There is nothing quite like the Specialty Equipment Market Association-better known as SEMA. Technically speaking, SEMA isn't an event, but an organization that puts on the spectacle for which it is best known. At the beginning of November each year, member companies of SEMA bring their displays, new products, and invited project cars to the Las Vegas Convention Center, then retail buyers and the media descend on the feast for the betterment of the entire hobby.
Becoming the hot rodding industry's most significant car show, however, wasn't the original intention-especially since the general public can't even get in to see it. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why it got that way. When you've got the world's top car builders, the world's most successful aftermarket companies, and a swarm of retail buyers from every continent looking for the next big thing that's going to make them money and make their customers go faster, it breeds a competitive environment. No, that's an understatement. It turbocharges the evolution and growth of the entire industry. Now throw a hungry pack of magazine editors, website bloggers, and cable TV hosts at the thing, and you've got a 150hp shot of nitrous on top of it all.
Simply put, big things happen at SEMA-not sometimes, but every time. Outrageous cars debut and amazing products abound. It's a tinderbox so full of imaginative thinking that you'll swear you're a smarter person for having experienced it. Go out to your garage, open the hood of your hot rod, and take inventory. You'll find that virtually every piece of aftermarket hardware that you see that was made after 1963 had its debut at the SEMA show. And many of those parts came back over and over, being reinvented and improved over the years. Without the SEMA show, that doesn't happen. As you can see, this is no ordinary car show.
It's a tinderbox so full of imaginative thinking that you'll swear you're a smarter person for having experienced it.
The irony to SEMA's unconventional and wildly successful car show is that only industry insiders are allowed to watch. I think the mystique of SEMA being closed to the general public is actually one of the secrets to its success. People seem to always want what they can't have, and a front-row seat to the SEMA trade show would have to rank as one of the most coveted experiences the average car guy can never have-unless, of course, he's an insider. That's exactly why we worked so hard this issue to bake in all the flavor of the 2012 SEMA show.
Our attack this month is two-pronged. We searched out and documented the coolest new classic iron inside the hall and on the grounds of the SEMA show ("Trendsetting Muscle!," p. 26), and sifted through over 2,200 new products to find those that will best ignite your car-building passion ("SEMA Power Parts," p. 52). And thanks to the folks at SEMA, we even finagled the ultimate cover shoot: breaking loose four of the coolest cars at the show and assembling them in the "Ford Up Front" drift circuit during the height of the exodus mayhem on the last day of the show. We also have lots of extra stuff on the Popular Hot Rodding website, like videos of new products and interviews with the people who made them. There's also a cool photo gallery with hundreds of pics, including our cover shot. (Feel free to make any of them your screen saver.)
There is a saying that you can't reinvent the wheel. And while that's certainly true, you can make it incrementally better, faster, more colorful, and lighter. What's really revealing in the case of the SEMA show is that the wheel has actually reinvented us. Stripped of our hot rods, our speed parts, and our buddies around us to share it all with, we are essentially very different people. And that, my friends, is a testament to what SEMA and the SEMA show are all about!