SEMA 2013 – The wild and wonderful

Held annually at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the SEMA Show brings together the USA’s billion dollar aftermarket tuning and performance industry for one week. The show is a chance for companies from across the globe to show off their wares, but is also seized upon by car manufactures to show off their own creations. We’ve picked out some of our favourites below, both good and bad, from last week’s show.

Founded in 1963 the Specialty Equipment Market Association covers a wide range of companies, from the big brands such as K&N and Edelbrock, to lesser known firms such as Crap Industries. Apparently Crap Industries make various exterior enhancements for cars such as the MINI Countryman to the Ford Raptor, demonstrating the breadth of the SEMA Show. Anyway, without further delay, here are our notable picks from 2013.

1. Ford Snakebit F-100

Snakebit at SEMA

It’s hard to write this without it sounding too much like a Family Guy sketch. Essentially, this is the time Gene Simmons from KISS, his wife – actress Shannon Tweed – and a Canadian Ford dealership got together to produce a custom F-100 pickup to be auctioned for charity.

Inspired by classic Shelby Mustangs, Snakebit has the grunt to match its looks. With a Ford Racing 5.4 litre supercharged V8 engine, Snakebit packs an estimated 550 bhp into a 1956 bodyshell. Power is fed by a, very modern, six-speed manual gearbox to the rear 20″ wheels. The front wheels are, only, 18″ in diameter but all have been clearly influenced by Shelby products.

With a wheelbase stretched five inches, custom tonneau cover and unique head and taillights, Snakebit is a handmade labour of love. The interior is also custom made, with the leather bench seat again styled to be reminiscent of a Shelby Mustang.

EngageSportMode can’t really fail to like a custom modified pickup truck, especially one that mimics a Shelby Mustang and has been built for a good cause. Star of the show?

2. Kia Soul 

Kia has seemingly taken the aftermarket scene to heart, as it continues to build on its ever increasing market share across the globe. So, how did it aim to win the hearts and minds of America’s youth? With a variety of current generation Souls modified on a musical theme; that’s how.

All five include big wheels and some interesting enhancements. The silver ‘Music Memorabilia’ Soul features a training shoe signed by 50 Cent, along with John Legend’s microphone and Slash’s guitar all encased in plexiglass. Oh, and gold exhaust tips…

The purple ‘DJ Booth’ Soul includes some rather questionable three-spoke 19″ alloy wheels, a roof removed for a DJ to stand up on a diamond plated stage, and LED lighting and a sound system comprising 11 speakers and 5 amplifiers. Marking Kia’s sponsorship of the Vans Warped Tour this yellow and bred Soul sees the side windows replaced with speakers, and a 50″ TV mounted on top.

Most disturbing of all, is the red Soul themed around television show ‘The Voice’. Fortunately it’s the US version, so there’s no Tom Jones and Jessie J crammed inside, spinning around on chairs. Not pictured is the ‘Amped’ Soul which, as you’ve probably guessed, has lots of speakers inside. So many that the B-pillar had to be removed.

We like Kia, and what it’s doing, but ESM will pass on these. Thanks.

3. Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne Concept

SEMA 2013 Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne 001

Yes it’s another pickup; no, we don’t care. Mainly because this is one which features a 6.2 litre V8 engine. That makes for 420 bhp and and 470 lb-ft of torque in a rear-wheel drive truck. One that’s been lightened by over 90 kgs by carbon fibre bumpers, tailgate and spoiler.

SEMA 2013 Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne 002

More impressive weight saving has been achieved through the use of Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, saving 9 kgs alone. Lightweight aluminium (or should that be aluminum) driveshafts are also used, with sound deadening and even the interior centre console ditched in the diet. Granted, the Cheyenne still weights the best part of 2 tonnes, but this is a start at least.

A six-speed automatic gearbox, Borla performance exhaust and 19″ charcoal Camaro Z/28 wheels complete the package which, for now, remains a concept only. Chevrolet does, however, remain committed to giving ‘Silverado customers more.’ Whether that means a full production Cheyenne remains to be seen.

4. The Scion FR-S Collection

GReedy x Scion FR-S

For the uninitiated, Scion is Toyota’s ‘youth’ brand in the United States launched in 2002. It aims to appeal to generation-Y consumers, using simplified model lineups but with a wide range of both factory and aftermarket accessories. Perfect fodder for the SEMA Show then. We know the FR-S as the Toyota GT86 in the UK, but in the USA it’s taken on a life of its own as a perfect tuner car. Scion displayed a number of FR-S examples, each modified on a slightly different theme.

GReedy are possibly one of the biggest names in the ‘import’ tuner scene, so it should be no surprise it brought a 750 bhp turbocharged FR-S to SEMA. GReedy’s effort picked up the ‘Gran Turismo Best Asian Import’ award for this drift ready prototype.

On a slightly different theme, the Steve Aoki art car was inspired by its eponymous DJ and producer, featuring a custom Pioneer sound system, strobe lights and a fog machine. With  ‘only’ 500 bhp compared to the GReedy car, the Bulletproof Automotive S Concept One might lack a little bit of firepower. But, it does have a carbon fibre interior, a widened, handmade body, an advanced turbo system and track-tuned suspension. Finally, the Urban GT Sport Coupe is substantially subtler, with a custom leather interior, cameras instead of wing mirrors and a more restrained bodykit. Potential VW Scirocco rival?

With such a breadth of tuning potential, it’s easy to see why the FR-S has won the SEMA Hottest Sport Compact award for both 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, costing the equivalent of just £15,000 in the USA, the FR-S represents real value.

5. 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T ‘Shaker’

SEMA 2014 Dodge Challenger R:T Shaker 001

We couldn’t cover SEMA without featuring some real American muscle, and the Dodge Challenger R/T is probably the ultimate expression of that genre. Purists may argue that it is, technically, a pony car but anyone who has seen Vanishing Point will know how iconic the Challenger is.  For the 2014 model year it features a cool retro addition in the shape of the ‘Shaker’ hood, like the one first fitted to the classic 1970 original R/T.

Essentially the ‘Shaker’ is an air intake mounted directly on top of the engine, which breathes through a hole in the bonnet. Being mounted to the powertrain means the ‘Shaker’ moves and, obviously, shakes as the motor revs. It’s pure theatre, but the R/T still has the power to back up the ‘Shaker’ gimmick, with 375 bhp and 410 lb-ft of torque from its 5.7 litre HEMI V8 engine.

Classic early 1970’s Dodge colours such as Header Orange, Plum Crazy and TorRed are available on the options list, with the interior featuring an aluminium pistol-grip shifter and a numbered plaque. It may be a pure retro throwback, but you can’t fault Dodge for rekindling memories of the muscle car’s glory days. Let’s just hope they avoid recreating the underpowered, emission-stifled, cars which followed in the mid-70s.


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