Every year for over 50 years, the SEMA show has played host to the newest and hottest trends in the automotive aftermarket and also the hottest custom cars. Since 1977, Las Vegas has hosted the annual SEMA show at the Las Vegas Convention Center and now what was 300 booths at the beginning, is now 3000 booths. This amazing trade show and celebration of custom cars and the custom car industry hosts almost 200,000 industry attendees every year, with 25% of those attendees coming from outside of the US. It is not uncommon to see Australians, South Americans, Mexicans, Canadians and also many people from Japan, China and Korea. The show attracts a worldwide love for car culture and automotive personalization. A show that started in LA, one of the capitals of car culture, has grown exponentially and turns Las Vegas into a week-long automotive festival.
This past November, I decided to take my vacation to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for SEMA 2019 and a few other car attractions, shops and shows. I had gone in 2016, using my vacation and being in the industry, decided to fulfil a bucket list wish to attend SEMA. The show did not disappoint and for years I planned to go back. This year worked out well and surely did not disappoint. SEMA was as crazy and as busy as ever, hosting custom cars under a full week of warm weather and sun. This year was also a large year for some transitions in the world of custom cars. A trend that we have seen with new vehicles and everyday drivers is now transitioning and starting to make a large presence in classic vehicles and customization.
With newer vehicles transitioning to hybrid to electric powertrains, it was only a matter of time before we saw classic and custom vehicles adapt electrification to bring plenty of power and reduce fuel and emissions within this industry. While fuel consumption and emissions aren’t a large concern with classic vehicles due to the limited number of vehicles, the type of use they get being taken to shows or being seasonal vehicles, the adoption of electrification does make sense. These vehicles are amazing candidates to receive electric transplants as they do not need the range as much as daily drivers, older parts for original motors may be disappearing or hard to find and the running costs and maintenance are much less. The electric powertrains are even being made to look like traditional V8 engine blocks. The performance is also impressive from electric powertrains as well. Being a purist as myself, the lack of a great V8 rumble would deter me as would the cost of transplanting the powertrain. The fact that an alternative exists to keep classics on the road if fossil fuels disappeared is quite cool however.
Chevrolet Performance featured its line-up of mid-engined C8 Corvettes at the show, the Coupe, Spider and the C8.R race car, but the booth showcased a much different classic resto-mod, the Chevrolet E-10 pickup concept. This concept is built off of a 60s C10, long box pickup and instead of a conventional LS or LT swap, Chevrolet transplanted a custom electric powertrain derived from its Bolt. This concept was quite unique and looked outstanding. Among this electric classic restomod, an earlier Porsche 911 also received an electric transplant as did a 1969 Camaro convertible, a car in no short supply at SEMA. Among this new trend, resto-modded Muscle Cars, Hot Rods and slammed classic pickups were plentiful at SEMA 2019.
Among the usual Camaros, Corvettes, Chevelles, Mustangs and Mopars, some more unique classic vehicles are being used to form the basis of some wild resto-mods. Buick Rivieras have increased in popularity over the years and are now seeing quite a large number of builders taking them on. BASF featured a stunning 1964 Riviera that was done very tastefully. The Gas Monkey Boattail Riviera that is not completed was also in attendance. The Riviera trend is one we have seen at AutoRama in Detroit as well. The other large trend also seen at AutoRama is a transition from 67-72 C10 Chevrolet pickups to 1960-66 C10 pickups. These trucks were beautifully done and were scattered throughout the show. C1 Corvettes have also gained a great popularity and the first-generation Ford Bronco. Some more unique rides like a very custom AMC Gremlin and even a Dodge Rampage were featured.
For new vehicle trends, the Toyota Supra and the Jeep Gladiator were dominant among the automotive aftermarket as they are brand new product and also feature plenty of great customization opportunities. The Jeep Wrangler has been the 4X4 and SUV of choice for years at SEMA, due to the large variety of products that can be purchased to customize your Jeep. This has carried over to the Jeep Gladiator, with many and most of these products being altered for the pickup. The Toyota Supra has always been a tuner favourite and with the release of the new model, customizers could not wait to show what they could do to this car. Lowering kits, rims, body kits and spoilers, this car has many options for aesthetics and performance.
It was another great year at SEMA 2019, awesome to be back for a second time and I hope that I can attend next year as well as I plan to do. Expect more from Jeep at SEMA going forward with more product and the release and customization of the upcoming Bronco as well.
Written by David Murphy