In an age where visual noise saturates every facet of our lives, there is one particular automotive event that not only embellishes the excess, but also single-handedly shapes the upcoming year of modification trends under one roof (well, several roofs) of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
I’m talking, of course, about the legendary SEMA Show—an industry-only trade show for companies and professionals who are part of the Specialty Equipment Market Association—which is a weeklong gathering in Las Vegas designed to showcase the newest, most innovative cars and parts of the industry we all obsess over.
As always, the massive congregation took place during the week of Halloween and filed automotive personnel alongside partygoers on all travel arrangements destined for Sin City. The level of flashiness on the show floor equals that of what Vegas itself is known for. Each booth space trying to top every other for the attention of the all-important attendee results in a constant escalation of ostentation.
To the outsider, the handful of Las Vegas Convention Center halls bursting at the seams with over 180,000 visitors and all of the associated attention-grabbing content can be overwhelming. However, through all of the noise, I’ve found I can always narrow down a select group of standouts—in no particular order—which are in a league of their own. Let us begin…
1. Streetfighter LA’s Tesla-swapped RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF Porsche
Okay, seriously? This car is the past, present, and future all wrapped up in one beautiful package. It takes the tremendous nostalgia of a 1977 Porsche 911, outfits it with inch-perfect-fitting BBS RS wheels underneath of the clever RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF Backdate widebody kit, and generates 4,000 lb-ft of torque from its electric Tesla power plant. The car itself was a standout long before I ever noticed the lack of a combustion engine in the rear, thanks to the stunning Porsche Ivory paint, perfectly matched Burberry interior, and the overall execution of the entire project. It was—without a doubt—one of my favorites, and with Porsche entering the realm of the elite all-electric racing series, Formula E in 2019, perhaps this is a tiny foresight into the future of Porsche’s automotive initiative.
2. Evasive Motorsports x Voltex Racing S2000
Right into another completely stunning vehicle, and one of the main reasons I was eager to set foot on the SEMA Show floor. America’s resident S2000 gurus, Evasive Motorsports, teamed up with renowned Japanese aero juggernaut, Voltex Racing, to create the first stateside vision of the new Voltex Racing Circuit Version III aero kit. The exterior pieces were actually assembled in a similar fashion to that of an RWB Porsche. Weeks before the SEMA Show, the kit’s creator (and owner of Voltex Racing) Akihiro Nakajima was flown over to Evasive from Japan to equip all of the S2000’s aerodynamic pieces properly, and with the same care that he put into their original conception. The car dubbed the EVS2-V4 isn’t just a luscious looker, though. A Toda 2.3-liter stroker engine, which is further coerced by a new HKS GT8550 Supercharger, sends the power through an OS Giken seven-speed sequential gearbox. It is sure to be an absolute assault on time attack competition in 2019 when it begins testing, and I can’t wait. Just imagine grabbing gears in this monster! It is truly a remarkable piece of work, which more than represents not only the growth of worldwide time attack as a sport, but also the evolution of aerodynamic transformations for road-going vehicles.
3. Riley Stair’s Vibrant Performance 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Not being able to get within several feet of a car at the SEMA Show is usually a good sign that I am in the right place, and that was the case with Riley Stair’s 1970 Pontiac in the Vibrant Performance booth. Vibrant is an industry leader in performance metal tubing for exhaust and induction solutions, and offers various materials, lengths, and bends perfect for fabricators. A seamless match for the company’s affiliation with the fabrication crowd was to have a stunning piece of fabrication genius front and center in their booth. This masterpiece’s creation was not without its woes, however. As Stair sacrificed not only every single ounce of his free time, but also his paid time, too. You see, he spent every waking hour in the 60 days leading up to the SEMA Show just finishing the car, to the point where he actually quit his full-time job just to complete it on time. That’s an amount of dedication that is unheard of in this day and age. He hadn’t slept for days when the final reveal happened on the first day of the show, and you’d have to agree that it was worth the sacrifice. The completed vehicle is utterly awe-inspiring and deservingly commanded the attention of everyone who laid eyes on it. A job very well done.
4. Ryan Hoegner and Eibach Suspension’s Porsche
What do you get when a Porsche owner with countless years of experience and tenure in the automotive aftermarket industry decides to build his barn-find 911 for the SEMA Show? Well, you get this amazing piece of German machinery. This is the second Porsche in my gang of six standouts, and for good reason. Ryan Hoegner, of the distinguished Eibach Suspension and the illustrious Eibach Honda Meet, has been around the block; he’s seen it all over his years in the automotive industry, and keeps on trucking. So when it came time for him to pursue this 911 build, the catalog of industry acquaintances itching to be involved with its completion was too long to list. Every area of the car has been retouched, remastered, reworked, or restored in some way by partners like Rywire, WillyWerx, or Sleepers Speed Shop, which makes the end result absolutely exquisite. Personally, my favorite part is that you won’t find any widened fiberglass fenders riveted on anywhere. Just the sleek curvatures of the OEM Porsche bodyline grace this chassis, and that’s really all it needs. I somehow seem to mention the same thing every year about a stock-bodied 911, but its subtleties were just refreshing in a sea of flamboyance on the show’s floor.
5. Mike Burroughs’ H&R Springs x Stanceworks Model A
Builder of many an internet sensation, as well as founder of the ever-so-popular Stanceworks website, Mike Burroughs has accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time. Mark down building this mega 1931 Ford Model A to his extensive list of achievements. It combines many elements (in his typical fashion) to create one very interesting vehicle. For example, let’s take the body: it isn’t restored to peak condition with glistening paint, but it also doesn’t need a tetanus shot like other similar builds. It utilizes a seemingly sophisticated frame, complete with double-wishbone suspension and inverted dampers in the front, while the rear has a race-bred cantilever setup fashioned into its Spartan design. Power is made from a VMP-supercharged Coyote V8 engine, and that power is transferred through the drivetrain to a set of centerlock IMSA DPi race wheels complete with spec wet weather tires. It’s tough to put my finger on exactly what this thing is meant to do, but it’s a well-crafted quality creation, and garnered immense attention on one of the automotive world’s biggest stages. Kudos are merited!
6. Rohan Izawa Art Works 1958 Chevy Impala
Last but most certainly not least is a truly unique piece that really needs to be seen in person for the full effect, but I’ll do my best to express its astounding detail. Here we have an impressive 1958 Chevy Impala covered in extremely intricate hand engravings, which is the latest creation from Rohan Izawa Art Works in Japan. You might remember some of their other makings on display at past SEMA events (here and here). Normally famously adorning a Kuhl Racing widebody kit, this Impala is different, utilizing only stock bodywork, and a myriad of Lowrider-specific accessories like Dayton wheels. Often thought to be a textured wrap applied to the car, the entire design grafted into the bodywork was engraved by hand and painted over for a one-of-a-kind finish perfected by Rohan Izawa. Each year on the SEMA Show floor, I hunt for their projects, and each year I’m further amazed at the level of complexity enveloped in their cars. I already can’t wait to see what they cook up for their 2019 display.
Well, that does it for my brief highlights, but there was so much more to be seen, so be sure to check out our in-depth gallery below for the rest of my favorites from the 2018 SEMA Show.