► Greatest hits gallery from SEMA 2017
► Annual tuner-fest held in Las Vegas
► Major car makers & leftfield tuners unite
The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas is a car event like no other, with everything from chromed up, pavement skirting hot-rodders, to sky-scraper-tall off-roaders and monster trucks.
It’s largely a space for car modification companies to show off their performance-enhancing wares to trade and journalists, while this year several major auto manufacturers (and not just American ones) showed up to launch some pretty tasty stuff too.
As with most things Stateside there’s certainly a lot more colour than you get at a stuffy European car show. And a heck of a lot more modified Jeep Wranglers, that’s for damn sure.
Here’s a rundown of our favourite sights, sounds and cars from inside the Las Vegas Convention Centre.
Welcome to SEMA, please leave your hoverboard at the door…
There go the health and safety police again, standing in the way of people who want to inexpertly pilot a 10kg flying brick covered in spinning rotors, or flail around wildly on a barely-in-control flammable skateboard next to a one-off custom-built hot-rod with a $10,000 paint job. Actually, maybe they’ve got a point this time. Welcome to SEMA, leave your millenialware at the door, please.
Do you wheelie like it?
The Las Vegas Convention Centre’s lower south hall is dedicated to aftermarket tyres and wheels and they’re all a damn sight nicer than the chrome spinner hubcaps you put on your Vauxhall Corsa as a teenager. Fix up and get some proper jobs like the Iron Man inspired wonder wheels hanging up top left.
There’s a second level to the south hall, plus an enormous central hall and a north hall to cap things off. It’s a gigantic facility but some of the more intriguing designs can be found outside all of the buildings in the sun-drenched car park.
Security! Come quick, a monster truck is eating this man!
Oh wait, no it’s ok. He’s just studiously examining the undercarriage for a scarcely believable length of time while we wait (and fail) to get a clear picture. People at SEMA are very interested in these details.
No, I am your father…
It’s not just Americana – witness this neat Godzilla timeline wrought in metal. A top combo for Anakin and Luke Skyliner of the Star Wars universe had they not been separated by political ideology and that unfortunate incident with Luke’s arm. Think about it - that R35 would be a right laugh on the sands of Tatooine.
An overarching theme in 2017: putting all your hobbies on one truck - like this example on the Cooper Tire stand. As well as the motocross and mountain bikes on the right there’s a snowboard and skidoo on the left hand side. The number of places on earth where you could indulge in all four hobbies at the same time is sadly small enough to make this project quite niche.
We can diggit
The Grave Digger boasts a blown 540 cubic inch Merlin motor worth 1450hp, squeezed into a 1950 Chevrolet panel body. The sign say it’s the most popular monster truck in the world - we’re not arguing, it took ages to get this people-free shot of it.
A VW Golf GTI will stick out at an American motor show, whether it’s got gold wheels and an eye-catching wrap or not. Next to all the monster trucks and jacked up Ford Super Dutys this actually looks quite restrained.
Jeep Wrangler No. 1
To show you all the modified Jeep Wranglers from the show would take the same length of time as painting the Forth Bridge, and then it’d be time for SEMA 2018. This one looks particularly good with a roofbox and net doors, though.
Low and slow
Great for sneaking under parking barriers, a bit of a pain over speedbumps. You could probably park this beneath most of the modified pick-ups.
This matt-wrapped BMW 3-series estate with a roofbox is a great mix of eye-catching looks, speed and practicality. Or it was until the back seats were ripped out and replaced by a substantial rollcage. Somehow that manages to make it even cooler.
So many questions...
This eight-wheeled Thunderbird 2 held our attention for ten minutes of slack-jawed gaping. Then we saw three more just like it. Apparently this is a thing in the US.
Jeep Wranger No. 2
Conveniently parked with a road tester’s half turn of lock for the optimum photography stance, this skull-adorned, chopped-roof, massivel-tyred Jeep was our car of the show. Also, it has a bonnet scoop.
Dude, where’s my bonnet strut?
Detailing spray is also useful for propping your bonnet open at a car show. Either that or this mean truck has got an appetite for eating cleaning products.
Check it out – Lightning McQueen’s Pro Am racer cousin. Don’t spill his beer or talk about ‘soccer’ in his presence, whatever you do.
Where shall we go on holiday?
Buy this Ford F-750 camper and the answer is wherever the hell you want, thanks to all-wheel drive, a 365bhp, 6.7-litre V8 diesel and a 350-gallon drinking water tank. Great for disaster-preppers too. Come at me, zombies.
Pony car gets a few extra horses
Cramming a new powerplant into an old muscle car is what American performance tuning is all about – as we can see here in this classic Mustang powered by the current car’s 5.0-litre V8. Bet this is a good laugh on a dewy morning.
Someone call 911
Forget the Porsche 911 T and GT2 RS, this is what the people want. Whatever it is.
Tyre company Continental chose to show off the staying power of its rubber by encouraging some BMW performance drivers to absolutely toast as much of it as possible around the back of the main SEMA hall.
Hellcrate gets the green light
Dodge now offers its 6.2-litre supercharged V8 as a plug-and-plug 697bhp project car powerplant. What better way to show it off than cramming it wholesale into an iconic 1970s Plymouth Superbird replica?
Read all about the 'Hellcrate' here
Sidewall? What sidewall?
To drive this car in the UK you’d need to sit on a pillow of unfathomable thickness, otherwise your vertebra would resemble smashed crockery after about nine seconds. Fine on the boulevard though.
Defender of the union
In a sea of Wranglers it was quite refreshing to see this stealthy looking, murdered-out Land Rover Defender complete with Warn winch and riveted wheel arch extensions. Repeat after me: 'how do you do? I’m from London.'
Fast and furious
This fabulous Honda S2000 looks like it has come straight from the screen – either being overtaken by Paul Walker or as a construction on Need For Speed Underground. Either way it’s nostalgic and beautiful.
Isn't it Ioniq?
I know, I know, a hybrid Hyundai is not among natural friends here, but it does at least look towards the future with its enclosed rear wheels and fancy aero trims on the front pair. A brave move from Toyo tyres to include it on its stand.
Sting in the tail
Officially sanctioned by Kia, this widebody Stinger is a tastefully done thing and shouts loudly to all passing Americans that the Korean company is doing sports cars now.
You have the right to remain in my rear view mirror
Police Officer Burnout reporting for duty. Don’t even think about making off.