Friday morning, November 4th started off as any other clear, sunny Las Vegas day. The weather report that morning however mentioned the possibility of rain for later in the day. As we left the Hard Rock Hotel, we could see a bank of rather gray clouds just starting to crest the mountain range off to the west. By the time we reached the Convention Center, the clouds and a slight breeze were just making their way into Las Vegas. Obviously, not a pleasant prospect for all of the vendors and participants who were set up outside of the Convention Center.
Our first stop of the morning would be at the Meguiar’s transporter, where I had spotted a two-tone, silver on black Volkswagen Type 2 transporter on display, and had to go check it out.
As we made our way closer to the convention center, we came across this art deco special (“Deco Liner) parked next to the Mothers display (see below). A very beautifully crafted, creative assemblage of polished aluminum and rivets and port holes on wheels.
The next display that we came across was the American Express / OPEN tent. Their theme was a celebration of the “Rising star”, and was set up as a week-long event showcasing three airbrush artists. At the beginning of the week, each artist was given a black painted car hood (set up and secured to an easel-type structure on stage), to use as their canvas. Throughout the week, attendees could stop by and watch the creative process and progress being made by each artist on their hood. Each artist had until Friday to complete their air brushed hood art, at which time they were to be raffled off by the folks from American Express. The finished hoods would then be clear coated, packed and crated up and shipped off to the winners. Obviously I was not one of them…
Just to the right of the American Express display, we found the Chip Foose merchandise trailer, and staged between these two exhibits, was this beautiful two -tone hot rod. (I’m beginning to see a trend developing here at this years show…)
As we made our way back towards the convention center, we came across a hot-rodded fire truck, the first I’ve ever seen, but very appropriate at this event.
Passing through the Meguiar’s Car Crazy showcase area, we came across this nicely modified Fiat 500, outfitted with both a surfboard and snowboard.
Once we made our way back into the hall, we headed straight to the Ford exhibit, which was as far as we had gotten when the show closed on Thursday. Immediately to our left was an aluminum bodied, 1949 So. Cal Speed Shop Bonneville streamliner, recreated by Webb Automotive Art, and now on display.
And placed out in front of the streamliner were two other cars; Carrol Shelby’s original Cobra prototype (CSX 001), and the “Edelbrock Special”, a black ’32 Ford high boy roadster…
As we made our way through the Ford exhibit, we discovered a space designed to look like a home garage, in which two 1964 Mustang convertibles were on display. The red convertible was an original, 1964 1/2 fully restored example, whereas the raw body shell setting beside it was a brand new 1964 mustang convertible body, manufactured by Dynacor. Ford and Dynacor have now made it possible for anyone who ever aspired to owning a 1964 mustang convertible, the opportunity to build the car of their dreams.
Located immediately to the right of the garage display was a series of cargo containers used as a multi tiered setting on which to display a collection of Ford’s iconic race cars.
Two of the cars in particular that caught my attention were the following: the # 1, 1967 Ford J car that competed at Le Mans, and the second was the #82 Lotus Ford Indy car that competed in the mid 60′s.
Situated in front of the cargo container display was a diverse cross-section of Ford vehicles; from modified street cars to fully prepped race cars.
After making our rounds through the Ford exhibit area, we made our way down the step to the lower exhibit hall area. The first car we saw was this custom Bonneville salt flats Dodge racer built by Rad Rides by Troy, and nicknamed ” Blowfish”. The engine compartment looked like something straight out of from a Jules Verne novel: Captain Nemo’s land based, turbocharged Nautilus…
Several aisles over, we came across this beautiful gray and black hot rod, described as a “contemporary traditional ” interpretation of a classic 1927 Ford Roadster. Really nice, and one of our favorites…
Immediately to the right we found another Mothers display, in which technicians were on hand to demonstrate a variety of their different products and the techniques required to deliver a show car finish. I was especially interested in the demo on their Powerball polishing kit, used for restoring the clarity to hazed headlight lenses, since my son’s VW Jetta suffers from that very problem. I explained that I was unable to get the same results with their Powerball kit as those that they were demonstrating; It turns out that I needed to alter my technique and spend more time on the actual polishing process. During our conversation, I suddenly realized that the gentleman I was talking with was Craig Burnett, Mothers lead chemist and the guy seen on their TV commercials… very cool.
Located within the center of the Mothers exhibit and on display were two custom motorcycles built by Roland Sands of Roland Sands Design, and another of the RINGBROTHERS muscle cars, this time a very stealth- looking Mustang fastback.
Our next stop would be at the Stop-Tech brake exhibit. After talking with one of the reps, it sounds like StopTech is considering developing a line of brake upgrades for the earlier Porsche models (pre 1990 vintage); great news for the older Porsche 911 community.
We then spied a very cool, two toned, custom Ford F-100 pick up truck parked across the hall (the handiwork of 2 Brothers Custom Trucks, out of Springfield, IL).
As we got closer, what really stood out was how clean and nicely finished the truck was, and that it had some of the largest and deepest custom billet wheels I’ve seen on an early truck. What was also very cool was that these wheels still retained a visual tie to the original stock steel wheels. Another detail hidden away up front, and lurking beneath the hood, was a twin turbo motor with massive intercooler. The owner was kind enough to open up the passenger door, so I could get the shot of the red leather interior.
And parked directly in front of the truck was a Brookville bodied hot rod, built by Speed Kings, complete with spun aluminum disk wheel covers, and a patina one would expect of a vintage Bonneville racer.
From here we ventured outside to check out the Lexus exhibit and their display of a variety of tuner versions of their production models. The two that struck a chord with my son and I were both from 5-Axis; a white IS model and their wide body design applied to a black 200H model, that was staged just outside of the Lexus tent, with several other tuner cars.
After walking back into convention center, was made our way down the aisle to the Dupont paint display, where several artist were busy giving demonstrations and answering questions. We decided to hang out for a few minutes and watch the pin stripe artist do his thing. Very interesting to watch how he would load the brush with the paint and then lay down his lines, noting that by simple changes in brush pressure, his ability to change and vary the line weights from thick to thin as the design required. No Starbucks coffee cups to be found here…
Around the corner from the Dupont exhibit, we saw what appeared to be an old rusted out Chevrolet coupe on display. However, close up one could tell that the car was not what it appeared to be. For instance looking at the stance of the car, it appeared to be lower than normal, but not to the extreme. Once again the wheels appeared stock, but upon closer inspection it became obvious that they were a much larger than stock, painted billet wheels incorporating a stock Chevrolet hub cap. This allowed for a much wider and lower profile tire over stock. The engine compartment was also a showcase of modern technology; an optima battery, upgraded master cylinder for disc brakes, high flow aluminum radiator, and a modern GM crate motor. The interior also retained a similar level of age and patina, however the front and rear seats appearing to have been re-covered in alligator skin, but still with that vintage, aged look and feel. In regards to the overall finish, the exterior paint, bumpers and body trim had that “abandoned in the middle of the desert for 40 years, with that sun-baked patina” appearance. Talk about having the ultimate sleeper…
On the other side of the exhibit hall, was an exhibitor familiar to anyone who grew up in the 1960′s and was into Volkswagens; the aftermarket firm EMPI. Two of their displays featured some of the hottest parts from back in the 60′s – their vertical display with a variety of dual throat Weber carbs, and the centrally located “wheel pyramid”, a showcase of the many wheels that were are still are trend setters, such as the BRM wheels found on the coolest of the “California Look” bugs back in the 60′s and 70′s, and that in the day were difficult to source.
We then made our way to the Chevrolet display, and came face to face with this Hot Wheels themed Camaro, very similar in color to the one that I had as a kid back in the 60′s.
And lurking just off to the right, was the brand new ZL1 Camaro coupe.
Several other car of interest at the Chevrolet display were the Corvette C6R that competes in the ALMS series and has raced at Le Mans, the brand new COPO Camaro drag car, and the 2012 Camaro convertible.
Situated behind the Chevrolet exhibit was the Mobile 1 oil display, with two cars book ending the space. On one end was Ken Block’s rally / Gymkhana Ford Focus. And for the Porsche fans out there, at the other end was a white RAUH-WELT Porsche, only 1 of 2 built-in the U.S. (all previous models have been constructed exclusively in Japan).
A little further down the aisle was another exhibit, introducing a new product called Fuse, with the tag line “Weld without Welding”. After watching a video describing the product and its many applications, were we able to see the product being demonstrated by the young woman seen in the photo below.
We learned that the “Fuse” product is an alternative material and method to “Weld without Welding”. All that is required is a heat source capable of generating at least 300 degrees of heat to the aluminum to be repaired. The heat source used in the demonstration was a simple hand-held, “Bernozomatic” torch, with the heat being applied directly to the joint between the two aluminum strips. And as you can see from the photo, the actual “Fuse” material was being held by the needle nose pliers. Once the aluminum panels are properly heated, the fuse “rod” can be run along the joint between the two panels, just like in soldering. The material flows out and creates a nice fillet between the two panels; to complete the task, all you need to do is repeat the process on the opposite side. You will then have a solid, bonded aluminum panel. And according to the reps, the fuse product can also be filed, machined, drilled and even tapped once the bonding process has been completed. This seems like an ideal product for the do- it- yourselfer, who needs to secure or repair aluminum without needing an expensive MIG or TIG setup.
One of the last events that we took in that day was over at the Go Pro display.We arrived a few minutes prior to a give- away and drawings for several of their Go Pro HD cameras. The car below, sponsored by Go Pro, was prominently positioned within their display, and was the Pikes Peak Unlimited class winner at this years event.
As the magic hour struck, one of the reps from Go Pro began tossing out hats and then followed up with several rounds of T-shirts.
Unknown to everyone, hidden inside the collar on selected shirts, was a tag that entitled the holder to a free Go Pro HD camera. Once this information was made known, the winners quickly came forward to collect their cameras. On an interesting side note: a teen age boy standing near my son and I had jumped up in front of us just as one of the T-shirts was thrown our way. When he hit the floor, he had a shirt in hand, but shortly after gave it away. When the announcement was made regarding the tag inside the collar, an expletive was heard coming from him as a result of his rash act. Oh well, win some lose some…
With that, we began making our way back out through the show, just in time to catch many of the cars coming to life, to participate in the shows closing cruise up Convention Center Drive. Very strange to have cars coming down an aisle towards you…
Thus our two-day SEMA experience had come to an end. I would like to thank the SEMA organization for the opportunity to participate in this amazing event and the Opinion Leaders program, and for the shared memories that my son and I now have as a result of the show. (And who would have suspected encountering a snow storm later that evening as we passed State Line on the I-15, making our way up the pass, heading back to California… )
(All photos by the author)