The 2009 SEMA Show was like an automotive smorgasbord of new vehicle unveilings, radical tuners, tricked out rides, far-out custom wheels, wild racing machines, ruggedized trucks, highly-accessorized SUVs and a buffet of tools, all with amazing promo girls everywhere you turned. More than 50,000 buyers and exhibitors took over the Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding grounds for four days to showcase the latest and greatest product offerings in the marketplace. Even though the industry has been in a subdued mood this year, the SEMA Show shrugged off the economy and did what it does best – bedazzle and captivate. What follows is our rundown of the Top 10 Marvels at the event.
1) Ken Block's Subaru TRAX STI
DC co-founder Ken Block has been taking the motorsports world by storm. His Gymkhana antics, various airborne stunts and successful rally car career have made him a superstar. Always looking to push the limits, his new endeavor has taken the form of the world's fastest cat track automobile. Enter the Subaru TRAX STI, a 400-hp Impreza WRX hyped up on a serious suspension system with tires replaced by snow-cat tracks. It even comes complete with a sleigh in tow for some very daring tag-alongs. Subaru was a definite stand out this year and showed some true chutzpah.
2) Booth Babes
We wanted to make this number one but actually felt bad putting the girls ahead of the cars as SEMA is an event that is meant to showcase the world's best aftermarket accessories. In any case, the promo models working the various booths were outstanding as always. It almost seemed as if every vendor had a slew of hot girls working over the mostly male attendees. After all, a spark plug is so much more exciting when there is a girl in a miniskirt and halter-top doing meet and greets. And these girls were anything but stock.
3) The 2010 Chevy Camaro Take Over
Each year at SEMA there is always a new hot car that everyone is clamoring to see modified and customized. This year, that vehicle was the 2010 Chevy Camaro. But unlike years past, this muscle car actually dominated the showroom floor, with radical Camaro creations literally sprinkled every 10 feet. Amazingly enough, each was different, unique and pretty dang cool. Virtually every color of the rainbow was represented from glossy metallics to flat mattes to color-shift paint jobs. There were even some crazy amalgamations combining the new Camaro with attributes of the old school Trans AM. One thing that everyone was pretty excited about was the Camaro SS Convertible showcased by Drop Top Customs, as GM has been very slow on the trigger to offer this as an option.
4) Rhys Millen's 500 HP V8 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The Hyundai Genesis Coupe has been on a tear this year, creating quite a bit of buzz on the import tuner scene. As such, this platform has seen a flurry of aftermarket shops doing some pretty radical customizations. However, the most extreme by far is the RM460 Hyundai Genesis Coupe crafted by Rhys Millen and his team of gear-heads. These guys tugged out the stock motor and back seats and planted the Tau V8 from the sedan version in a mid-engine configuration. With a little bit of engineering wizardry, the car pumps out over 500 horsepower. It also features a body kit, Sparco sport seats, lots of carbon fiber trim and panels along with a massive Infinity sound system.
5) Caccia Custom Cars Ghepardo Chevy-on-Chevy Mashup
Being SEMA and all, no show would be complete without some creative re-visioning of older classic cars. And following the trend of combining various models, Caccia Custom Cars took a 2002 Chevy Corvette and 2002 Chevy Camaro, smashed them together and created the Ghepardo. Sporting a Camaro frame outfitted with a Corvette engine and undercarriage, this interesting melding has actually resulted in an aesthetically pleasing sports car. The Pagan Gold paint, woven wire mesh gills and chrome five-star wheels are a little over the top for our tastes but we'll let it ride. The same can't be said for the interior which is beyond heinous, but even this contributes to making this car a standout.
6) Satin Black Veilside Bentley Continental GT Coupe
Looking like the daily driver of the Dark Lord, this murdered out Bentley Continental GT Coupe definitely made an impression on us. Featuring a satin matte black finish, huge black Nutek wheels and a Premier4509 widebody kit, it looked ready to crush anything and anyone standing in its way. The overall effort of customization was minimal, but the end result was more than outstanding. Even the Bentley Continental GT Supersports doesn't look this good.
7) Lexus F-Sports Makes Compelling Showing With Aftermarket Specialization
Lexus is on a mission to create some brand excitement, reach a younger demographic and increase the sportiness of their product offerings. The SEMA Show was a great venue to make this commitment known and we heard them loud and clear. The Lexus LFA supercar made its US debut at the show to tremendous fanfare. With a limited production of 500 units and a price tag of $375,000, this exotic coupe can more than hold its own against the world's elite automobiles. But for the masses, Lexus is providing a slew of outstanding performance parts, crafted by TRD and served up by their new F-Sports division. The Lexus IS350C convertible was the platform of choice at SEMA with 4 different flavors from various tuning shops. Bigger engines, revised suspension systems, updated body styling, better brakes, larger wheels and custom paint jobs all made for some stellar rides.
8) Steve Saleen Debuts SMS Superparts
Steve Saleen is a motorsports legend. And his recently created turnkey tuning shop, SMS Supercars, has been pumping out some high-end American muscle cars that can smoke many German and Italian powerhouses costing more than twice as much. But for many of us, having access to this man's expertise has been out of reach. However, that all changed at the SEMA Show when Saleen announced the creation of his SMS Superparts brand that will provide access to a host of performance parts for Mustangs, Chargers and Camaros. The most exciting component is the SMS 296 Supercharger System, a standard on all of their signature series cars, which will now be available at many certified retail outlets. Saleen also unveiled his SMS Challeneger 570X (see above), which is one of the best Dodge sports cars we've seen to date.
9) Mavizen TTX02 Electric Racebike
Mavizen's new electric motorcycle is based on the chassis of the KTM RC8 superbike which means that superb handling and high-speeds are possible in a battery powered crotch-rocket. Top speed is reported as a whopping 130 miles per hour. Pricing hasn't been released for the Mavizen TT02 Electric Racebike but expectations for this lithium-ion powered dynamo have been set around $40,000. It certainly looks the part and we are very anxious to see it compete next May at Infinion against the other TTXGP (clean emission grand prix) participants including Brammo, Mission Motors, MotoCzysz and Electric Motorsport.
10) Epic Cartel Custom Scion tC
Scion blows our socks off at literally every event, so we knew that the SEMA Show was going to be no different. Their area of the Convention Center floor was so jammed packed that it was difficult to move or even take pictures. Scion served up a Tuner Car Challenge using the xB platform and had a couple of really cool xD models, but we fell in love with a very special EPIC Cartel Custom Scion tC. This one-off creation features a 3-inch chopped top, an air bag suspension setup and 22-inch Vellano wheels. Additional power is delivered by way of a TRD supercharger and a Cartel side exit exhaust system. This is truly open-top motoring at its finest.
Bonus) MMA Wheels Featuring Fighting-Themed Rims
Wheels are a big deal at SEMA. So much so that the Performance Tire & Wheel area is a massive expanse of steel and rubber that seems to go on forever. With over 2,000 exhibitors it was hard to differentiate one wheel from the next after a while. However, one brand of rims stood out – those from MMA WHeels. With names like Bas, Cage Star, Full Contact, MMA Shield and MMA Barbell, they were a unique departure from the chrome, powder-coat and painted donuts that were omnipresent. We don't expects that they would ever grace our axles but we applaud the effort nevertheless.