By John Stewart
SEMA Show 2018
Success Starts Here
Stunning originality is the hallmark of the largest automotive trade show in the world, which comes to life for a few short days once a year in Las Vegas. Starting with empty halls and bare concrete floors, an estimated 5,000 workers build infrastructure to support thousands of exhibitors, in the process bringing in close to 10 million lbs. of freight. In empty parking lots, hundreds of workers swarm to erect structures. And then, the moment the doors open at 9:00 a.m., Tuesday morning, tens of thousands of industry buyers swamp the Show floor, engaged and enthusiastic about building their businesses and finding their next top-selling products. These images capture just of few of many memorable moments from the 2018 SEMA Show.
More than 1,200 enthusiastic students, teachers and industry members descended upon the Westgate Theater to witness SEMA’s sixth annual small-business entrepreneur competition, the SEMA Launch Pad. More than 80 applicants were narrowed down to 10 finalists, each vying for a prize package that includes $10,000 and an array of marketing tools. After considerable deliberation, Matt Beenen of BuiltRight Industries was named the winner by a panel of industry leaders, and all 10 finalists earned business guidance in private meetings with leading industry mentors.
Blending past, present and future, Chevrolet debuted three high-performance Central Office Production Order (COPO) Camaros, including this electrically powered COPO Camaro, said to be capable of sub-10-sec. runs at the track. The concept car prompted questions from a throng of attendees—keeping GM technical reps busy for the duration of the Show—while many lingered thoughtfully at the adjacent display of an electric “crate motor” that could make transplanting high-performance electric motors feasible. Not to be outdone, Toyota showed off a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Tundra with working robots in the bed. Still another exhibitor debuted a ’49 Mercury refitted with a Tesla Model S battery pack, leaving attendees to wonder if a whole new category of performance may soon emerge.
Honoring the Past…
More and more, top custom builders are working with a new canvas, finding raw material in a broader range of car and truck platforms. The trend is to blend classic style and original aesthetics with modern amenities and the latest performance equipment. Moments before this photo was taken, the Ringbrothers pulled the sheet off their latest creation, a ’71 Chevrolet K5 Blazer with a 430hp LS3 powerplant.
The SEMA Show is often hailed as the one place where you’ll find an exquisite hot rod right next to a perfectly restored Edsel and an off-road trophy truck. The same diversity is evident in the people who make our industry great. Young and old, from every country, in every career stage, all find a compelling reason to be at the Show and share goals, passions and ambitions. Here a youthful Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team competes in a national contest of automotive engineering skills.
On hand to witness live automotive mayhem and a cast of celebrity influencers from the automotive world and beyond, hundreds of SEMA Show attendees update their social-media feeds from the Hoonigan booth, a faithful recreation of Hoonigan’s iconic Donut Garage yard. By doing so, they help connect the industry to an important young (and young-at-heart) demographic. The Hoonigan team’s behind-the-scenes takes on SEMA’s top cars and discerning appreciation for outrageous, unorthodox builds, resulted in a one-hour highlight video that can be viewed on YouTube.
As busy as it was inside on the Show floor, there were moments when even the busiest attendee just had to take a moment to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of high-performance machinery operated by professional drivers.
At the annual SEMA Industry Awards Banquet, 7-year-old Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” to welcome a packed house. No stranger to the spotlight, she has been singing since she was 1, and made her professional debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of 5. At the banquet, she hit the high notes, powered through the low notes and delivered a pitch-perfect rendition of the National Anthem…leaving the entire audience with goosebumps.
Friday evening is about showing off our industry’s creations to a whole new audience. After Show close, anyone with a ticket can share photos and videos of cars and trucks cruising to SEMA Ignited in what seems like an endless parade. One week later, a Google search showed 5.4 million results for the term “SEMA Cruise 2018,” as thousands of consumers helped to create worldwide awareness of custom car culture.