4 min read
07 Nov

Author: Philip Uwaoma

The SEMA Show's "Battle of the Builders" competition has evolved into an annual automotive extravaganza celebrating the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the world's most talented builders. This year, the winning build is a custom 1960 Buick Invicta, the handiwork of Cal Auto Creations' Andy Leach for George and Angela Eliacostas. 

We hear Andy Leach's lifelong passion for automobiles began at a young age when he attended car shows with his father. By the age of 14, Andy was already welding and restoring a 1937 Ford to pristine condition. We'll give you a proper introduction to Leach later in this article. 

Building upon the legacy of previous winners like Troy Trepanier, Phil and Jeremy Gerber, and other master builders, the 2023 edition has proven yet another thrilling chapter in SEMA's history of automotive excellence. It's fitting that Invicta is victorious, emerging as the new champion of the famed SEMA Battle of the Builders, considering its notorious history and Leach and his team's spectacular reimagination of the classic car

Related Reading: Here Are The 6 SEMA Show Best Vehicles Of The Year 2023 

The SEMA Show 2023 Battle Of The Builders Winner

SEMA Show Battle of the Builders winner - 1960 Buick Invicta.

photo credit: Hemmings

The SEMA Battle of the Builders, Presented by Mothers Polish, made a grand return in 2023. This prestigious competition enlists the expertise of industry professionals to recognize exceptional talent, creativity, and craftsmanship in the halls of automotive modifications. 

2023 SEMA Battle of the Builders winner.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Covering a wide spectrum of categories, including Hot Rod & Hot Rod Truck, 4 Wheel Drive & Off-Road, Sport Compact/Import Performance, Luxury & Exotic, and Young Guns, the event culminates in the crowning of an overall champion. 

1960 Buick Invicta SEMA Battle of the Builders 2023 champion.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Among the 2023 standout entries, the Buick Invicta, masterfully constructed by Andy Leach and the skilled team at Cal Automotive Creations (CAC) for George and Angela Eliacostas, reigned supreme in the Hot Rod category. 

Custom 1960 Buick Invicta by Andy Leach.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

This custom 1960 Buick Invicta, known as the "X-60," represents thorough craftsmanship, featuring concept-car styling that incorporates a precisely wedge-sectioned body accentuated by intricately machined brass trim. 

Andy Leach 1960 Buick Invicta interior.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Beneath its unique exterior, the vehicle boasts a one-of-a-kind chassis with sculpted floors, cleverly merging elements from both an IFS and IRS. Riding on a set of nine-piece layered wheels, the heart is a powerhouse 401 Nailhead motor equipped with a crank-mounted procharger. 

Andy Leach's custom 1960 Buick Invicta engine.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

Every facet of this extraordinary machine is a product of scratch building, including the intricately handcrafted interior, carefully machined to exude a factory-like finish. The astonishing dedication and craftsmanship that went into the Buick Invicta speaks volumes of its nine-year journey from concept to completion. What you see here in these pictures is a true labor of love. 

Remembering The Original Invicta: The Perfect Drug Mule


Photo credit: Acbashi via Wikimedia

The Buick Invicta, produced from 1959 to 1963, represented a fusion of Buick's mid-range Century with the powerful 401 cubic inch Fireball V8 engine borrowed from the larger LeSabre (formerly Buick Special). 

This model included variations such as hardtop coupes, hardtop sedans, convertibles, and station wagons, the latter labeled as the Buick Invicta Estate. 

Over time, the Buick Wildcat replaced the coupe and sedan, and the Buick Sport Wagon succeeded the Invicta Estate in 1965. The name "Invicta" had its origins in Latin, signifying 'unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable, unvanquished,' as per Buick Motor Division sales materials. 

Despite never reaching the sales figures of the entry-level LeSabre or the top-tier Electra models, it maintained Buick's tradition of adding Ventiports to the front fenders, which was a hallmark of sporty mid-priced models like the Century (1954-1958) and the Wildcat (1963-1970). 

In a 1959 Popular Mechanics survey of 1959 Buick owners, ride comfort was highly regarded by 47.1% of respondents, although 25.2% found the drive shaft tunnel to be somewhat cumbersome. 

Starting in 1960, Buick offered an Invicta Custom trim package with features like bucket seats and a 'consolette' for the hardtop coupe, convertible, and wagon, while certain 4-door hardtops came with a leather bench seat and a center armrest. However, sales remained modest. 

Interestingly, the 1960 Buick Invicta gained notoriety for its peculiar body construction that made it a favorite of international heroin smugglers. It could conceal nearly undetectable traps within the fenders and undercarriage, as detailed in Robin Moore's 1969 book "The French Connection." 

Related Reading: Lexus Offroad Evolution: Unveiling the Trailblazers at SEMA 2023 

Meet The Champion Of Builders - Andy Leach

Cal Auto Creations team.

Andy Leach (second-right) via X

According to Concordia University, Leach merely followed his mechanic talents when he took design classes at Concordia, instilling a deep appreciation for aesthetics, a crucial aspect of car restoration. 

In 2008, Leach made the bold decision to leave his welding job and co-founded CAL Auto Creations in Bennington, Nebraska, with partner Ron Cizek. Their partnership emerged when Cizek sought help with his 1940 Ford Coupe, a project he had started over 50 years ago with his father. 

Juggling his welding job, family responsibilities, and the car project, Leach nurtured his dream of working on cars full-time and running his own shop. In a decisive email to Cizek, Leach expressed his aspirations, and to his delight, Cizek wholeheartedly supported his plan. This marked the beginning of Leach's full-time dedication to custom car building. 

Leach's exceptional craftsmanship shone through in his work on the 1940 Ford Coupe, aptly named "Checkered Past." 

After more than five years of meticulous restoration, the car claimed the prestigious 50th Annual Ridler Award at the 2013 Detroit Autorama. The win catapulted Leach into the spotlight, attracting media attention from numerous industry publications and establishing his reputation as a top-tier custom car builder. 

Since then, Leach's business has thrived, with a team of 12 skilled professionals working on diverse car projects for clients nationwide. Despite the unconventional nature of their work, Leach recognizes the profound passion that drives car enthusiasts and feels blessed to be a part of this dynamic industry. 

His journey from a car-loving teenager to an acclaimed custom car builder is a reminder of the power of determination and following one's passion.

* The email will not be published on the website.