This was my third trip to SEMA, and if I’ve learned one thing it’s that you have to really dig deep to find the truly awesome stuff on display. It’s not easy, but someone has to do it.
Previous trips I’ve stayed for multiple days and been absolutely overwhelmed by the size and scope of the show. This year I gave myself one day on the show floor to try to get through everything in one shot. I walked over 15 miles on Tuesday, winding my way through four show halls, acres of outdoor displays, and a massive tent full of cars, displays, new products, and so. many. people. Here are all of the things I found interesting on the SEMA floor this year.
(Full Disclosure: Ford invited me to Las Vegas to witness the launch of the 2020 Bronco R, provided me with transportation, posh lodging, and food. The following day I was given a pass to SEMA.)
Yes, there were too many Supras this year, but SEMA still had some good stuff to offer, like a Nissan Kicks, an electric Mustang (no, not that one), standalone active aero, a cool Swedish electric scooter, a Mopar that runs 7s, Chevy’s one (1) electric truck, a fast 370Z, and a new Ford Bronco off-road race truck.
The Saleen S1 is a good looking car, but it looks even better as a one-make race car. You can see a scad of these running around as a support series to World Challenge.
The lighting in this hallway was bad, and the red of the carpet really makes the car look dull, but this Datsun Roadster was among my favorite cars of the show this year. That’s a big power SR20DET under the hood. That’ll do.
If you want to grab my attention, it’s pretty easy to do. All it requires is a perfectly restored Ford Falcon Club Wagon. Yes, please.
And on the other end of the spectrum, I’ll always give more than a cursory glance at a Honda Monkey with a sidecar, a Yoshimura exhaust, and a full chrome skeleton-hand mobile audio system.
Any homage to the Rote Sau is worth checking out. This one has a big power built LS V8 under the hood, but I won’t fault it for that. It’s still a good W100 Benz.
I think I’ve seen this Lamborghini somewhere before.
Oh yes, a little high-roof Volkswagen action is always welcome. This one is sitting low on a set of Porsche Fuchs-style wheels.
This massive turbo four-rotor FD RX-7 is allegedly making over 2,000 horsepower, which it delivers through all four wheels with a custom AWD system. It’s little more than a shell on a tube frame, but it still kicks all kinds of ass.
I got to watch this highlighter yellow BBi Autosports Porsche race to second overall at Pikes Peak this year. It was cool to see it again, but it was silent this time which was a slight bummer.
Widebody MX-5 with a throwback livery? Hell yeah.
This KP61 Toyota Starlet has a big ‘ol Honda K-series under the hood fed by a big ‘ol Garrett turbski. I bet it scoots.
I’m addicted to the incredible details of an Icon build. I’ve highlighted this Hudson before, but it was cool to see in person.
There was nobody at this booth to talk to, but the company’s website says the Rush SR-1 here has a 1,000cc bike engine that makes 145 HP. This is aimed at bringing fast track times to the masses, as it is said to turn a similar lap as a Porsche GT3 Cup car, but at just $28,995. That seems like a screaming bargain to me for that kind of speed. Allegedly, they’re working on starting a one-make series for these cars.
Here is Dai Yoshihara’s AE86 racer. It has the 306 horsepower K20C1 engine straight out of Honda’s Civic Type R mated to the transmission from an S2000. An unorthodox pick, maybe, but certainly a potent one.
This looks like it’ll go just about anywhere. I think I’d like to KoolAid Man it through a wall for no reason at all.
I will never not love the 3rd gen. You can take me out of Michigan, but you’ll never take the Michigan out of me.
Here is Bruce Canepa’s 935. It does pretty well at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion every year.
The Supra invasion definitely happened this year. The things were everywhere. I took exactly one photograph of an MkV Supra, and it was the best and only one that matters. HKS livery everything, please.
The Honda booth went heavy on nostalgia this year. First up is the freshly restored original shop Chevy truck.
Right next to it is a gorgeous S800 coupe “outlaw.” This lovely little beast looks like an absolute riot to drive. Better keep the momentum up with those sticky tires, because the engine does not have a lot of go.
Near that was a spectacular N600 with flares and Watanabes. This gives me heart palpitations.
A proper NSX race car? Yes.
How about some early 2000s SpoCom nostalgia? Got that in spades with this Civic Si.
The Veloster N TCR is extremely good, but peep that 2020 Sonata land speed racer. Yes. Good. Fast is good.
Speaking of good race cars, here’s the Petit Le Mans-winning Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE straight from victory lane.
Liberty Walk Mini is good mini.
A chopped and widened Porsche 356? You are extremely speaking my language right now.
Magnus Walker had a new “outlaw” 914 this year. I think this got some funky paint, a passenger side mirror (914s never had those, tyvm), and a set of four-lug Fifteen52 wheels, and not much else. I do love 914s, though. Excellent little cars.
And indeed a widebody 944 with an LS swap is definitely a good car. I might recommend just buying a Corvette, though.
It seemed very much like everything had a roof top tent this year. Here are a few of the things with roof top tents.
Not quite as many roof top tents as there are Supras, but it’s safe to say this trend is played out.
I’m a sucker for a Continental on bags. This is pretty close to something I want to have in ten years or so. Slow and low is good to go.
Perhaps the best looking build from the show, this not-an-E30 Audi with louvers, turbofan wheels, and a delightful period-correct set of skis and a bike would fit right in at any Euro show or Radwood.
More cars need color-matched wheels. This has been a PSA.
This Cadillac DPI.R is only a show car chassis without any of the bits inside to make it functional. Still cool to see these juxtaposed against massive lifted trucks, though. Race cars forever!
Broncos seemed to be another heavy hitter at SEMA this year. Ford had quite a few of them on display, for obvious reasons, but they’re still quite popular among builders.
This Christine clone has a Hellephant crate motor in the engine compartment. That’s 1000 horsepower for a hellish evil car. Appropriate.
The Kelly Moss “Willy Safari” is looking too clean, honestly. It needs a good romp in the desert to fix that.
Who would order a Senna without windows in the doors? That’s just silly. The black matte wrap and gaudy directional wheels are just icing on the silly cake.
This is the single coolest Nissan Frontier ever built. It’s got the V8 from a Titan with a turbocharger for good measure. That’s backed up by a 6-speed manual. Throw on some skid plates, light bars, massive pre-runner fender flares, huge long-travel suspension, and some 37-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/As and you’ve got the kind of truck I could use to commute across the Mojave.
My wife promised me one of these Mini pickups as a wedding present when we were dating. We’ve been married now for almost 4 years and she has yet to deliver on that promise. I never miss an opportunity to bring that up.
This needs about two inches of ride height to be perfect.
Datsuns and Hayashi Streets are excellent bedfellows. I think of everything at SEMA, this is the one I’d most want to drive home. Excellent style, great build.
Oops, how did this one get in here? I’m sorry folks, this is extremely bad. Back to our Awesome programming.
Bisimoto and EV West teamed up to build this totally bitchin’ Porsche 935 replica with a big ass electric motor. EV West recently developed a cradle specifically for installing Tesla motors in the back of 911s and 912s. I’d guess something even bigger than that is in the back of this car, but details are still pretty thin.
I’ve been watching the #Baja911 build on Instagram for almost two years. The guy who built this car used to do all of the fabrication for Singer Vehicle Design. This has been his magnum opus. It features custom double wishbone suspension in the front and several inches of desert smashing suspension travel.
This is a serious DTM-style 190E with a later AMG twin-turbo V8 under the hood.
BEAMS power and proper ITBs will never go out of style.
I hope that really clean Japanese car builds like this one are the future of tuning. I think as people my age continue to mature, this will become more commonplace. This one was done by RyWire, and it made my jaw drop.
If you’re going to own a Lamborghini and you don’t get a widebody kit for it, what are you even doing?
A Gremlin called Mogwai. Clever. Don’t drive it after midnight.
Here’s a Dodge Rampage with a 600 horsepower V8 in the middle of the bed. Does it have a frunk?
It was nice to lay eyes upon the C8.R at SEMA. This will make a great race car, and I look forward to seeing it on track.
Here’s the Chevy E-10 pickup with two racks of Bolt batteries in the bed. Apparently this thing will be making the trek on Hot Rod Power Tour next spring, which is pretty boss if you ask me.
It’s definitely a good looking truck.
VR6-powered mid-engine Renault Dauphine isn’t a sentence I’d ever thought about typing out before, but it works.
Similarly, twin-engine VW Squareback Gasser drag racer.
I’m in love with Stubby Bug. The wheelbase has had the length of the entire rear seat pulled out of it. The proportions are weird, but it’s so cool.
Another Ford Van, this one hiding a big surprise.
This 1993 Cobra has a SADEV race gearbox in it. The license plate read “STR8CUT”
Big Oly has always been the greatest Baja racer ever. The 1969-winning Bronco sits beside it. I was in that passenger seat on Monday.
This is the fourth year that Old-New Jpn sent a slant nose 996 or 997 to SEMA. I really like this style, and would consider these fenders and bumper for my 986 Boxster if they weren’t a bazillion dollars.
It was pretty neat to get to look over the chassis of a Mahindra Roxor.
And it’s carrying one of the most beautiful Ferrari builds of all time.
Oh, and it’s got turbos.
The Pantera is good.
Brown Sugar is a totally rad camper truck. I adore sundown stripes.
Jamie Orr is pretty well known in the Volkswagen community for his wild, over-the-top, and incredibly weird builds. He’s an importer by trade, and tends to keep the wackiest stuff for himself. This Polo Harlekin had pretty much every accessory you could think of to match the Harlekin livery. Yes, it has a Momo Benneton steering wheel.
Rhys Millen is trying for another Class 1 victory at the Baja 1000 this year in this vehicle. It is the first Class 1 entry with 4 wheel drive. The whole concept was built around a smaller, narrower, and lighter weight wheel and tire combination. We’ll see how he does when the race starts in a week and a half.
I see a lifted Chrysler Crossfire, I take a picture of a lifted Chrysler Crossfire. It’s just that simple.
A friend of mine here in Reno just recently finished building this car. It looks like a totally stock DMC 12, but it hides a secret.
Out back, instead of an anemic PRV V6, it has a Nissan Leaf motor with a custom controller producing around 300 horsepower.
This fiberglass Thunderbird gasser gives me the shivers. It’s so bass boat flaking awesome.
I’ve seen the drift Ferrari before, but it always amazes me that someone thought this was a good idea.
This is good BMW.
Patrick Dempsey has very good taste in custom motorcycles. This Honda is wicked.
Jay Leno teamed up with Ford to build this Bronco with the new GT500's 760 horsepower V8. Because reasons.
I love the Mustang Lithium, but is it Nirvana?
Here’s what the bits inside this car look like.
This LS-powered Celica is most excellent.
When a Hemi crawls into your house and you have to trap it in something so you can release it back outside.
It would be a Challenge to find a better Ferrari 348.
Slammed Prii are the best Prii.
Another couple of excellently clean Hondas. Yes, please keep this trend going.
When it comes to Baja history, it’s hard to beat the Chenowth chassis. For a few years these things won overall with Porsche power slung out back. I’d like to build one just for ripping around the BLM land near my house.
How much Bronco do you have to keep to still call your build a Bronco?
PANOZ ESPERANTE! I remember when these were still racing. When GT2 was still a class. And when the American Le Mans Series still existed. *sigh*
I stood in front of this truck and listened to CW McCall for three hours. When you have a J46 jet engine powered cabover Pete that runs 9s in the quarter, you can call yourself cool. Anything short of that and you’re just a poseur.
Is this Liberty related to the lifted Chrysler Crossfire we saw earlier?
Oh yes. Pick ‘em up.
I’m becoming an old man, because this 47 Buick is hitting me different. With plenty of power from an LS engine and lots of gorgeous deep paint, this is a luxurious cruiser that could easily be taken across town or for a weekend away. Something needs to be done about those hideous wheels, however.
Look at that luscious interior!
I’ve never seen a TVR Cerbera Speed 12 before, but have been enamored with them since new. Apparently Helical Technology and TR Supercars took one of those wild Brit machines and pumped up the jams to create this carbon-bodied monster they’re calling the Speed 12 Turbo. It’s got a twin-turbocharged 6-liter V12 engine (versus the Speed 12's 7.7-liter naturally aspirated V12) producing 1012 horsepower and 615 lb-ft of torque.
Allegedly the Speed 12 Turbo can run from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, from 0-120 in 9.8 seconds, and run on to a top speed of 218 mph. Not bad for a car designed in 1997.
And finally, I’ll leave you with a gorgeous International Scout with a Cummins swap. This was so extraordinarily well presented. So good.
See, some of the things at SEMA are pretty freakin’ awesome.