It’s all about the wheels. And the girls, but mostly it’s about the wheels. Wheels encrusted with diamonds, transparent wheels made from Perspex, wheels that look like they could double up as one of those blender blades that chop, slice and maim. Wheels are everywhere at SEMA.

 

If you’re reading this in the UK or Europe, or anywhere outside of the US really, you probably haven’t heard of SEMA. It’s a motor show for the aftermarket industry in Las Vegas, the perfect setting for an event that trades on glitz and illusion.

 

Rather a lot of what I’ve just seen is most certainly not all in the best possible taste, but SEMA is interesting because a) car makers like Honda, Toyota, GM, and VW take it seriously enough to show up in ever increasing numbers and b) there are some amazing cars.

 

Amazing cars not limited to what you may be thinking of, either. Yes, there are a lot of chrome wheels and candy flip paint jobs and pneumatic blondes but SEMA’s about diversity. Walk through the outside display and you’ll find monstrous pick-ups alongside bizarre low-riders so low their sills touch the ground alongside beautifully restored American muscle, like the yellow and black Dodge Challenger .

 

My favourite was a 1937 Ford Phaeton coupe barn find that had been discreetly turned into a hot rod. They’d left the body, paint and interior alone, so it looked every one of its 60 years. And they’d replaced the door handles with old Ford-branded spanners, as rusty as the car itself.

 

The diversity goes beyond the cars, too. SEMA pulls in people from the Hispanc-influenced low rider scene, from hip-hop and black culture with modified Rolls-Royces and 42-inch wheels and from classic American customs, the hot-rodders. The creativity and craftsmanship is exceptional, even if the end results can sometimes be a little, shall we say, brash.

 

So actually, it’s not just about the wheels.

 

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