SHOW OFF

The an­nual show of af­ter­mar­ket ex­cess and mo­tor­ing US fi­nan­cial cri­sis, write Trent Nik

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SEMA 2010 -

ECES­SION? What re­ces­sion? That was the ques­tion most in­dus­try in­sid­ers were ask­ing as soon as the doors opened on the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion (SEMA) dis­play.

The 2008 and 2009 shows were sig­nif­i­cantly qui­eter with at­ten­dances and trade par­tic­i­pa­tion down from the 2007 ex­trav­a­ganza.

But early book­ings and at­ten­dance this year up 11 per cent from 2009 in­di­cate things in the mo­tor­ing in­dus­try are look­ing up State­side.

And if the amount of ridicu­lous ac­ces­sories on dis­play was any in­di­ca­tion, there is still plenty of money to be spent on cus­tomis­ing cars in the US.

SEMA is the premier spe­cialty prod­ucts trade event and is not open to the gen­eral pub­lic.

Al­most 200,000 traders packed the halls over four days to take a first look at ev­ery­thing that is hot this year for mod­i­fy­ing, restor­ing and main­tain­ing just about any sort of ve­hi­cle you can think of.

The stock in trade of SEMA is the Amer­i­can mus­cle car, how­ever sport com­pact — read Ja­panese — cars also play a large part.

Four-wheel drives are in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar and usu­ally heav­ily ac­ces­sorised, and the wheel and tyre hall is char­ac­terised by scant­ily clad promo girls ev­ery­where you turn.

The man­u­fac­tur­ers usu­ally put a lot of ef­fort into their dis­plays with cus­tomised ve­hi­cles fea­tur­ing on their enor­mous trade stands.

The stand-outs this year were Chrysler and Ford, which dis­played ve­hi­cles that rep­re­sented a broad cross­sec­tion of their range.

Toy­ota’s stand was less im­pres­sive than in pre­vi­ous years, but still had a num­ber of taste­fully mod­i­fied ex­am­ples of its range.

It’s pres­tige arm, Lexus, let loose some of Amer­ica’s top cus­tom car spe­cial­ists to mod­ify its hy­brid mod­els for the show.

The re­sult is very un-Lexus — gi­ant rims, f lared whee­larches, daz­zling paint­work and out­ra­geous body kits, plus high-per­for­mance sus­pen­sion and brakes.

The gam­bling cap­i­tal of the world brings out the dar­ing in some man­u­fac­tur­ers which wouldn’t risk show­ing such out­ra­geous mod­i­fi­ca­tions at con­ven­tional car shows.

Even staid Swedish man­u­fac­turer Volvo has used SEMA to show the street cred of its mar­que with pimped-up ver­sions of its C30 in re­cent years.

A high­light of the un­ortho­dox Lexus dis­play was a mod­ded ver­sion of the word’s fi rst com­pact lux­ury hy­brid car. The Mazda2 Evil Track drew plenty of ad­mir­ers with a full com­pe­ti­tion race pack­age, in­clud­ing race sus­pen­sion, roll cage and fire-sup­pres­sion sys­tem, all in a Mazda De­sign body kit. top-three rank­ing on the Aus­tralian Govern­ment’s Green Guide will go into pro­duc­tion in De­cem­ber and ar­rive here early next year.

But it won’t quite look like the SEMA dis­play model with its 18 x 8-inch al­loys with Pirelli PZero Nero 225/40R/ 18 tyres, ad­justable sus­pen­sion and shocks, and a high-per­for­mance Big Brake Kit, with mighty 12.9 x 11-inch cross-drilled front discs.

The Mazda2 Evil Track drew plenty of ad­mir­ers with a full com­pe­ti­tion race pack­age, in­clud­ing race sus­pen­sion, roll cage and fire-sup­pres­sion sys­tem, all in a Mazda De­sign body kit.

Hyundai teamed with Mumm­bles Mar­ket­ing to cus­tomise its lux­ury sedan, the Equus, with a tur­bocharged en­gine, au­dio and video up­grades and an iPad set up to con­trol many fea­tures

in the car, in­clud­ing the power win­dows, rear cur­tains t i and d ride id height. h i ht

Chevy dressed up its small cars — the Volt, Cruze and Spark — with Z-spec ac­ces­sories rang­ing from flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheels to im­proved front spoil­ers and a “chrome satin” fin­ish on the grille and wing mir­rors.

There was a strong Aussie feel about SEMA this year with nu­mer­ous cus­tom ve­hi­cles, small traders and larger busi­nesses all mak­ing the trip to Ve­gas to show the Amer­i­cans how things are done Down Un­der.

Aus­tralia is a par­tic­u­larly large player in the off-road mar­ket with some of our biggest names re­spected as the best in the busi­ness.

Thanks to our harsh con­di­tions and re­mote off-road desti­na­tions, the think­ing is that gear de­signed and built in this coun­try cer­tainly gets tested to its limit.

One Aus­tralian com­pany dis­play­ing prod­ucts at the show is Maxtrax, in­vented by Bris­bane 4WD ex­pert Brad McCarthy.

Maxtrax is a tough piece of orange plas­tic about the size of a body­board which is placed un­der the wheels of a bogged 4WD for re­cov­ery with­out the use of a snatch strap.

The prod­uct has been used by Dakar rally com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia’s Bruce Gar­land.

The over­all feel­ing at the show was one of pos­i­tiv­ity de­spite Amer­ica still work­ing its way out of the worst re­ces­sion in liv­ing me­mory.

Things are cer­tainly look­ing up for next year.

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