2017 SEMA Auto Show– Behind The Scenes At This Industry Only Show

Oct 31 2017
Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas Valley, NV

It’s monstrous, it’s amazing, it’s over-the-top, it’s absolutely epic, and it happens every November in Las Vegas. “It” is the SEMA Auto Show for the aftermarket industry. Sure, it has mind-boggling displays of automotive parts, and parts for parts, and packed with seminars about trends in the aftermarket industry, but the big draw is the amazing custom build vehicles that fill exhibit hall after exhibit hall.

If you are a tuner, addicted to project cars or just an auto enthusiast, this is a show you have to see…but probably won’t. It’s an industry show. At the 2017 SEMA show, all 130,000 exhibitors and attendees have the proper credentials and not open to the public. If you want to get into this automotive circus next November, you need to start sucking up to one of the 6500 member companies right now.

Every year there is an attempt to outdo the last year’s show and the 2017 SEMA event was no exception. Trust us, the begging and groveling you may have to do to get credentials is worth it. Here are a few of the highlights from the 2017 SEMA show to prove it.

2017 SEMA Auto Show– An Auto Enthusiasts Dream and/or Nightmare

Keep in mind that the number one reason for the SEMA Auto Show is networking for folks who make their living in the automotive aftermarket industry. Another name for networking is buying and selling and there is a ton of that going on. Hundreds of booths lining what seems like miles of display space are hawking everything from hood hinges, to truck engines to 3d design software.

So, for a good portion of the attendees, they are cruising narrow pathways with tens of thousands of strangers dressed in everything from T-shirts and Mohawks to Brooks Brothers suits looking for that perfect auto part. Deals and money are made, making the show a must-attend for everyone in the industry.

Industry education is another hallmark of the organization and the 2017 SEMA Auto Show offered 21 sessions ranging from automotive electronics, industry trends, vehicle technology and of course women drivers. If you want to know how to run your business better, or just learn what parts are hot in your marketplace, the seminars have that (and a whole lot more) covered.

The Hot Stuff – Custom Build Rides for 2017

SEMA Auto Show attracts the best customizers in the business that ends with a winner of the “Battle of the Builders” contest. At the 2017 SEMA Auto Show, there were 300 entrants. It’s like Disneyland for automotive enthusiasts. Attendees get to meet the builders, learn the back story of the builds, and maybe walk away with some inspiration for their next go at a project car.

Here’s a sample of what was at SEMA Auto Show:

1100 HP 1972 Javelin (Prestone)

1100 HP 1972 Javelin 

Prestone turned 90 in 2017 and they wanted a special car to commemorate the event. They hired Ringbrothers out of tiny Spring Green, WI to build it and the brothers delivered a beauty. The AMC Javelin that came out of Spring Green is unlike any ever imagined. Done in a black and yellow paint scheme to honor Prestone, this ride has a monster combination under the hood. The Ringbrothers power plant of choice is a supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat V-8 with an upgraded blower that brings the horsepower to 1100 or so. Toss in a Chevy automatic transmission and a carbon-fiber driveshaft leading to a Chevy rear end and you have one mean machine. Baer disc-brakes stop the thing and a Detroit Speed subframe for a Camaro supports the front suspension and the Hellcat engine. Did we mention SEMA is about auto parts?

1937 Plymouth Truck with an Aircraft Engine (Nicole Wakelin)

1937 Plymouth Truck with an Aircraft Engine

The guys at the Colorado Auto & Parts wrecking yard outside of Denver created a truly one of a kind custom build. It might not be surprising to find an old truck in a junkyard, but it is surprising that a 7 cylinder Jacobs radial engine from a Cessna 195 airplane would be there as well. So, what do you do when you have this combo. Build a hybrid truck/plane of course. They hacked off the hood to make room for the 300 hp. Radial engine and they connected the engine to a TH4000 automatic transmission by a belt. And then the fun begins. Inside there are left and right steering yokes, a single brake pedal for each, and a throttle located between the two just like a Cessna. There are red and green running lights, a “no step” sign on the tonneau cover, and rivets everywhere. What makes the thing a piece of art is the finish and fit. Incredible attention to detail makes you believe this hybrid might actually have existed in the 30s.

Prius RT8 (American Racing Header)

A Different Kind of Prius – Very Different

Builders at American Racing Headers force-fed a Prius a 707 hp. Hellcat V8 engine and a bunch of other goodies. While the body looks like a regular Prius, inside it is definitely not. If the engine swap wasn’t enough, a Whipple supercharger was added to give it a few more ponies to play with. The transformation needed some custom work to support the V* including a custom ladder frame, a four-link rear suspension, a nine-inch rear axle, carbon-fiber driveshaft, six-speed Tremec manual transmission, and a full roll cage. The final touch was the humor displayed in the labels plastered on the bumper including “Fixed in the U.S.” and “Burns Gas and Rubber.” The boys at American Racing Headers say they are serious about using the car for a daily drive.

There is of course much more to see and do. Sponsor demonstrations from Ford and others take place in the parking lot and include taking attendees for a short drifting ride in a 60s Shelby to tire manufacturers burning rubber with slides and skids. And finally, there are the people. Everyone loves cars and everyone is ready to talk auto. This is one show that you have to attend!