SEMA rebounds to fill the halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center. But where were the Challengers?
By Larry Weiner
Photos by Larry Weiner, Steve Temple, Austin Price
The SEMA Show this year was the largest, best attended in history. After attending and exhibiting at the SEMA Show for 22 consecutive years, we can say this with complete honesty. You could literally â€śfeelâ€ť the intensity of the crowd.
The show floor was completely sold out, and exhibitors filled every available inch of all three of the Las Vegas Convention Center halls. Outside, it was like a giant carnival, with even more exhibitors, including dozens of eighteen wheelers with huge product and vehicle displays that rivaled the manufacturerâ€™s midway at an NHRA national event in sheer size and impact.
View of the main show floor in Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center provides a sense of how many people were at the 2014 SEMA Show. This year broke all attendance records at over 120,000 people.
As if all that wasnâ€™t enough, there was non-stop action on not one, but two closed-course tracks. Ford ran new Mustangs nearly non-stop, all four days in the front of the convention center. The action was fast and furious, to quote the movie franchise of the same name, and included wild drifting exhibitions that blanketed the sky with tire smoke and the air with the smell of burnt rubber. In the back of the convention center between Central and South Halls, Chevrolet ran Corvettes and Camaros in similar fashion, engines screaming, tires spinning and cars broad sliding around corners in a carefully orchestrated ballet of speed and power. And, as if all of this wasnâ€™t enough, there were nearly two thousand vehicles of every kind imaginable on display inside and out. In short, there was so much to see and so much going on that it was nearly a sensory overload, capable of overwhelming and distracting even the most focused attendee.
While SEMA is a trade Show, the automotive aftermarket is one of the few â€śtradesâ€ť where most of the people who attend are not only business professionals, but also enthusiasts who are really passionate about their vocation. In fact, there were so many customs, modifieds and race cars on display in exhibits at SEMA that it almost seemed more like a car show on steroids than a trade show. Plus, there were celebrities in booths that you could meet, assuming that you had the time. Custom car builders such as Chip Foose and Troy Trepanier, race car drivers like Mario Andretti, Tom â€śThe Mongooseâ€ť McEwen and Bobby Allison, musicians such as Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and celebrated Marine, R. Lee Ermey, star of the movie Full Metal Jacket, were among those in person signing autographs in exhibits.
After having attended SEMA as many years as we have, you might think that weâ€™ve gotten jaded, but thatâ€™s simply not the case, although itâ€™s easy to see that it has changed over time. As Mopar enthusiasts, the one thing thatâ€™s obvious is the steady influx of foreign cars on display at the show. Back in the 1960s when SEMA first started, it was all about home-grown hot rods and muscle cars, and the exhibitors were comprised of the companies we read about every month in Hot Rod, such as Edelbrock, Weiand, Cragar, Isky and Holley. Today, thatâ€™s hardly the case, and it was obvious that at least half, if not more of the vehicles on display are now imports. They ranged from the typical rice rockets such as Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans, to the upscale and exotics, such as BMW, Mercedes, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, along with a smattering of Minis, Fiat 500s, Subarus and just about any other brand you could imagine. And the exhibiting companies that manufacture products for these vehicles are as foreign to many of us as the vehicles they are intended for.
So the big question for MoFans is how much presence did our favorite brand of vehicles have at the SEMA this year? In a word, not as much as we would have liked to see. While there were a number of really cool vintage Mopes displayed on the Show floor and outside, it seemed as though there were not nearly as many as in previous years. But the thing that really got our attention was the near total lack of late model Challengers on the Show floor. While SEMA was inundated with 2015 Mustangs, the new Challenger was conspicuous by its absence. Other than a Hellcat and concept Challenger T/A in the Mopar exhibit and the Mr. Normâ€™s GSS Hall of Fame Edition Challenger, we spotted only one other new Challenger on display at the entire Show. Unlike 2008 when new Challengers were everywhere at the show, it was disappointing to find there were virtually none to see this year.
The one saving grace was that when it came to four-wheel-drive vehicles, there was no question that Jeep owned the show. In fact, there were so many Wranglers on display that it was obvious that this is the vehicle of choice among the off-road crowd. Proof of that is the fact that the Jeep Wrangler is the number one most accessorized vehicle in the world. Needless to say, exhibitors offered every type of part and accessory for the Wrangler that you could imagine, and some that you couldnâ€™t. So at least there was something of a silver lining after the disappointing turnout of late model Mopars.
Here are some of the Mope highlights our lensmen were able to capture in addition to the ones featured in the magazine.
2006 â€“ 2010 Charger one off custom car themed as a 1969 Dodge Charger.Mods include 1969 style Charger split grille and custom lower fascia thatâ€™s complemented by re-contoured front fenders designed to match the rectangular grille shape.
The front fenders also had been modded with recessed scoops at the leading edge ahead of the door that continue the â€™69 Charger theme. B5 Blue paint covers the Charger, while a satin black Shaker style hood is attached with hood pins and lanyards, adding to the vintage muscle car flavor.
Lone Survivor Viper: This vehicle was donated by Ronnie Rains to Marcus Luttrelâ€™s Lone Survivor Foundation. The Viper commemorates the fateful mission of four Navy SEALs, three of whom lost their lives on a mission in Afghanistan. The goal of the Lone Survivor Foundation is to empower, and renew hope for our wounded service members and their families through health, wellness, and therapeutic support.â€ť
Smooth is the best way to describe this 1953 Plymouth Suburban that was presented by Odyssey Batteries. Covered in soft green, capped off with a white roof, this Plymouth conveys the muted flavor of the early fifties, while sharp eyed readers will spot the projector beam headlights and gently contoured front bumper that neatly blends in with the body, along with a mildly lowered suspension. Wide whites and baby moons add to the vintage aura. Like we said, smooth.
This may look like a small scale four wheel drive off-roader, but it is a serious competitor in its class. Not only that, but itâ€™s driven by 4 x 4 Barbie, a little cutie whoâ€™s well on her way to becoming a serious competitor in off-road events. As soon as she is old enough, Barbie will be driving a full size four wheeler thatâ€™s sure to be a double threat both on and off the course.
Displayed in the Amsoil exhibit, this 2015 Challenger featured a wide range of body mods, including a full set of ground effects, a side exhaust and some really large driving lights. White custom paint with accented with multi-hued striping that ran from front to back. A Shaker style hood was further enhanced with applied scoops, while large diameter white painted alloys added continuity to the theme.
The rear of the 2015 Challenger featured an extreme rear wing, with equally extreme mods to the rear fascia with a wild under body air management appearance.
Built by the Roadster Shop, this dark charcoal 1970 Cuda featured red horizontal grille accents that tied in with matching red alloys with staggered offsets. The Cuda was planted way down in the weeds, thanks to a seriously lowered suspension. The door handles were shaved and the bumpers were color matched to the body, while hood pins added some bright accents to the â€™70 Cuda twin scoop hood.
1970 Hemi Orange 1970 Plymouth SuperBird on display in the Hotchkis Sport Suspension exhibit. As if a SuperBird wasnâ€™t a crowd stopper all by itself, the lines and admirers when NASCAR legend Bobby Allison was in the booth signing autographs were nearly endless.