Officially, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) describes its yearly Las Vegas trade show as "the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry's brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center."
All of which is true. Not open the public, the SEMA show, which wrapped up Nov. 2, connects buyers and sellers of auto accessories. If you want to stock your store shelves with the latest gadgets and parts, then SEMA is you know what's out there.
The nation's best high-end show cars - more than 1,400 - are used to draw buyers to seller's booths. It's a one-stop, jaw-dropping fantasyland geared to those of us stuck in perpetually arrested adolescence. And that's not a bad thing. The custom high-performance cars at SEMA are the kind of dream rides that bored junior-high school kids would dream up and draw in study hall.
This year, as always, SEMA featured plenty of primo rides, from the sublime to the outlandish. Here are a few of our faves:
Ford Mustang GT by DSO Eyewear
For the first time, the Mustang was the winner of SEMA's annual "Hottest Car" to customize award, dethroning its archrival and two-time past winner, the Chevrolet Camaro. This trick Mustang GT signature features a "3dCarbon" body kit and brilliant BASF tri-coat white exterior finish with deep black contrast paint. Under the hood is a 750-horsepower V8 that has been treated to a Ford Racing Performance Parts supercharger kit.
Mopar Performance, the performance parts arm of Chrysler/Dodge/SRT, rolled out a 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 as part of its 75th anniversary celebration. Comedian and car-geek Jeff Dunham is the owner of this wild car, nicknamed "Project UltraViolet." Under the hood is a 426-cubic-inch crate engine producing 515 horsepower. In addition, Project UltraViolet features a lowered ride height, 22-inch HRE-brand wheels, and a very cool Napa leather interior with color-matching accents.
Hot Wheels Camaro
For years, Chevrolet and Hot Wheels have combined on show cars, but here's one that's about to become reality. For a mere $6,995 on top of the base price of a six-cylinder Camaro 2LT or a V8 2SS, buyers can purchase a Hot Wheels limited edition Camaro. Among the distinguishing features are bright blue metallic paint, special graphics, custom wheels with red accents and a whole bunch of exterior trim parts from the top-of-the-line ZL1 Camaro. The interior is also liberally festooned with Hot Wheels logos and trim.
GAS Chopped Top Beetle
Custom Volkswagens are always a staple of SEMA and this year is no exception. Galpin Auto Sports contributed a sensational chopped-top Beetle custom, featuring a candy-apple-red over onyx-black paint scheme that really made the design stand out. A total of 5.5 inches from the A-pillar and 2.5 inches from the B-pillar was removed to give this VW a low-rider look.
Hyundai Elantra Zombie Survival Machine
OK, Hyundai had a bunch of tricked out cars at SEMA, including turbo Velosters and Elantras a plenty to satisfy even the most jaded of the Fast and Furious crowd. But it takes gumption - and a great sense of humor - to serve up a Zombie Survival Machine and surround it with fake corpses and severed limbs. Not for everyone's taste certainly, but plenty good fun.
Pure Vision Martini Mustang
Built as an homage to 1960s international endurance racing, Pure Vision's 1965 "Martini" Mustang features a 425-horsepower vintage Indy four-cam racing engine and absolutely no hardware of any kind from 1965. Modern suspension parts are straight out of the Detroit Speed catalog, although there was a ton of custom work to make everything fit. The super-clean appearance is a Pure Vision specialty, binding new and old in seamless fashion, including the custom 17-inch four-spoke Indy-style racing wheels. Pure Vision, indeed.
Guy Fieri Corvette 427 Convertible Collector Edition
There's nothing shy and retiring about Fieri, host of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," nor is there anything shy about his 427 Corvette convertible, which has a 505-horsepower 7.0-liter Z06 engine. Fieri's black and yellow 427 also features embroidered seat headrests and fender badges that call out the Guy Fieri Foundation. It rides on a quartet of black "Cup" wheels (19x10-inch front/20x12-inch rear) wrapped in Michelin PS2 tires.
OCTANE LOUNGE LIVE ACTS
SUZUKI IS OUT: American Suzuki Motor Co., a niche player in the American market for the past several decades, is filing for bankruptcy and pulling out of the United States.
BEATLE-MARTIN: A vintage 1964 Aston-Martin DB5 purchased new by Sir Paul McCartney sold at a recent auction in London for about $490,000, which is solid money, but with no real premium for its celebrity ownership history.
IT NEEDS TO BE FASTER?: Nissan is drastically upgrading its GT-R supercar for 2014, which should be substantially faster than the current model, while offering improved ride and handling and a number of new customization options.