MINI COOPER - This Mini Cooper is a SEMA regular. It was developed by West Coast Customs, who featured on the MTV television show Pimp My Ride, which explains why it features 80,000 crystals on the roof.
PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD HELLCRATE - This Superbird recreation was developed by Mark Worman’s Graveyard Carz firm especially for Mopar’s SEMA stand. It started life as a Plymouth Road Runner (Worman noted he wouldn’t have customised an original Superbird, and features Mopar’s new 697bhp 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi ‘crate engine’, dubbed the ‘Hellcrate’. The colour, if you’re wondering, is FJ5 Limelight Green.
FORD SUPER DUTY F-350 LARIAT - SEMA featured something of an arms race between exhibitors, trying to prove they could load the most ridiculous thing onto the flatbed of a pick-up truck. This F-350 was modified by Hellwig Suspension Products and featured the firm’s Big Wig air springs and front and rear sway bars. That means it can easily carry an Arctic Cat Wildcat X LTD UTV. Given that the F-350 is powered by a 6.8-litre V8 diesel, it can probably cope with the extra weight.
FORD FOCUS ST BTR EDITION - Blood Type Racing (BTR) was apparently inspired to combine the lifestyle of photography, videography and motorsport when it developed a Ford Focus ST for SEMA. Hence the BTR-Edition Focus ST, featuring a 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine with a race-tuned Borg Warner turbo, plus Air Lift performance suspension and a drone rack on the roof.
FORD MUSTANG FASTBACK DRAGG - Drag Racing Against Guns and Graffiti (DRAGG) is an after-school programme in Oxnard, California that aims to encourage young people to consider a future in the automotive industry. What better way to do that than working with the Oxnard Police Department to develop a ‘Guardian’-themed police vehicle?
FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT350 - Built by the Original Venice Crew (OVC), this continuation model of the 1965 Shelby GT350 ‘competition model’. Based on a 1965 Mustang Fastback, it features a Shelby V8 and a four-speed manual transmission. Los Angeles-based firm OVC will produce 36 examples.
ROLLS-ROYCE 25/30 - This machine, based on a 1937 Rolls-Royce, features gloss pearl white paint, a heavily customised interior and a new Addictive Audio system (presumably not an option on the 1937 original). It was built for popstar Justin Bieber, by the way.
VOLKSWAGEN RABBIT GTI - The Mk1 Golf GTI was sold in the USA as the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI. This 1984 example has been restored by Connor Hofford and was entered in the Young Guns division of the SEMA Battle of the Builders.
TOYOTA CAMRY - Well, sort of. The Toyota stand displayed the 2018 Camry’s form with this interesting, colour-changing light display.
TOYOTA C-HR R-TUNED - Toyota wanted to showcase the potential of its C-HR SUV, so tasked Dan Gardner’s performance engineering firm with developing a hot version of it for SEMA. The resulting car maintained the C-HR's front-wheel-drive layout and a four-cylinder engine, but pretty much everything else was modified. Powered by a 2.4-litre Toyota 2AE-FE engine with a DG-Spec Garrett turbo, it produces 591bhp and the aerodynamic additions enable it to produce 300lbs of downforce. It recently lapped the 2.5-mile Big Track at Willow Springs in California in 1min 25.22secs, the fifth quickest lap of the track to date.
PPG STAND - SEMA was held over Halloween, so PPG Paints got into the spooky spirit with its stand. The attention to detail in ‘The Boneyard’ was brilliant: even the sample paint displays were done in the shape of bats.
PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA FOUR-DOOR - This looks like an authentic 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, apart from the fact that it has four doors. It was built entirely from scratch by ECS Automotive Concepts as a ‘what if’ concept. Notably, the firm did unearth reports from 1969 that Plymouth had originally planned a four-door version of the Barracuda, but it never went into production.
PLYMOUTH AIR-RADICAL PICK-UP - Gary Corns, who owns Colorado Auto and Parts, apparently loves cars and aeroplanes, which is why he took this 1939 pick-up truck and stuck an air-radial engine from a 1950s seaplane in it. Seems sensible.
P32 STREET FIGHTER - Inspired by American fighter planes of the Second World War, this Foose Design-created roadster is powered by a V12 Lincoln Zephyr motor, which has exhausts at the side of the bonnet modelled on those of the Curtiss P40 Warhawk. Inside, there are seats taken from a bomber and the petrol tanks are styled to resemble bombs.
OLD SMOKEY F1 - This started out as a 1949 Ford F1 that Scott Birdsall bought on the internet for $225. His Chuckles Garage firm didn’t do much to the bodyshell but had to replace the engine. It eventually ended up with a 5.7-litre 12-valve Cummins diesel with a turbo system that could deliver 106psi of boost, giving an output of 1216bhp. It also has a nitrous system that can deliver a further boost of 369bhp. The aim is to top 200mph across a measured mile.
FORD ESCORT COSWORTH - You could find Ken Block’s cars pretty much everywhere you turned at SEMA, but surely none were finer than this 1991 Ford Escort Cosworth, which features in his forthcoming Gymkhana 10 stunt showcase video.
LEXUS BLACK PANTHER-INSPIRED LC - Lexus had a pair of cars which featured a tie-in with the new Marvel film Black Panther. This LC was the less subtle of the two, featuring a Black Panther mask inlay on the bonnet, a glowing underbody and a panther’s claw design on the wing mirrors.
JEEP SHORTCUT - This concept vehicle is based on the Wrangler, with the body shortened by more than 12 inches for extra on-trail manoeuvrability. It’s designed to involve the spirit of 1950s Americana and is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engine.
MOPAR JEEP WRANGLER PARTS - Mopar used SEMA to showcase the range of performance parts it will offer for the forthcoming new Jeep Wrangler; there are more than 200 pieces at launch.
HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC USCA - This Ioniq EV was developed by Hyundai engineers in America to compete in the Ultimate Street Car Association’s (USCA) Optima Street Car Challenge, in a bid to prove that BEVs can be fun to drive. Upgraded to produce 201bhp using a prototype motor – giving it a 0-60mph time of 6.0sec – the machine won the USCA GTE class this year.
DIVCO MODEL 13 - Founded in 1926 and closing in 1986, DIVCO – the Detroit Vehicle Company – made a range of delivery trucks, including this 1954 Model 13. Originally used by Palm Dairies for milk deliveries before becoming a service company electrical truck in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, this Model 13 was restored and given this subtle paint job by Count’s Kustoms and House of Kolor. The design was inspired by a 1969 panel delivery truck.
HONDA FIT HFP - The Honda Fit – or Jazz to those in the UK – isn’t the sort of car you necessarily expect to see at SEMA. Still, this version has been upgraded with a new Honda Factory Performance (HFP) kit in a bid to up its sporty credentials. It featured a colour-matched side underbody spoiler, 16in alloy wheels, sports suspension, sports pedals, a rear spoiler and red carpet mats.
GRAVE DIGGER - The SEMA show is full of monster trucks, but some are more monstrous than others. This was one of two versions of Grave Digger, which competes in the Monster Jam series, that could be found at SEMA. There are nine versions of Grave Digger currently in use, but 35 trucks have carried the name since the first example was built in 1982.
GARIA GOLF ROADSTER - If something has an engine and wheels, chances are there’s a customised version somewhere at SEMA. Garia developed this Roadster as a sporting version of its standard golf cart, apparently making it ‘ideal for on and off the course’.
MCLAREN MP4-12C - This 2014 MP4-12C customisation was completed just in time for SEMA – albeit without the full planned bodywork – by Deity Motorsports for California-based ice cream magnate Scott Afters. Apparently, Afters uses this car in previously modified form as a daily driver but found the lowered car difficult to drive over bumpy surfaces, so Deity fitted new custom airlift suspension, allowing the car to be raised on command.
HONDA CIVIC TYPE R RED CARBON KIT - The latest Civic Type R isn’t the most subtle of cars to start with, but Honda still used SEMA to launch a new Red Carbon Kit styling pack. It adds a Red carbonfibre-effect mirror covers, a wing spoiler, illuminated side silsl and a red leather gearlever cover. The SEMA display Type R also features special 20in forged alloy wheels.
CHEVROLET CAMARO HOT WHEELS EDITION - To mark the 50th anniversary of the first 1:64 Hot Wheels model of a Camaro, Chevrolet produced two special edition cars for SEMA. Available as coupé or convertible, the special edition features an exclusive Crush colour, 20in wheels and Hot Wheels logos. And, yes, there is a 1:64 Hot Wheels version available.
CHEVROLET HIGH COUNTRY - This Chevrolet, featured on the Cooper Tires stand, put in an admirable entry in the unofficial SEMA competition to see how much you could pack onto a pick-up truck. There are two snowmobiles, a mountain bike and a snowboard set on the roof. Shame it was 26deg and sunny in Las Vegas, then, really…
CHEVROLET CAMARO 2SS - This Camaro was covered with labels highlighting all the optional accessories and performance parts fitted to it. But how to see the ones on the car’s floor? Simple, jack it up onto its side…
CHEVROLET CAMARO XL1 THE EXORCIST - Developed by Hennessey, The Exorcist is a dramatically named Camaro XL1 kit that features a series of engine modifications, including a larger supercharger and intercooler, to boost power from 650bhp to 1000bhp, which probably makes it as terrifying as the film it shares its name with.
HYUNDAI IONIQ HYPERECONIQ - Hyundai displayed a range of modified machines at SEMA, including this Ioniq, developed by Bismoto Engineering. Rather than being built for show, the Ioniq Hypereconiq was revamped for efficiency: the firm tried to make it as efficient as possible. It features a Bismoto Dream aero kit, custom suspension to minimize ground clearance, one-piece carbonfibre wheels, low-rolling resistance tyres, a pulse-chamber exhaust and new electronics. Combined with new spark plugs and intercooler, Bismoto says it has improved the Ioniq's efficiency to more than 80mpg.
ACURA NSX DREAM PROJECT - Tuning firm Science Of Speed developed its version of the ultimate NSX (which is badged an Acura rather than Honda in the US) for SEMA. The Dream Project features liquid injection intercoolers and a revised exhaust, boosting power to 602bhp, with 507lb ft of torque. It’s also been lowered, with iLift automatic sensing suspension technology that raises the car when it detects obstacles in its path.
WILLYS JEEP MB - Mopar, the FCA Group’s parts arm, featured a variety of customised Jeeps on its stand, along with a full range of parts for the forthcoming new Wrangler, so it was fitting that it also featured the machine the whole Jeep range grew out of: a Willys-Overland MB from 1944. It won a 1939 commission from the US Government to design a light military reconnaissance vehicle. Willys-Overland would build more than 368,000 Jeeps during World War Two.
379 PETERBILT - Yes, there are even customised big rig trucks at SEMA. This 1995 Peterbilt was part of the fleet of transport firm Reliable Carriers, but after being retired it was completely rebuilt with air ride suspension, custom paint, tanks and interior. It’s now called Rock Bottom.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association Show is held annually in Las Vegas, California, US. That's fitting because, like the city itself, it’s a bold, bright, unashamedly gaudy version of a typical motor show.
What started as a trade show to unite manufacturers and buyers has grown into a vast gathering of the performance and customization industries, with several major manufacturers having a presence.
After recent ‘traditional’ motor shows were focused on future concepts such as electrification and autonomy, there was something refreshingly old-fashioned about this year’s SEMA Show. Everywhere you turned, big engines were proudly being crammed into big cars and trucks, with their builders loudly trumpeting their big power outputs.
Yet, if you look closely, even SEMA showed signs of the future. A small but notable number of electric cars could be found, and several stands were trumpeting advanced driver assistance and autonomy systems.
With more than 2400 exhibitors and 1500 vehicles spread across 2.7million square feet of space both inside and outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, there were plenty to take in. Check out our gallery above for some of the most notable, interesting and just plain weird motors on display.