battery stacks totalling 30 modules – with six more to power the brakes and four-wheel-steering for good measure – Bigfoot 20 runs a custom motor and chassis created by Bigfoot legend (in the USA at least) Bob Chandler. You can see its maiden car crush in the video below.