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The best and worst of the SEMA tuning show

  1. For one week a year, when the Las Vegas Convention Center isn’t playing host to middle-aged men dressed as superheroes, or the very best in adult entertainment, its fluorescent strip-lit halls are filled with the most outlandish creations the tuning community has to offer.

    Welcome to the SEMA show, where the world of wide-bodied, pimped-up, slammed-to-the-floor cars meets the City of Sin in an explosion of bilious paint jobs and big wheels. Lots and lots of big wheels.

    But where the tuning scene was once a sea of Dimma bodykits, neon and scantily clad girls in shopping centre car parks, it’s matured into a somewhat classier scene that even manufacturers now want a piece of. The scantily clad women remain, admittedly.

    Top Gear has spent the last couple of days wandering SEMA’s halls to see what this year’s show has to offer. Suffice to say it was… eyebrow-raising. Have a scroll through the gallery above and let us know what catches your attention below.

    WARNING: The upcoming gallery contains extreme camber, and an airbrushed mashup of Megan Fox and the Mona Lisa. By clicking this gallery you are accepting full liability for your reactions. Top Gear accepts no liability for impromptu heaving/chills/the burning desire to scratch your retinas from sockets. You have been warned.

  2. Scion x Slayer Mobile Amp tC

    If you enjoy wearing black, piercing parts of your anatomy that really shouldn’t be pierced, and locking yourself in your room listening to thrash metal, Scion may have the car for you.

    Inspired by metal band Slayer and designed by Mike Vu of MV DESIGNZ, this custom tC has literally been turned up to 11. With a soul-sucking black paint job complete with airbrushed skulls and Slayer emblems on the side, headlights that look like they’ve got an eye infection and suicide doors, it’s something you don’t want to mess with in a mosh pit.

    Inside there are seats inspired by Marshall stack amps (the real things reside in the boot), a custom Pioneer speaker set up complete with a custom mixer, and a 32-inch monitor. The gearshifter is a skull-head, while the handbrake is a sword. This is not a euphemism.

  3. Toyota Camry Dragster

    Not all Camrys are as boring as they look. This seemingly normal appliance shocked onlookers when the team yanked up the bodyshell to reveal a tube-framed, 850bhp dragster lurking beneath its mild exterior.

    The engine is a 5.7-litre V8 lifted from a Toyota Tundra pickup, enhanced with a TRD supercharger and, just to make sure it doesn’t get left behind, a wet nitrous injection system.

    The end result is a car that looks like it gets sand kicked in its face but that will handily remove your own visage every time you light it up. The team who built it reckon it’s good for a 9.8-second quarter mile. We just want to know when it’s going into production.

  4. Liberty Walk Ferrari 458

    Ferrari recently unveiled a quicker, harder, more aggressive 458 in the shape of the limited-run Speciale Aperta. But, to some, that’s not aggressive enough.

    Step forward Liberty Walk, a Japanese tuning firm that’ll take your supercar and make it like no other. This 458 has had its wheel arches and wings cut, bashed and pulled to accommodate the ultra-wide 20-inch wheels. It has a (very) wide-arch body kit screwed on. Yep. Screwed on. There is, of course, an aftermarket exhaust. Essentially, it’s been modified the same way da yoof customise 80,000-mile Golfs. Sacrilege?

  5. Southern Crush mini monster truck.

    This is a 1/3 size monster truck that makes the 4x4 Barbie electric ride-on in the Argos Catalogue look immensely lame.

    Powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, the ‘Southern Crush’ has four-wheel-drive steering and tyres chunky enough to trample right over a poorly parked VW Up.

  6. Ford GT

    Having once blocked a major London traffic artery after he got stuck in a width restrictor, Jeremy Clarkson can attest that the Ford GT is one car that doesn’t require added wideness. But that hasn’t stopped someone.

    With a Belladonna body kit that significantly alters its footprint, a monstrous fixed rear wing and more slats than a Venetian blind factory, this is an, um, original take on Camilo Pardo’s timeless design. Just don’t try and take it over Hammersmith Bridge, that’s our only advice.

  7. Legacy Dodge Power Wagon

    We thought resto-mod off-roaders couldn’t get much better than the brilliant - and faintingly expensive - Icon Ford Bronco, but this restored and updated 1946 Dodge Power Wagon Conversion has us reconsidering.

    Created by Legacy Classic Trucks, this Dodge is available with either a 425bhp V8 or a 3.9-litre Cummins turbodiesel, a five-speed manual or four-speed auto box and some thoroughly modern 20-inch beadlock rims with 42-inch tyres. But that’s just the beginning of the options list on this new-old hauler.

    The chassis features a laundry list of all the things you want to see on a tough roader like this: Bilstein long-travel shocks, front and rear locking diffs, transfer case with low range and a handy 7.5-tonne winch. There’s currently a waiting list, even though the starting price is around £100k. You can almost double that if you spec extras such as a snow blower or sawmill. Yes, a sawmill.

  8. Lone Star Viper

    One word. MURICA.

  9. Fab Fours Legend

    The Jeep Wrangler has been a staple of America’s off-roading scene since day dot. In that time we’ve seen many modified Wrangler rock-crawling creation, but never anything an excellent as this, the Fab Fours Legend.

    Featuring a stock engine and transmission, it’s really a design study, but one we’re completely diggin’, as they say round here. With 10cm lopped off the roof, massive 24-inch wheels wrapped in 50-inch tyres, and the addition of freshly fabricated head-height wheel arches, this thing boasts the proportions of a giant RC car. This is good.

    There are custom control rockers, Fox shocks, Oracle lighting in the wing mirrors and a winch. Even better, if you hand over £100,000, Fab Fours will make you one.

  10. Scion xB

    What car do you build when you’re the son of skater king Tony Hawk? Riley Hawk, who is no slouch in the skate dept himself, teamed up with Scott Kanemura to create this homage to Seventies van culture.

    From the Cragar five-spoke wheels to the candy-coloured stripes and porthole rear side window, the Riley Hawk Skate Touring Scion xB - to give it its full name - is as Seventies as a smoke-filled room of lava lamps. But the outside is just the start.

    Inside is equally vantastic. There’s thigh-burning brown button vinyl upholstery, an eight-track stereo, CB radio and wind-up windows. Oh, and acres of, ahem, shag carpeting on the floors, pillars, roof and even the rear windows.

  11. La Mona Lisa

    Once upon a time, modifying cars was a case of ram-raiding your local Currys Digital/DFS/pet shop, then gluing whatever you nicked to your car. We thought that dark chapter of tuning had closed. Apparently not.

    This is the La Mona Lisa, a slammed, big-rimmed, digitally-decked-out RAM truck that ticks off all of the early millennia tuning clichés one by one.

    Tellies everywhere, including a 32-inch flatscreen in the passenger footwell? Check.

    A tipper truck-bed full of more TVs, and an outrageous sound system? Check.

    A transmission tunnel containing three subwoofers and four further TVs? Check.

    A unique airbrushed paint job complete with cherubs and the Mona Lisa with Megan Fox’s face on it? CHECK!

    You have permission to place your palm in your face. Hard.

  12. Dodge Viper ACR Concept

    It’s only a concept - albeit an official one from Dodge - but the new Viper ACR (American Club Racer) looks ready to roll to us. And roll fast. The last ACR set a new lap record at the Nurburgring, and this one should be even quicker. Vital statistics include 19-inch wheels all round (the standard Viper has 18s on the front), 15.4-inch carbon ceramic brakes, plus a bunch more aero and carbon fibre.

    In true racer fashion, all non-vital equipment has been chucked, so don’t bother looking for sound insulation or even a stereo. The only real addition to the cabin is a half-mile of alcantara covering all the touch-surfaces - seats, steering wheel, gearshift. No news on the engine’s state of tune, but a lack of power has never been the Viper’s problem. Should Dodge build it? Yes.

  13. Daystar Jeep FC-170

    As Ken Block recently demonstrated, adding tank tracks to off-roaders is a Good Thing. And even better when they’re attached to old Jeep pick-ups.

    Off-road retailer Daystar has proved this by binning wheels and strapping rubber tracks to this old FC, then treating it to a 5.7-litre Hemi engine. Now all we need is some snow to test it out. Roll on the ice apocalypse. We’re ready.

  14. Ring Brothers Recoil Chevy Chevelle

    Take a quick glace at this 1966 Chevelle, and you might not think it too special. Nice paint and some cool wheels, maybe, not much more.

    But take a closer look and it starts to get a bit weird. Muscle car meets military vehicle weird. The desert-rat Sand Storm paint and ‘Recoil’ name should be clues, but the cabin is the real giveaway: painted metal and functional padding, more tank than car.

    The military theme continues all the way to the engine room, where a supercharged LS7 V8 makes a battle-ready 980bhp.

  15. Vaydor

    Bodykit specialists Vaydor have garbed a car with this extreme fancy dress outfit. They’ve called it the ‘Builders Supercar’, which we thought was a Ford Transit. But turns out it’s not. But can you guess what it is?

    Jot down your answers below and winners will receive a non refundable Internet Point with the monetary value of absolutely nothing.

  16. Honda Fit & Grom

    The Honda stand at SEMA is usually strewn with 1000bhp+ Civics, but this year’s star was the MAD Industries Fit - the car known as the Jazz in the UK - concept. While the car itself is fairly SEMA-standard - it has some Edgar Davids-style glassware with matching gold wheels and midnight black paint - it also boasts a custom-made rack inside designed to carry a Grom minibike.

  17. La Bestioni

    A 1917 fire engine, converted into a modern interpretation of a boat-tail vintage racing car. Obviously. It’ll sit perfectly next to these two.

  18. Roush RS3 Mustang

    Of the many tuned Mustangs on show at SEMA, this Roush RS3 - the Ford tuner also showed the less extreme RS1 and RS2 - is one of our favourites.

    Instead of focusing merely on the cosmetics, Roush - which has worked closely with Ford on many projects, including the GT supercar - concentrated most on making the Mustang faster. The supercharged engine now makes 627bhp and 530lb ft of torque, there’s new adjustable suspension, and a selectable active exhaust which allows you to leave the house quietly before creating a rolling thunderstorm when you get clear.

    It’s still 80bhp short of the Dodge Challenger Hellcat’s 707bhp, but the Stang’s lower kerbweight could make it for an interesting fight. We should probably test the two side-by-side to find out. Just to be sure.

  19. Starr Wheels

    In the alloy wheel game at SEMA, there’s only one rule: bigger is better. This Camara, says Starr Wheels, is the first car ever to roll on 34 inches of shiny, kerbable rim. Well, congratulations, gents.

  20. Jimmie Johnson 1971 Corvette

    The ‘71 Chevrolet Corvette has always been a looker. But its performance by today’s standards is nothing short of geriatric. The new C7 ‘Vette, however, is a proper performance car that can show cars several times its price a clean pair of radials. NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson has sensibly combined the two to create this special C3.

  21. The Bank Robber

    The limits of tuning at SEMA extend beyond cars into the outer fringes of four-wheeledness. Like the example above, which, as you can see, is a tractor. But not your normal agricultural runaround: this has four (four!) engines and 8,000bhp, allowing you to plough Kansas in ten minutes flat.

  22. Randy Grubb

    The last time TG met Randy, he was in the process of assembling this outlandish, V8-powered quad for a client. SEMA was our first look at the finished product, and it’s not disappointing, is it?

    From the horse-neigh horn to frog front axle ornament, this is Grubb at his deliciously bonkers best. And there’s plenty more to come from our talented friend. His next project, a commission from the buyer of his Decoliner bus, is a $500k take on a Delage. The engine is a relatively modest V12, but the rest of the car should be suitably and tastefully outrageous. Just as a Grubb original should be.

  23. Toyo Smart

    How to make a statement in a Smart car: add lots of wings, widen, then turbocharge.

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