SEMA 2015 Thoughts by Ben Schaffer Part 1

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Bulletproof Automotive Z4 GT Continuum


This SEMA marks Bulletproof’s 15th year. When we began way back in 2000, the mission was simple – to find exciting new ideas and to share our findings with others. We worked to introduce brands like Amuse and Varis to new audiences outside Japan, as well as created trustworthy supply routes to already popular brands like Top Secret and Mines. Along the way, we travelled to Japan (a lot), met many new friends, provided new ideas to enthusiasts hungry for inspiration, and ultimately helped to grow a positive community that “represents the real.”

Whatever we did, we always relied on inspiration and excitement. Inspiration was our fuel and every January it was Tokyo Auto Salon that lit our hearts ablaze and ignited our minds with new ideas. Back in our early days, information was the rare commodity that we hunted for, curated and shared wherever, and however we could; it would be seen in our magazine columns, blog posts and in countless conversations with clients and friends. Ultimately you’d see these ideas trickle down into projects created by our customers in the US and around the world. Traditionally, every November, SEMA would hit and inevitably the hot ideas of January’s TAS would show up in some synthesized US-specific form at SEMA. Back then it was SEMA that represented the mainstream popularization of those underground ideas, which then caused us to yearn for the next new and exciting thing. In our subset of the tuning world, the cycle of hunting for inspiration continued like this for years because – let’s be honest – when it came to JDM tuning, 95% of all of the fresh ideas were born in Japan.

Bulletproof S2000 GT Studio Shot


In the beginning, Bulletproof was a business of one – me. Then of two, then eventually we had a team of a few underpaid people surviving on passion alone (and instant ramen). We had no money to make demo cars back then and we didn’t make SEMA cars for our first 7 years. Survival was enough. We had big ideas but we only had hopes to lend those ideas to our clients or else they would die inside our heads. In many ways things are not much different today for us, or for many others; this industry is notoriously hard to survive, and surely still 95% of our ideas would never exist anywhere, save for our minds, if it were not for our clients who entrust us to make for them special cars. However, starting in 2007, we took a leap of faith and decided to take the same trusty S2000 that started the business back in 2000 and turn it into a world-class SEMA build. This decision permanently upped the bar for Bulletproof Automotive. Although each SEMA car is challenging to fund and ultimately loses money, it brings a satisfaction like no other to see an idea turn into reality. (If we didn’t have the opportunity to create our dreams and look at our work with pride there would be no point to be slaving away all of these hours and years.) Sometimes, we are lucky to have clients that let us share in their dreams, which is equally satisfying, but on occasion, we have to get a little crazy ourselves with projects if no customer allows us the opportunity.

Bulletproof Automotive Concept One FR-S at Tsukuba Circuit


From project cars to our demo cars, we’ve had various highs. Perhaps the highest high was our FR-S Concept One which was requested by Option Magazine and HyperRev to display at Tokyo Auto Salon. Why does this stand out to us? Ever since we began, the bar was Tokyo Auto Salon, not SEMA. With that in mind, when we turned our S2000 into a SEMA car in 2007, the creative choices we made were based on what we would have expected of a car at Tokyo Auto Salon. In our minds, if you can make it at Tokyo Auto Salon, you can make it anywhere. The Concept One is in the history books now; it crushed Auto Salon, it launched a new Rays wheel as a demo car in their booth (Volk Racing ZE40), and in street trim it ran as fast as a Ferrari Italia at Tsukuba Circuit. It did everything we ever imagined, all while maintaining a level of fit/finish that managed to surprise many. Beyond all, in Japan it was received, by the same people that have inspired us since day one, as fresh inspiration. The validation that this was not a US-made car featuring JDM tuning principles, but rather something bigger, something globally uniting…typified everything we worked so hard for. The surprise conclusion to the Concept One project actually just unfolded a few weeks ago, when it was chosen by the world famous Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles as the single representation of Japanese Tuning in their historic “Hot Rod” Gallery.


As Bulletproof moved forward, we’ve kept doing more and more ambitious projects (we would have gotten bored otherwise). However these days, our clients get the best of our work, with our customer builds often exceeding our own demo cars (we prefer it this way, as it affirms people’s trust in us to do exciting work for them). In the beginning, we were the only client crazy enough to trust us; it was make turn a personal car into a demo car or never make anything; however in 15 years of hard work, we have proven ourselves as a team capable of nearly anything!

At SEMA 2015, we will debut a project meant to serve as a celebration of our 15 years of hard work and creativity with our most unique project yet, a collaboration with Varis Japan, dubbed the “Z4 GT Continuum.”


Stay tuned for Part 2…


Thanks for the love Super Street Magazine! Bulletproof Automotive Honda S2000

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AutoCon Los Angeles Bulletproof Automotive S2000

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The Epic Video That Wasn’t – GT-RR R35s x 2

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GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Mobil 1 Toyo Tires R888

Back in 2008 I had one of my career highlights of producing two ultimate GT-Rs simultaneously over a short period of time. It was an amazing experience and as I look back on it, I still have the same love for the cars as I did back then (if not more so). I only had these two GT-Rs for a short period of time and after their SEMA debut with Mobil 1 and Toyo Tires the cars were shipped off to opposite sides of the country (Hawaii and New Jersey). Although I’ve amassed a large collection of photos during the builds and at SEMA, sadly I have much less documented of the two cars together.

A video shoot for Streetfire’s television distribution was prepared and that video was going to be my only video documentation of these two beasts together. One afternoon three GT-Rs drove off to do a video shoot by the beach in Los Angeles. The two GT-RR demo cars of the time were joined by Adam from Streetfire’s silver GT-R as a camera car. As we ripped up and down the street getting footage I felt that I’d have something great to look back on to remember these cars by. In a matter of a week after the filming the cars dispersed and there was no more footage ever again of them together.

Much to my disappointment the video never made it out of streetfire’s offices and I’ve never seen it. Sadly, no video exists of Brandon’s midnight purple R35 at all. (a huge mistake on my part)

So I’m left with just a couple of still pictures that I have from the day to reminisce over the video that wasn’t.

As I continue to plan and prepare my latest GT-R project car, I look back at these cars and somehow feel a little intimidated with my current project.

GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Mobil 1 Toyo Tires R888GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Mobil 1 Toyo Tires R888

All pictures above are 1800 pix res. The picture below is my favorite of the two cars together but unfortunately this is the best quality I have of it.

GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Mobil 1 Toyo Tires R888

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GT-RR Bulletproof Demo Car Replica in Forza 3

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GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Bulletproof GTR Forza 3

I get such a kick out of people re-creating the cars we’ve produced in video games like Microsoft’s Forza. I just got forwarded the link to this re-creation of the white R35 GT-R we developed a bit more than a year ago now for SEMA 2008. Whoever created this did a great job recreating the graphics. Credit goes to our graphics designer over in Japan, Mana-P (Manabu Suzuki), who worked so hard with us and my demands for constant revisions/improvements to reach the conclusion of these graphics. Although the car in real life is currently in full street mode (stripped of all graphics), the crazy graphics scheme lives on with fan re-creations like this in Forza 3!

GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Bulletproof GTR Forza 3GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car Bulletproof GTR Forza 3


And of course the original car this was based on:

GT-RR R35 GT-R Demo Car

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Some More by Stanley Ku

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I was browsing Signal Auto‘s blog and saw some pictures and videos of the white GT-RR demo car being loaded into a transport to make it’s journey back home to New Jersey. I can never get tired of looking at this car. The livery really sets this car apart but unfortunately most of that has been taken off the car now. But it was awesome that I got to see it in person. It was and still is definitely one of the best GT-Rs. I really want a wallpaper for this car. I’m sure pretty much everyone does too.



The GT-R looks like a 4×4 when it is lifted on the air suspension, doesn’t it?

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Random Snap

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I’m back in Los Angeles again. I wanted to share this random snap I took. With the GT-R specific 20″ Toyo R888s finally in stock and shipping to our clients, we’ve been just all about these tires lately. Here you can see a stack of 20″ R888s about to soon go on the BBS wheels and in front of that a set of Top Secret TE37 wheels also wrapped in R888 rubber. Both sets are for the same GT-R of course (you’ve seen both sets of wheels on the car by now I hope).  The GT-RR beast looms in the background, looking mighty innocent without the Amuse front diffuser and stripped of graphics.

Bonus pic of R888 stacks:

Toyo R888 Stacks

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