Exploratory SAR studies of a new phenyl indole chemotype for p97 inhibition revealed C-5 indole substituent effects in the ADPGlo assay that did not fully correlate with either electronic or steric factors. A focused series of methoxy-, trifluoromethoxy-, methyl-, trifluoromethyl-, pentafluorosulfanyl-, and nitro-analogues was found to exhibit IC50s from low nanomolar to double-digit micromolar. Surprisingly, we found that the trifluoromethoxy-analogue was biochemically a better match of the trifluoromethyl-substituted lead structure than a pentafluorosulfanyl-analogue. Moreover, in spite of their almost equivalent strongly electron-depleting effect on the indole core, pentafluorosulfanyl- and nitro-derivatives were found to exhibit a 430-fold difference in p97 inhibitory activities. Conversely, the electronically divergent C-5 methyl- and nitro-analogues both showed low nanomolar activities.