For those of us in the industry, Christmas comes early. The first week of November, every major player in the performance aftermarket converges on the Las Vegas Convention Center to show their latest wares to insiders—those people being buyers, other sellers, visiting dignitaries, and the media. Unfortunately, the annual SEMA trade show is not open to the public, so you can't just show up and crash the gate. Yes, we know it's Vegas, but this is the one time when your best BS line can't get you past the velvet rope. Don't worry though, we were there and took the whole thing in for you.
The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge, taking up space in three capacious buildings—and that doesn't include the related repair aftermarket AAPEX show in the Sands Expo Center. In the interest of efficiency and also as some measure of compassion for its members, the folks at SEMA have grouped manufacturers who service similar segments in close proximity to each other. Thusly, a purveyor of Chinese 24-inch truck tires is not competing for attention with someone selling hot rod gauges or Tri-Five Chevy fenders. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and mom took me to Sears, Roebuck and Co. They put all the toys in one place, which was usually next to the candy stand. And both were thankfully far away from the clothing department!
At the 2013 SEMA Show, traffic was up noticeably from the recession years following the 2008 crash. People have slowly dug themselves out of their financial holes, and hope is on the horizon. It seems many motorheads coming from every stripe have worked through their previous financial woes. With basic needs now being met, they are turning their sights back to the hobby they love and slowly but surely picking up the wrench again. As you can imagine, that has spurred the development and sales of aftermarket parts. In the domestic performance and hot rod camp, this is perhaps no better illustrated than in the explosion of interest in Chevy's new LT1 powerplant. In less than a year, Chevy's brand-new, best-ever small-block engine has inspired new pistons, connecting rods, crankshafts, cylinder heads, camshafts, and programmers. Not to be outdone, the Ford camp is also making progress on the 3.5L EcoBoost mill, albeit at a slower pace.
We also see a distinct trend with companies branching out to products in closely related fields—a risk-taking not seen since before the recession. Examples: Suspension companies dabbling in shock absorbers (and vice versa), a carburetor company getting into EFI, a specialty toolmaker getting into sheetmetal sales, or a Chevy guy making Ford or Mopar stuff. Manufacturers are now eager to get into new businesses where it makes sense to expand. They're excited about the future: The performance train is leaving the station for the next stop, and they want to be on it! About the only negative rumblings we heard were from the tire guys. The federal government has lifted tariffs on tires imported from China, so there was a huge influx of offshore rubber at SEMA. Will premium tire makers survive the flood of Chinese tires? Do performance customers appreciate the quality enough to vote with their wallets? We will be watching closely to see if top-tier tire makers can get their message out before it's too late.
Here we've chosen the coolest 46 new parts for muscle cars and hot rods. That's not saying there weren't more—these are the best ones that we deem fit PHR's market and that fit in the space allowed. Want to see what other new products and project cars were at SEMA? Log on to www.SEMAphotos.com—there are literally thousands of cool things to look at!
Graphic Ceramic Coating
Jet-Hot's new graphics capability allows high-temperature ceramic coatings to be applied to any exhaust or engine component in a wide variety of colors. Solid colors and even designs and logos can be created with color coatings capable of withstanding surface temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees F. Enjoy the aesthetic possibilities of color along with heat management and corrosion protection.
Why It's Cool:
Ceramic coating in more than just black or silver
Jet-Hot High Performance Coatings
Hemi Stroker Kit
Eagle's stroker kit for the Gen III Hemi includes a forged 4340 crank, forged 4340 H-beam rods, forged 4032 pistons, rings, and racing bearings. As always, Eagle rotating assemblies are available with and without balancing as well as with Eagle's proprietary ESP Armor surface treatment process. The 5.7L block gets bumped up to 392 cubes while any 6.1-liter swells to a magnificent 426 cubes.
Why It's Cool:
More cubes and more power for Chrysler's modern classic
Eagle Specialty Products Inc.
COMP Cams' conical spring design reduces active mass and dynamic valvetrain forces over a beehive spring. It also features a new super-finished wire that produces an increased lifespan for all valvetrain components. The progressive pitch of the spring gives it a variable frequency profile that increases the valvetrain's rpm limit and allows for more aggressive lobe profiles. The narrow profile at the top also solves rocker arm clearance issues.
Why It's Cool:
More rpm, less spring force, better fit, and longer valvetrain life
COMP Performance Group
Pro Touring Steering Wheels
GT Performance is a relatively new player in the steering wheel market, and the torrent of cool steering wheels they unleashed at SEMA shows how much they "get it." Attractive and affordable, GT's new line of Pro Touring Autocross steering wheels puts Pro Touring muscle cars at the forefront. A layered-tier spoke design and a modular leather grip allow the grip to be removed and color matched to any interior. GT has a look for every car with available wood, suede, and leather grips.
Why It's Cool:
Isn't it time Pro Touring muscle cars stopped borrowing steering wheels from the import crowd?
GT Performance Products
Ported LS7 Heads For LS1
These LS7-style 3.900-inch bore cylinder heads provide the best LS-port technology for Gen III 5.7/6.0L LS1 blocks and add up to 100 hp. Featuring all of the benefits of RHS's other LS7 heads, the intake ports are raised .220 inch from the stock location for a straight line of sight to the cylinder. They are offered with CNC'd or P-ports and use LS7-style intake manifolds. Currently the only aftermarket raised-runner LS7 cylinder head designed for the LS1, it still uses both production and aftermarket manifolds and valvetrains. It also has an extra thick deck surface and the LSX six-head bolt pattern, providing better head gasket retention for high compression.
Why It's Cool:
Guys with older LS1, LS2, and LS6 engines no longer have to play catch-up to the LS7!
1968 Chevelle Gauge Set
This reproduction dash gauge set for 1968 Chevelles is manufactured to factory specs to fit and install as original, and has the correct silkscreen faces with original fonts and colors. This set includes speedometer (without speed warning, PN 6492545), and instrument cluster (PN 6481543), which includes clock with fuel, oil, temp, and battery gauges. Pre-assembled, calibrated, and ready to install.
Why It's Cool:
The 1968 Chevelles almost never get any love.