SEMA 2006 – Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal1
Every year automotive industry guru’s and product specialists converge on the Las Vegas Convention Center to promote their products, meet the competition, and network. This year an estimated 145,000 people gathered to celebrate American Muscle and flaunt their piece of the automotive puzzle. From guys named Joe who craft cosmetic interior bolts to the major auto manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Toyota the Specialty Equipment Market Association has created a forum for almost anything in the automotive aftermarket. Bring your walking shoes, but leave your wallets at home because it’s time to visit the 40th annual SEMA show.
As died-in-the-wool car guys, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents covered the show. Ah, the aching feet!
The irony behind SEMA is that there are miles of exhibits, thousands of vehicles, and millions of amazing products, but you can’t purchase anything but a t-shirt or hat. What makes SEMA so special is the passion. Everyone at the show is passionate about his or her part in the automotive aftermarket and that excitement can be seen in their sculptures. The experience could be likened to that of an art aficionado visiting the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, only you’re actually able to meet the artisans along with their work. There were superchargers, suspension kits, pistons, drivelines, radiators, batteries, wheels, tires, and of course vehicles with parts that fused form and function while screaming capability.
American Muscle – Then, Now and in the Future – SEMA is There
This year SEMA paid homage to American Muscle. From the early years when our forefathers removed fenders and dropped in a flat head V8 to the much-anticipated 2009 Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger awaiting their release into the same pasture as Ford’s Mustang pony car. Many fine examples were on display providing evidence that Americans still yearn for that skewed power to weight ratio.
For years Chrysler, Ford, and GM’s performance parts divisions have offered aftermarket high horsepower engines and performance products. From tweaking your ride to building a vehicle from the ground up, they have been instrumental in bringing bolt-on performance home. They have been known to try and streamline the process by offering high-horsepower or ‘special’ vehicles like Daimler Chrysler’s SRT-8/SRT-10 packages, Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), or GM’s Super Sport models. But Ford may soon up the ante.
Rat Fink (Noticed around the hot-rod and custom car scene since the 1950′s and 60′s) posed for a picture before he checked my credentials and let me enter the Ford exhibit.
Ford’s press conference on Tuesday morning found Carol Shelby and Edsel Ford standing next to a row of Ford Mustang GT’s just before Ford announced that they would be bringing the Boss 302 back to the aftermarket in early 2007. Ford will be selling a crate motor 302 V8… unfortunately, it is not the whole car. Ford also announced that they will be working with Chip Foose (from TLC’s famed ‘Overhaulin’) on a number of vehicles. Ford plans to cooperatively build vehicles with Foose (along with his retirement fund). The hope is that together they can produce vehicles that will appeal to prospective buyers looking to set themselves apart from that run of the mill Mustang owner.
General Motors’ exhibit boasted a supercar called the EcoJet. This striking vehicle sits on a modified Corvette Z06 platform, runs on bio-diesel and is powered by a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine producing 650 horses and 400 lb ft. of torque. This tribute to GM’s early Firebird concept vehicles was a collaborative effort by Jay Leno, his team of mechanics at ‘Big Dog Garage’, and GM’s Design Studio. I thought maybe Jay could be the new Harley Earl?
GM also had a 5.3 liter V8-powered Hummer H3 (gone was the inline-5) and their 427 Chevrolet Silverado concept truck with the same 7.0 liter V8 found in the Corvette Z06.
Next to Mopar Alley a Dodge Viper was out in front of a Pontiac Solstice and Ford Mustang during a ‘drifting’ presentation.
Michelin’s exhibit presented spectators with the most amazing collection of vehicles at SEMA. The key to their collection was that all vehicles in the exhibit were originally sold with Michelin tires. From the Bugatti Veyron on a turntable to the encircling, McLaren F1 LM, Fisker Tramonto, RUF Porsche 911, Pagani Zonda F, Saleen S7, and Koenigsegg CCX, any automotive enthusiast would be impressed. This particular Bugatti Veyron on display just so happened to be serial number 001. As an aside, Veyron’s come stock with a W-16 engine, 1001 horsepower and sold for a mere $1.3 million.
SEMA is amazing; from air cleaners and wenches to bumpers and hitches, the exhibits are endless. It is a feast for the eye’s and testament to true talent. With enough time and enough money there seems to be no limit. What a manufacturer may see as the end-all, be-all product, the aftermarket sees as simply the baseline product in need of passion, panache, and performance.
Please Enjoy the following photos
Lifted Ford F-650