LAS VEGAS’S ANNUAL SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT MARKET ASSOCIATION SHOW IS AN OVERWHELMING, OVERCROWDED, INFORMATION OVERLOAD – AND IT’S FANTASTIC!
I DON’T think there is any way possible to prepare yourself for the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas as a first-time attendee. I’d read the coverage in the magazines over the years, and I have many friends and colleagues who’ve attended, and they all said the same thing: “You’ll be overwhelmed. You won’t be able to see it all. You won’t believe how big it is. The cars are amazing.” They were correct on all counts.
SEMA was overwhelming, but not in the sense that I was going to freak out about it; it was more the sheer scale of the event, and the suspicion that I might not be able to see it all and miss something really awesome. Of course, that did happen. Looking at online coverage of the show, there were a couple of cars that would have been great to see up close, but overall we did a pretty good job of getting around and checking out all of the cool stuff.
The one bad thing about SEMA is that the show is so big, and there is so much ground to cover and so many great things to see, that you can’t just mosey around leisurely checking everything out like you would at a regular show. You have to tackle it like a military operation; plan the day’s movements and try not to go over the same ground too many times. A comfortable pair of shoes is also a must-have.
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Modern seats in an old car don’t always look right, but these seats for Mustangs and Camaros will not only look great but keep your butt planted as well. I reckon they’ll look just as cool in our Aussie Falcons and Monaros
How can you not love a Rothesque 3D monster head that smells good too? Sure beats hanging a pine tree off the rearview mirror!
SEMA – Specialty Equipment Market Association. The ‘SE’ used to stand for Speed Equipment – which I reckon sounded much cooler – when the association was first formed in 1963, but as it grew to also include manufacturers that weren’t strictly performanceoriented, and also to make them sound less like a bunch of hoons and more like a legitimate enterprise, the name was changed in 1970. What started out as 13 hot rodders, many of whom grew their businesses into household names, now has over 6000 members.
It’s a big deal and does a lot of behind-the-scenes work with governments and aftermarket industries the world over.
This was possibly my favourite car of the whole show, built by Rodger Lee at Ironworks Speed & Kustom for Greg Heinrich. I loved the whole 60s drag car vibe, but with a modern twist. The 376ci LSX B15 crate engine had a Vortech blower strapped to it but it was all painted up to look like an old-school SBC
Wait, maybe this was my favourite car? Troy Trepanier is a genius. He’s somehow managed to hide a car capable of eight-second quarter-miles in this fairly stock-looking ’66 Belvedere. Yeah, it’s got a Hemi in it, a big one, but what you can’t see are the rear-mounted turbos or any of the plumbing. Too cool
Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop always builds absolutely stunning cars. The last car I saw of theirs was also a Studebaker, but it was a racecar on the salt at Bonneville.
Turns out this one belongs to the same very lucky bloke, Paul Gilliam. It’s one of those cars that looks so simple at first glance but it is full of amazing little details
Another car that stopped me in my tracks was this ’70 Dodge Charger built by Speedkore Performance Group.
I spotted all the plumbing and went in for a closer look, expecting a Hemi, but what I got was much, much more.
I could see it was a quad-cam V8, but that was as far as I got. Turns out it’s a 9.0-litre Mercury Marine Racing engine and it makes about 1650hp. Yep, that should do it
These square-body C10s are a great-looking truck, so you don’t really need to mess with them much to make them look ace. This one was built by Joe Yezzi from Squarebody Syndicate and looks basically stock with a set of airbags, but it’s so much more. An LS3 cleverly disguised as an early SBC powers it, and the wheels are 22in Delmo Speed one-offs made to look like a hubcap
I absolutely loved this hot rod. Built by Halabura Hot Rods in snowy Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the understated grey paint is about the only simple thing on this car. The heavily chopped body is original, and the flathead has a Hilborn stack injection converted to EFI so cleverly that you can’t see any of the electronics
I’d seen photos of Don and Carolyn Smith’s ’32 sedan before, but it’s always great to see them in the metal. This ’32 has some amazing details, such as the removal of the centre pillar so that when the doors are opened there’s nothing to block your entry – or the view. The Y-block is beautifully detailed and sports a very nifty Hilborn injection system
Dean Lombardo’s Model A was one of the first cars I spotted, as it was parked outside all week. Built by Tucci Hot Rods out of upstate New York, this is the rat rod taken to its ultimate destination. Beautiful craftsmanship and clever engineering, and those one-off billet artillery-style wheels finish it off perfectly
Bobby Alloway builds his cars with a certain look, and that look is killer. He won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award with this car earlier in the year – that’s the nine-foottall trophy in the background. At SEMA, he won the Battle of the Builders award, so he must be doing something right. Just goes to show, a black hot rod with a killer flame job never goes out of style
Another gorgeous traditionally styled hot rod was this ’33 coupe from Pinkee’s Hot Rod Shop. The proportions on this coupe are just perfect, which is no mean feat when you put a beer-barrel grille on the front, stuff a Hemi in it and then make a hood and sides for it. Sheer brilliance in design and fabrication
Ford go all-out at SEMA and their display was very impressive. What they usually do is send out a whole bunch of new cars to ‘tuning houses’ and they bring their finished products to the show. There was some pretty impressive stuff on display, but this convertible CGS Performance is the one that tickled my fancy the most. The wide-body kit on it easily covers the 21x9 and 22x13 Kompression forged wheels
You gotta love it when the factories get right behind motor racing, but it’s especially cool when they decide to go drag racing. In the US, the Big Three are back at it with a trio of killer Super Stock cars. Fair enough, you can’t drive these things on the street, but that’s not what they’re for. When one of the option boxes you can tick says ‘wheelie bars’, you know you’re onto a winner. With all three of these cars, it’s like someone handed a street machiner a brand new pony car and said: “Go and make a drag car.” They all feature threespeed autos and 9in diffs on four-link suspensions, but in the engine bay it’s all new-school, with each manufacturer offering an N/A or supercharged option for their particular hero engine. These things will pop wheelies and run eights, but it’ll cost you about $US100,000. What I really liked about the Mopar option was you could get a tow/support vehicle and trailer as a whole package. That’s how you go racing!
Being an AMC guy at heart, I just loved this modern take on the old Jeep Cherokee Wagoneer. It’s based on the Wrangler platform, but it’s had a 2in roof chop and features a Hawaiian-styled interior. I’d probably have to throw out the 3.6L V6 and put in a hotted up 401
Thankfully, I was attending the show with photographer Alastair Ritchie – this was his 12th visit to SEMA – so I was in good hands. He knew the layout pretty well, which is handy, as it’s such a massive venue that it is quite easy to get disoriented and lose track of where you are. I had it pretty easy, with my notepad and pen, while Alastair lugged around a camera, tripod, flash and heavy-duty battery pack. That’s okay though, his work is done now and I’m sitting here at midnight tapping this yarn out.
To give you an idea of the scale, around 140,000 people attend the event and there are almost 2500 exhibitors showcasing their products – and that was why I was invited, just in case you were thinking this was some kind of travel rort. SEMA invited someone from SM to take part in the Global Media Awards, and I was lucky enough to get the guernsey – admittedly after three other blokes couldn’t make it, but I’ll take the win anyway.
As it turned out, it wasn’t all margaritas and dancing girls – although there were a few margaritas – but a fairly hectic introduction to SEMA in the form of a showcase with 2200 new products on display. My job was to pick the 10 products that I thought would do well in our local market – and I had about three hours to do it. There were so many amazing products, many of S E M A 2 0 1 5
BILLET SPECIALTIES SBF VALVE COVERS Finally, a small-block Ford rocker cover that has a modern design and looks good too. Polished or painted, I can see these being a big hit here. Maybe we need to convince them to make some for Clevos as well!
I’ve been a big fan of Vintage Air for a long time and even have one of their systems in my own car. What attracted me to this system was the retro look and the fantastic option of having a mother-ofpearl fascia
I HAVE been a huge fan of automotive artist Tom Fritz for more years than I can remember, so it was a privilege and a surprise to finally get to meet him at SEMA. There’s just something about the mood of his paintings – that warm afternoon glow he manages to capture – that makes you feel good.
The fact that he paints precisely the types of hot rods that turn my crank is a bonus. He was just one of several artists along the Artists’ Walk, which also featured Max Grundy and Ed Tillrock.
them specific to the US market, but I did eventually manage to whittle down my very long short-list into a Top 10. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.
The thing about SEMA is that it’s a trade show, so it’s not actually open to the public. You either have to be an exhibitor or a buyer, and we’re not talking a couple of T-shirts and a stubby holder. The whole point is for the manufacturers to meet potential customers and to cut deals on large sales orders. Which kind of sucks if you’re Joe Public, because the side-effect of all these great manufacturers getting together, trying to one-up each other and attract people to their stands, is that it’s a really, really good car show.
All the big names were there this year – Troy Trepanier, Ringbrothers, Chip Foose – and they all had at least a couple of cars on display. Then there were dozens of other cars from builders you’d never heard of, that were just as impressive as anything built by the famous guys. There’s too many to run through, but check out the photos and captions – we’ve tried to fit in as many as we can.
Seriously, four days of constant walking, trying to see it all isn’t enough, so I don’t think nine pages in this magazine will do it either, but we’ll give it a good shake. If you’re in the business and you haven’t checked out the SEMA show, then you’re missing out.
And of course, it’s in Vegas, baby! s S E M A 2 0 1 5
THERE was a lot of buzz and a fair bit of hype surrounding the unveiling of Ringbrothers’ latest creation. Named ESPIONAGE, the ’65 Mustang fastback was built for Timur Sardarov, a young Russian tech entrepreneur. It was the first complete car built from one of Ringbrothers’ carbonfibre body shells, which is a wide-body version based on the orange ‘Producer’ Mustang that we featured in SM, Feb ’12.
Mike Ring explained the theme behind the car: “We’re hiding the Chevy engine, the carbon body and the fact the owner is Russian – that’s why we called it ESPIONAGE.”
Yep, sorry Ford fans, this pony car runs a very healthy LS3 with a blower on top, making around 960hp. And the reason they put a Chevy in a Ford? The same reason hot rodders have been doing it since forever: It was a lot easier than trying to fit a late-model Ford engine into it.