It might be a bit controversial to say this, but SEMA is actually good. Yes, there are plenty of bad things about SEMA, like the hundreds of truck-nut bro-dozer trucks too tall to get into without a ladder. It’s overcrowded, it’s way too big, and it’s in Las Vegas, which should automatically disqualify it from being good. And yet, somehow I walked away from the trade show this year feeling sort of good about it.
We’ve already discussed the electric drag racing Camaro, which was definitely among my favorite cars at SEMA, as well as Honda’s giant dune buggy, Clemson’s all-wheel drive Civic hybrid rallycross car, and Mopar’s 1000-horsepower crate Hellephant. Those are all good things, but here is the rest of the good that fell through the cracks.
CA Tuned Off Road built my dream Isuzu Trooper.
Mopar built this Jeep Wagoneer with a lengthened wheelbase and modified sheetmetal to be as capable as anything available today, but retains classic looks. I love it so much.
Besides, any car built with puppers in mind, even fake puppers, is totally rad in my book.
This GMC Syclone has dumped its factory turbo V6 for a supercharged V8. It’s gotta rip.
This Toyota Celica features a 2.3-liter Ecoboost motor. Considering these were referred to as “Mustang Celicas” makes it a little more awesome. I just wish it didn’t say “Swag Rides” on the side.
Nissan built this Titan for Red Cross disaster relief, which is super cool. It’s also super large.
I’ll never be able to deny the awesome of the Lamborghini Diablo.
Chris Runge has been home-building these hand-hammered specials for a few years, and they absolutely rule. He asked if I wanted to sit in it. I did want to, in fact. It fit like a custom made glass slipper, only I was the evil step sister.
I’ll never be able to stop thinking about this Volkswagen Scirocco and its incredible contoured flares. The artwork livery by Ornamental Conifer was somewhat polarizing, but I dig it.
Unorthodox drag racing cars are another of my passions, and this Lexus with a pair of giant turbos and huge meaty drag slicks ticked a bunch of boxes. Whoops, looks like Precision Turbo found my kink.
Not many know it, but Daniel Ricciardo was at SEMA to sign autographs. After his eighth engine failure this year, he’s a mere husk of a human being. Emotionless. He didn’t move all week.
EV conversions were a common theme at SEMA this year. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Icon’s Derelict Mercury with a full electric powertrain. It was claimed to have a near 200-mile range, which is quite impressive even for an OEM, let alone an independent shop.
BBI Autosport put a bunch of race car bodywork and suspension work on a 911 GT3. It still has a touch screen and air conditioning. They’re allegedly building a turbocharged engine for it in the neighborhood of 800 horsepower.
Speaking of huge power, here’s Bisimoto’s totally wicked Honda Civic van with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged K-series engine.
This Geo Tracker was built back in the minitruckin’ days, and has been perfectly preserved for all these years. It’s a real OG, and too much will never be enough.
I can’t recall the last time I even saw a Jeep Commanche this nice, let alone one with some serious off-road modifications. It looked like a real usable build to my rather untrained eyes. The 4-liter under the hood featured a supercharger for added grunt. I would absolutely drive this creamsicle.
The most interesting and eye-catching display of the week is this modern Maybach burnout. A representative of Forgiato Wheels explained to me that they found the car like this in a Copart junkyard. The junkyard wanted an unreasonable $10,000 for the car, so he negotiated to rent it for the week. They bolted a set of wheels to the chassis and moved it into place on wheel dollys. It got more attention than most perfectly curated displays at the show, and that’s kind of the whole point of SEMA.
In preparation for the new Supra, Toyota trotted out a quartet of Supras, one from each generation. They appear to have been sourced from a Toyota Supra fan for the week. It made for a cool display, even though the new Supra was only shown in boring NASCAR and Concept forms.
Something you don’t see every day: this Brazilian Volkswagen Gol, which been seriously modified by the owner. His YouTube channel, sadly in Portuguese, documents the car’s build up. You can find it as Carros De Colecionadores if you’re so inclined.
Toyota’s Le Mans winner was pushed over into the far corner of the North Hall to promote aftermarket rear view cameras. What a strange world we live in.
Coker Tire was busy introducing a new radial tire for Ford Model A fitment. That seems like a strange market to be promoting to at SEMA, but it’s a super cool and interesting application of modern tech in vintage cars. Seems like this should have been done decades ago.
The joint NASCAR and IMSA booth proudly displayed Porsche’s Petit Le Mans winning 911 RSR with its race-won smudges and smears still installed. There was even a bit of grass in the splitter.
Chevrolet’s other electric concept shown this week was a Bolt Sedan Delivery, which is totally badass. This concept makes a lot of sense for local delivery businesses. With a huge electric range and a simplified interior to hold way more stuff, this could have great implications in the commercial world.
A very good square body.
The company building this monster referred to it as a W16, but being that the two V8 engines are only connected at the transmission, that might be a misnomer. It’s large and looks super cool. And for those reasons, I’m in.
Ken Block had a few of his fast Fords on display, but this Escort was my favorite.
Makellos Classics built this proper Porsche rally car, and made sure it was plenty dirty before display at SEMA.
I’ll never be mad about a ‘Mog.
This is too cool. The body panels were sprayed with a thick high-build primer and the design was hand-etched into that layer. The chrome-look paint was then laid over the top of that. With hundreds of hours of hand carving, this car looks like a million bucks.
This RWB was backdated to look like a 60s 911, and was given motivation by a Tesla powertrain. That’s an all-electric vintage-look 911 widebody, and I love everything about it. From the Burberry cloth interior to the chrome roll bar, it’s awesome from head to toe. And that is what is great about SEMA. There is tons of one-upsmanship going on. You could grab eyes with an RWB just two years ago, but now it has to be an electric RWB to get headlines.
This Ferrari 328 was perfection. It features plenty of modern touches, like the 458 GT3-sourced rear view mirrors, but still looks perfectly vintage. The ultimate culmination of a largely dismissed Fezza.
This huge Volvo featured equally huge Chevrolet 572 V8 power.
This 300SL replica sits on an early 2000s SLK32 AMG (R170) chassis. With a 350 horsepower supercharged V6 and a 5-second 0-60 time, this is a good bit quicker than an original 300SL. The execution is lacking, but only slightly. I like this idea. Now, can I fit it on an R171 SLK55 AMG?
And it wouldn’t be a SEMA without a whole lot of wide body cars. The best of those is this FC-generation Mazda RX-7 with a Pandem kit and big rotary power.
As I left last year, I wasn’t sure I’d be back. With time I remembered the good of SEMA and forgot most of the bad. This year I actively tried to ignore the bad and focus on the good. There was a lot of good. I’ll definitely be back in 2019.
SEMA is good.