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SEMA 2013: the good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. Fireworks are what you expect on the 5th November in the UK, but Guy Fawkes Day was this year marked in Las Vegas by the technicolour explosion of tuned cars and trucks that is the annual SEMA Show.

    Over the four days of the event, 130,000 people from 130 countries will stare in wonder, and occasionally disgust. The 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space is packed to the very edges with cars and auto products from more than 2,500 companies. Some of them are astonishing, many of them are extraordinary and all of them are beautiful to someone, just not always us. Here is our selection of the good, the bad and the ugly direct from Sin City…

    Words: Pat Devereux
    Pictures: Fly

  2. Gulf Racing Ford Focus ST

    Other than the obligatory bigger wheels and tyres this Focus ST, styled by Neil Tjin, does its best to honour the Gulf livery first worn by the mighty GT40. It was one of two Focii at the show with historic paintwork, the other one, remembering the 1965 Lotus-Ford that won the Indy 500 that year, made the car look oddly fish-like.

    Key changes to the Gulf car include a useful Baer brake upgrade - the ST’s stoppers are the car’s weakest link - and dual side exhausts from a Vortech Supercharger kit, without the supercharger. Which was also odd.

  3. Gulf Racing Ford Focus ST

    Other than the obligatory bigger wheels and tyres this Focus ST, styled by Neil Tjin, does its best to honour the Gulf livery first worn by the mighty GT40. It was one of two Focii at the show with historic paintwork, the other one, remembering the 1965 Lotus-Ford that won the Indy 500 that year, made the car look oddly fish-like.

    Key changes to the Gulf car include a useful Baer brake upgrade - the ST’s stoppers are the car’s weakest link - and dual side exhausts from a Vortech Supercharger kit, without the supercharger. Which was also odd.

  4. Hot Wheels Transit Connect

    It was Vandemonium - their term - on the rest of Ford’s stand as the Blue Oval showed what it could do with ten of the UK’s favourite vans. Even though the air suspended, solid wheel and wood deck low-rider version from Detroit Steel Wheels looked the meanest, most of the attention was directed towards the Hot Wheels version and its 1-litre Ecoboost-powered Rip Rod, which debuted last year.

    Featuring a full Hot Wheels drag strip, a 55-inch TV and drawers full of Hot Wheels cars, the lurid Connect was designed to be a ‘race-inspired support vehicle for the average guy to spend a weekend at the track testing his Hot Wheels race car,’ according to Ford. There’s so much wrong with that statement it’s not worth getting started…

  5. 1932 Ford Five Window Coupe

    The granddaddy of all tuner cars is the 1932 Ford, but the problem is that only 56,000 of them were ever made. Most of those have either already been restored and chopped or rusted into dust, so official Ford supplier United Pacific Industries has started building brand new bodywork kits for the old gals.

    Costing $20,999, the kit, which doesn’t include the chassis and engine, just the bodywork and some window winders, will keep the model alive forever more. So next time you watch American Graffiti and swear you are going to build yourself a proper US hotrod, don’t bother looking on Ebay, call these guys instead.

  6. 1977 Ford Bronco

    If you like the £175k Icon Bronco as much as we like the £175k Icon Bronco but have the same money problems as us when contemplating a £175K Icon Bronco, here’s the alternative.

    Dynacorn, which also makes brand new replacement bodyshells for 1967-69 Camaros and 1967-70 Mustangs, is just about to start making the same thing for 1977 Broncos. OK, so you still have to buy everything else but you can do so over time, and there’s no rust or wrecks to deal with. There’s no word on the price but, as a guide, the ‘Stang shells go for about £10k.

  7. 1951 Studebaker Champion Woodie

    There’s no accounting for some people’s taste. This vile 1951 Studebaker Champion-based custom took our breath away for all the wrong reasons. While the standard car was never the best looking thing, it wasn’t offensive. But this superbly built, partially wood-clad - and it’s real wood, not paint - monstrosity stood out as one of the ugliest cars on display this year.

    The builder, who shall remain nameless, not only added the wood but also a rear hatch. And, to complete the insult to the original car, he threw away the original engine and replaced it with the V8 lump from a FordEdsel, one of the world’s biggest car fails of all time. Ugh.

  8. Turbinator II

    It might not look like a Range Rover Sport competitor, but it is. Sort of. Vesco Racing’s Turbinator II is powered by a Lycoming T55 gas turbine, but it powers all four wheels rather than just being blown along by a rocket, which makes it the fastest wheel driven car in the world. And the fastest 4x4 by far.

    With a rather generous 4,213bhp on tap, the 4,100lb dart is capable of hitting 470mph - or roughly four times your Rangie Sport’s top whack - but the off-roader scores over the record holder in maneuverability. With a 36ft overall length and 21ft wheelbase, and no steering lock to speak of, it must be a proper headache to parallel park.

  9. LB Performance wide-body M3

    For the Yin of every interesting car on the show floor, there’s the Yang of an utter munter close by. This one is crystalline Yang covered in more Yang with Yang sauce on the side. Recipe: take one perfectly good BMW M3 and then bolt unnecessarily oversized wheelarches and side skirts directly to the existing bodywork, making sure all the bolts and holes are still clearly visible.

    Now slap on a set of cartoonishly oversized wheels and tyres and wrap the whole thing in a vile matte red colour. Add some sponsor logos to taste. Then discard the whole thing and start again. Please.

  10. LB Performance wide-body M3

    For the Yin of every interesting car on the show floor, there’s the Yang of an utter munter close by. This one is crystalline Yang covered in more Yang with Yang sauce on the side. Recipe: take one perfectly good BMW M3 and then bolt unnecessarily oversized wheelarches and side skirts directly to the existing bodywork, making sure all the bolts and holes are still clearly visible.

    Now slap on a set of cartoonishly oversized wheels and tyres and wrap the whole thing in a vile matte red colour. Add some sponsor logos to taste. Then discard the whole thing and start again. Please.

  11. Electric 66 Mustang

    There are many engines you can fit into the front of a ‘66 Mustang, but this must be one of the most bizarre: an electric motor from a fork lift truck. It’s fair to say the 289 V8, which the electron-powered motor replaced, was substantially faster.

    With a boot load of lead-acid batteries, it has a top speed of around 35mph, so it can barely outrun a bicycle, and a range of around 25 miles. So it can’t go much further than a golf cart. Why did the owner make the swap? No reason, really. He says he just had a vision that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes you can be so right, you’re wrong. This, we suspect, is one of those times.

  12. Electric 66 Mustang

    There are many engines you can fit into the front of a ‘66 Mustang, but this must be one of the most bizarre: an electric motor from a fork lift truck. It’s fair to say the 289 V8, which the electron-powered motor replaced, was substantially faster.

    With a boot load of lead-acid batteries, it has a top speed of around 35mph, so it can barely outrun a bicycle, and a range of around 25 miles. So it can’t go much further than a golf cart. Why did the owner make the swap? No reason, really. He says he just had a vision that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes you can be so right, you’re wrong. This, we suspect, is one of those times.

  13. Electric 66 Mustang

    There are many engines you can fit into the front of a ‘66 Mustang, but this must be one of the most bizarre: an electric motor from a fork lift truck. It’s fair to say the 289 V8, which the electron-powered motor replaced, was substantially faster.

    With a boot load of lead-acid batteries, it has a top speed of around 35mph, so it can barely outrun a bicycle, and a range of around 25 miles. So it can’t go much further than a golf cart. Why did the owner make the swap? No reason, really. He says he just had a vision that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes you can be so right, you’re wrong. This, we suspect, is one of those times.

  14. Maximum Destruction

    Known simply as Max-D among monstertruck fans, this apocalyptic nightmare on wheels was at SEMA to demonstrate not its size or power, but the chrome work on its demonic faces. With that duly noted - it’s very shiny, check - there are a few other things about this championship winning thug that might raise an eyebrow - or blow it off your face altogether.

    Powered by an 8.85-litre Merlin engine that has been blown and then improved again with alcohol injection, it makes in the region of 1,500bhp. Its tyres are 66-inches high and the whole thing, despite weighing the same as a battleship, can do a backwards somersault. Awesome.

  15. Maximus

    But not quite as awesome as Nelson Racing Engines’ Maximus-powered ‘68 Dodge Charger. This is a car with numbers that make other numbers shriek and run away crying. Let’s jump right in with the engine, a twin-turbocharged 9.4-litre V8 Hemi that produces, on 116 octane petrol, 2,000bhp. Yes, two thousand horsepower. Its claimed figures are: 0-60mph in two seconds dead; 0-160mph in eight seconds; and a quarter mile in eight seconds.

    It has a GPS-based traction control system, 14-inch brakes with six-piston calipers and a top speed, with an aerokit installed, of 260mph. The bodywork took 1,500 man hours to hand form and the car’s track is six inches wider than standard. It can pull 1g in the turns, and has onboard interior and exterior video with cloud uplink. And we keep thinking we must have had something funny for lunch and imagined this, but no, it’s real.

  16. Strictly Business Scion XB

    These yoof-orientated Toyotas have been the irreverent ride of a disaffected generation in the US for years now. But as the yoof has grown up, so has its needs apparently. Tricked out more like a Maybach than anything else, the Strictly Business xB, which was built by Cartel Customs, is 28 inches longer than standard and features two executive reclining seats facing a 27-inch flat panel monitor, plus all the other tackle you’d expect to find in an office and not in the back of a Scion.

    We were a little disappointed that there was nowhere to stash two skateboards or a fridge full of Mountain Dew, but we, like, get it.

  17. Forza 5 Fiesta ST

    The chaps behind Forza Motorsport 5 embraced the SEMA spirit by commissioning MRT Performance to build a tuned Fiesta ST - and then went one better by inserting the lime green Ford into the virtual wonderland that is the latest edition of the driving simulator, so we can all experience TG’s favourite half-pint hot hatch’s handling and performance.

    Featuring suitably tweaked engine, chassis and wheels, the Forza 5 edition Fiesta will be available for merciless thrashing and reckless racing through the world’s cities when the game launches later this month.

  18. Forza 5 Fiesta ST

    The chaps behind Forza Motorsport 5 embraced the SEMA spirit by commissioning MRT Performance to build a tuned Fiesta ST - and then went one better by inserting the lime green Ford into the virtual wonderland that is the latest edition of the driving simulator, so we can all experience TG’s favourite half-pint hot hatch’s handling and performance.

    Featuring suitably tweaked engine, chassis and wheels, the Forza 5 edition Fiesta will be available for merciless thrashing and reckless racing through the world’s cities when the game launches later this month.

  19. Strictly Business Scion XB

    These yoof-orientated Toyotas have been the irreverent ride of a disaffected generation in the US for years now. But as the yoof has grown up, so has its needs apparently. Tricked out more like a Maybach than anything else, the Strictly Business xB, which was built by Cartel Customs, is 28 inches longer than standard and features two executive reclining seats facing a 27-inch flat panel monitor, plus all the other tackle you’d expect to find in an office and not in the back of a Scion.

    We were a little disappointed that there was nowhere to stash two skateboards or a fridge full of Mountain Dew, but we, like, get it.

  20. Strictly Business Scion XB

    These yoof-orientated Toyotas have been the irreverent ride of a disaffected generation in the US for years now. But as the yoof has grown up, so has its needs apparently. Tricked out more like a Maybach than anything else, the Strictly Business xB, which was built by Cartel Customs, is 28 inches longer than standard and features two executive reclining seats facing a 27-inch flat panel monitor, plus all the other tackle you’d expect to find in an office and not in the back of a Scion.

    We were a little disappointed that there was nowhere to stash two skateboards or a fridge full of Mountain Dew, but we, like, get it.

  21. HEMI Shaker Returns along with Scat Pack

    We’ve had to wait for a while, but the trademark Shaker hood is back as an option on the 5.7-litre V8 HEMI-poweredversions of the Dodge Challenger. An engine mounted scoop designed to forcefresh cool air into the engine to boost power, it’s called the shaker as that’s what the original 1970s one would do when you got into the throttle in a big way.

    There are no numbers for how much extra go it puts under your right foot, but it looks cool, so we are all good with it. Unlike the resurrection of another Dodge performance add-on - the Mopar Scat Pack - which really should have been renamed…

  22. Gran Turismo 6 Corvette

    If you were in any doubt which is the hottest sports car in the US right now, a walk around SEMA would have set you straight: it’s the C7 Corvette. There were a couple of new paint schemes on the coupe and convertible on the GM stand, but they were also joined by a real world version of the ‘Vette that has been used to a) help Chevy launch and identify the car with a younger audience and b) help launch Sony’s latest Gran Turismo 6 PlayStation sim.

    Other than some subtle bodywork upgrades, such as a custom grille, aero body kit and front tow hook on the outside and racing harnesses and seats plus a flat-bottomed steering wheel on the inside, it’s mechanically stock. Less is sometimes more. This is one of those times.

  23. Gran Turismo 6 Corvette

    If you were in any doubt which is the hottest sports car in the US right now, a walk around SEMA would have set you straight: it’s the C7 Corvette. There were a couple of new paint schemes on the coupe and convertible on the GM stand, but they were also joined by a real world version of the ‘Vette that has been used to a) help Chevy launch and identify the car with a younger audience and b) help launch Sony’s latest Gran Turismo 6 PlayStation sim.

    Other than some subtle bodywork upgrades, such as a custom grille, aero body kit and front tow hook on the outside and racing harnesses and seats plus a flat-bottomed steering wheel on the inside, it’s mechanically stock. Less is sometimes more. This is one of those times.

  24. Deep Orange

    Funny name for a silver car, but then this is a rather unusual confection all round. Built as a part of a graduate automotive engineering programme at Clemson University and designed by the Art Center College of Design - the Californian equivalent of London’s RCA - the 3+3 passenger Deep Orange (which is silver) is designed to give students the opportunity to build a fully working prototype concept car each year.

    A noble objective, but we can’t talk about how the engineering bit went as we were so put off by its design. It might have some of the best tech in the world in there, but when it looks this awkward it’s difficult to get excited.

  25. Deep Orange

    Funny name for a silver car, but then this is a rather unusual confection all round. Built as a part of a graduate automotive engineering programme at Clemson University and designed by the Art Center College of Design - the Californian equivalent of London’s RCA - the 3+3 passenger Deep Orange (which is silver) is designed to give students the opportunity to build a fully working prototype concept car each year.

    A noble objective, but we can’t talk about how the engineering bit went as we were so put off by its design. It might have some of the best tech in the world in there, but when it looks this awkward it’s difficult to get excited.

  26. Work, work, work. Not

    The life of a Top Gear US TV presenter is a hard one for sure. When Tanner isn’t thrashing whatever new car the producers have put under him for the US show, he can be found in a number of other equally taxing places. Like his 800bhp Global Rally Championship Fiesta fighting off the advances of Travis Pastrana in his Dart. Or at SEMA, fighting off the advances of barely clad women. It’s a tough life, but sadly someone has to do it. And Tanner is our man in the trenches on this one.

  27. Hyundai Bisimoto Genesis Coupe

    South Korea’s biggest car brand is no stranger to SEMA, but this year it outdid itself with four concepts, including this innocent-looking Genesis Coupe, breathed on by a tuning company called Bisimoto.

    It’s an appropriate name as this car’s 3.8-litre V6 motor is very “bisi” indeed. In stock trim it produces 342bhp, but this one, thanks to the addition of a custom twin turbo kit now makes a much more suitable 1,000bhp. Just the thing for the daily commute.

  28. Engine Bling

    If you are going to show off your engine to the world, you want to make sure it matches the rest of your lifestyle and colour scheme, which is where Proform comes in. For a few hundred bucks, they will sell you a set of suitably colour-correct cam covers, but if you are feeling like splashing out, they’ll also gold plate most of the top end and pipes for around $5k.

    Don’t get your hopes up for the crystal encrusted version in the middle, though. The company said it was clearly just for show and that they don’t sell those as it would be so impractical. Eh? Haven’t they seen the rest of the show?

  29. HRE Wheels

    Just when you think that all taste has drained out of the building and into the busy sewers of Las Vegas, you come across something as simple as a set of wheels on a un-messed-with car, like this Roller on a set of 24-inch forged hoops, and your hope is restored.

    HRE has been making some of the best aftermarket wheels in the business for years now, and it still does. There are plenty of pretenders to its crown, but it remains the go-to company when you want to immediately give your car a new set of shoes. Even if they are so expensive your kids will probably have to do without.

  30. Lexus IS350

    We don’t know what Lexus is putting in its tea, but we think it might be time to stop. First they inflict the Predator-alike gaping grille on its new cars and now they are busy rewarding people for making their cars look even worse.

    This Deviant Art-designed ISF Sport took the top honours in Lexus’ design challenge - and our quick poll of what is the most hideous carbuncle to grace the SEMA show floor. No. Just no.

  31. SEMA under the sun

    There’s just so much stuff to see at SEMA that it spills out into the car parks and open spaces around the show. Here is a selection of some of the stuff we saw sparkling in the Nevada sun.

    This looks like a gas turbine-powered bicycle with stereo speakers. And that’s exactly what it is. Maybe Batman’s going green?

  32. SEMA under the sun

    Not so much the vehicle, more the box it came in… the FedEx concept truck was clearly influenced by its payload.

  33. SEMA under the sun

    Monster trucks should be supersized and overpowered. Not a bit big with a bit more power than standard.

  34. SEMA under the sun

    Just imagine what a mess of the greens this ten-seater, twin axled golf cart would make.

  35. SEMA under the sun

    We won’t ask how this ‘53 cabover GM pickup got its Fermented Fruit name. But we loved its steam punk look

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