2006-10-31 SEMA logo_0834_72ppi-w

2006 SEMA Show and AAPEX in Las Vegas

As I sit at my desk and admire a 1:18 scale diecast model of Chip Foose’s Hemisfear, in its personally autographed display box, I am trying to decide what to write and show you about the 2006 SEMA show.

Every year this show, which highlights products and services for the automotive aftermarket, seems to be significantly larger and more wonderful than the year before. That makes it increasingly difficult to pick out just a few memorable highlights.

No matter where I looked, I saw incredible vehicles, both new and old.

The major auto manufacturers were well represented.

The SEMA Show is also a great place to spot celebrities.

Chip Foose is now a famous, incredibly talented automotive designer and star of The Learning Channel’s hit TV series “Overhaulin’,” but he conceived of the Hemisfear before his career took off, back in 1990 when he was still a student at the Art Center College of Design. Much of his design concept was the basis for the Plymouth Prowler.

From the front, Hemisfear resembles a 30s hot rod, but from the side it looks more like a 70s Mopar muscle car, complete with its lime green paint and black block graphics. Visually the combination works well together, and it has the hardware to match: a powerful Hemi engine with over 500 horsepower (located directly behind the two seats), ZF transaxle, Hotchkis suspension and Baer brakes. Although I was not able to find official confirmation, according to AutoWeek (Nov. 13, 2006) the full-scale Hemisfear is about to go into limited production at Metalcrafters (www.metalcrafters), for sale through Unique Performance (www.uniqueperformance.com). Admirers can either wait to buy one of those (for over $300,000. each) or buy a cool diecast replica now (www.jlfullthrottle.com) at many major retailers.

There were plenty of trucks and SUVs, from mild to wild.

At one SEMA Press conference, the renowned consumer advocate Erin Brockovich (about whose early efforts to protect public safety and the environment a movie was made) and others spoke about world-wide air pollution, as caused by internal combustion engines.

Erin began by telling us that if we take care of the air that we breathe, it will take care of us; but if we abuse it, it will abuse us. She said that in large Asian cities thick clouds of smog hang over the population, causing illness and disease. “I have been there and I have seen it. I remember being in Jakarta (Indonesia) … and getting out of my car to take photographs. I was amazed at … the sea of motorcycles coming at me and what I observed was that not one person was absent a mask or a bandana tied around their face. When I realized that I was gasping for air myself, I quickly jumped back in the car. As I sat there it dawned on me that they don’t – and we don’t, live in some sort of bubble. Our air is their air. Their air is our air. Researchers have predicted that by the year 2010 – and that’s not that far off, 40% of all ground level pollution in the United States of America will be coming from Asia.”

‘Save The World Air’ (www.STWA.com) has been working towards the “design, development and commercialization of revolutionary technologies targeted at reducing emissions from internal combustion engines. The goal of STWA is to provide a comprehensive range of cost-effective pollution control and performance enhancement products to manufacturers and distributors of automobiles, motorcycles, marine vehicles, and producers of special purpose equipment powered by internal combustion engines.”

Use of their ”MAGChargR™” (www.magchargr.com) is said to yield lower exhaust emissions, as well as improvements in performance and fuel economy. There are applications for virtually every carbureted or fuel injected vehicle. These “devices contain permanent rare-earth magnets that produce a strong magnetic field. As gasoline/diesel passes through the magnetic field, a molecular change in the fuel occurs, facilitating a decline in both viscosity and surface tension. Consequently, the engine achieves a more efficient burn, better performance and significantly lower production of HCs, NOx and CO.” They cite government and private certifications worldwide, including those of the EPA and CARB in the U.S. Also marketed are their CAT-MATE® enhanced catalytic converters.

GearWrench® introduced what it called its largest product line expansion in its nine-year history. That includes a group of nifty ergonomic X-Beam™ wrenches. These are open on one end, have a twist in the middle and feature a ratcheting box-end that needs as little as five degrees to move the connected fasteners, versus 30 degrees for standard box-end wrenches. These are the first hand tools approved by the American Arthritis Foundation for its ease-of-use. They have a nice heft to them, and the ratcheting mechanism seems secure and precise.

I especially longed for the promised lasting accuracy of one of the new GearWrench® electronic torque wrenches.

Sears also has wrenches with an ergonomic twist in the middle. Theirs are called “Cross-Force™” wrenches. They also have what they call “short-pattern locking flex ratchet wrenches,” which are short wrenches with a five-degree ratcheting box-end on one end, and a pivoting, open end on the other. This end can easily be locked into place.

There were race cars, too, and some were even seen in action.

Not all of the SEMA Show’s special attractions were limited to being in and around the official exhibit halls. Every year I look forward to seeing how Playstation® will improve on their previous year’s Gran Turismo™ off-site awards celebration.

This annual event honors the best of SEMA’s exhibitors and presents the ‘Best In Show’ winner with a very special prize: having their car incorporated into a Gran Turismo video game.

This year’s event will be hard to top. It moved from last year’s somewhat out-of-the-way club to the famous Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and included a live performance by the band known as Foreigner.

It was a great concert, enjoyed by award winners and Foreigner fans alike.

Off-site evening socials included the ever-fun (and filling) Honda media and VIP reception, on Halloween.

The next night Toyota held their own get-together in a ballroom at the Las Vegas Hilton, at which they kicked off their year-long celebration of 50 years of business in America. Vehicles on display there, spread out among the food stations, included a 1959 Toyopet Crown Custom and the upcoming Toyota NASCAR NEXTEL CUP car. Elsewhere at the SEMA Show were other notable Toyota vehicles, including a 1969 2000GT and a 1967 Stout – Toyota’s first pickup truck model sold in America. Toyota has come a long way since their humble beginnings here.

Offroad vehicles are popular for customization, and there was no shortage of examples present.

If you walked near the Group Five Limited (www.ViperCarParts.com/prototype.html) exhibit, the “Mega Low” show truck (www.TheMegaLow.com) that they customized for Dodge might have caught your attention, but something of major significance was much more difficult to spot.

Group Five Limited is introducing a process to the automotive industry that can apply a long-lasting, thin coating of any of fifty different metals to many automotive surfaces, including plastic, glass, wood, foam, fiberglass, porcelain and other surfaces that do not emit oil. Think about the possibilities, like applying a coating of metal to fiberglass or even wood so that magnets will stick to it.

Racer John Force spoke at the annual NHRA breakfast. While not always politically correct – or perhaps because of that, John is a very entertaining speaker. If you ever get the chance to listen to him live and in-person, I strongly recommend that you do that.

Remember Cherry Bomb® Glasspack exhausts from the 60s? Like a blast from the past, Cherry Bomb® was back at this year’s SEMA Show, with a modified 2006 Hemi Charger and showcasing their complete line of high performance exhaust products for the automotive aftermarket.

WD-40 has a new version of their popular lubrication product. As opposed to be what can sometimes be a messy spray can, their “No-Mess Pen™” is “the neatest, easiest, and virtually odor-free way to put wd-40 precisely where you want it and nowhere else.”

According to their Press Release, Michelin (www.michelin.com) tires are found on more supercars than all other tire manufacturers combined.

To prove the point, the company made a major effort to bring together and exhibit several of the world’s fastest, most exotic, Michelin-shod cars: Bugatti Veyron (253 mph top speed), Caparo T1 (0-100 mph in under five seconds), Fisker Tramonto (610 hp, 650 lb.-ft of torque), Koenigsegg CCX (0-62 mph in 3.2 seconds), McLaren F1 LM (lighter, faster and more aerodynamic Le Mans version of the road car), Pagani Zonda S (Mercedes AMG 12-cylinder engine and street-legal race car performance), Ruf Rt12 (the fastest Ruf car ever, yet designed and engineered for reliable, everyday use) and Saleen S7 (America’s 750 bhp supercar). I’d never even seen most of them before, let alone in one place, and I probably never will again. It was an incredible sight.

This year, for the first time, I also got away to spend a few hours at the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX), which was held at the Sands Expo Center. Free busses shuttled back and forth every ten minutes.

The AAPEX show featured major brands of replacement parts, more than 180 tool and equipment companies, suspension and front-end products, engines, paint and body products, chemicals, lubricants and more.

Juvenile Products (www.skjp.com) displayed some very handy child car seats. What makes them special is that these can fold flat, making them well suited for airline travel and reliable for use in rental cars.

Next year I need to spend more time at AAPEX, since there is so much to see there.

I’ll end my SEMA Show and AAPEX coverage with some Las Vegas glitz and glamour, photos of cars leaving the SEMA Show floor and a shopping recommendation.

RAZO markets a variety of motorsports gear (www.carmate-usa.com). To attract attention to their exhibit, they displayed a Mercedes – but not just any Mercedes. Their SL 600 was covered in 200,000 pieces of Swarovski crystal. I happened to be there when a fashion model stopped by. Does this shout Las Vegas or what?

One of the neatest parts of any SEMA Show is watching the parade of vehicles driving out of the buildings and through the streets of Las Vegas after it is all over.

Finally, early on the afternoon that I left Las Vegas, I decided to stop and check out the Las Vegas Outlet Center. I ended up staying well past when it got dark, and I left with several bags full of deeply discounted, Wrangler-branded clothing. The deals were incredible, which pretty much balanced out the money I lost playing blackjack.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for next year’s SEMA and AAPEX shows. Especially in Las Vegas, it is a sure bet that as long as there are vehicles, people will want to customize them.

Upcoming AutoMatters & More columns will feature the Los Angeles Auto Show, hot new cars on-track at Willow Springs Raceway for the Motor Press Guild’s annual Track Days and, for the first time in AutoMatters, the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show, direct from Las Vegas. You won’t want to miss that.

Drive safely and do join me again next time.

Copyright © 2006 & 2021 by Jan Wagner — AutoMatters & More #219wr2

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