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Eight Unique Sightings at the 2016 SEMA Show

Automobile logo Automobile 11/2/2016 Steven Cole Smith

We could write a million words about SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas, but this might help sum up the atmosphere: Larry the Cable Guy is the headliner for the SEMA Industry Awards banquet Thursday night. Git 'r' done!


SEMA is billed as the single largest gathering of small businesses in the world, attracting about 140,000 people to the Las Vegas Convention Center between now and November 4. They range from Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America, to the owner of your local muffler shop, who is wearing the same paper credential hanging from his neck as Batey is. You can also bring your husband or wife; they will wear a credential that says SPOUSE.

"It's great to see the show looking so healthy," said Ken Lingenfelter, owner of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. Lingenfelter remembers when the SEMA show was robust, the place to be, packed with manufacturers and strong small businesses. Then came the recession, circa 2008, when people were forced to choose between paying the rent and a pair of new chrome-plated valve covers. OEMs dropped out and the small businesses that packed the floors stayed home. They had rent to pay, too.

Lingenfelter said it was sad to see the show sag, "but it's been rewarding to watch it return to that level of importance and influence. If you're in the specialty car business, you have to be at SEMA again."

Here's a random sample of what you'd see:

  1. Tom Scarpetta was the head of Ford's SVT division, now he's building sanctioned and licensed Ford Mustang replicas, including 1966 Shelby GT 350s like this one, which sells for about $175,000, with everything brand-new, including a 5.0-liter V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission.
  2. Is it possible to have too much nitrous on board your Chevrolet Corvette? No, we don't think so either.
  3. In Ken Lingenfelter's booth: This sanitary Corvette Grand Sport replica from Superformance, with Lingenfelter power under the hood. It's as nicely turned-out as it looks.
  4. In the Amsoil booth, a twin-engine V-twin bike, making it what a V-Quad? Motorcycles remain a huge part of SEMA's stock and trade.
  1. A Ford V-8 bedazzled by over 13,000 Swarovski crystals. OK, that's a new one.
  2. A 1980 Toyota minivan, in the Toyota booth. There to show how sleek the new minivan is, but created sort of a retro minivan buzz, probably unintentional.
  3. Also nothing new: Companies working hard up to the last minute to beat the SEMA show car deadline. These poor guys only got half the body on this Factory Five Cobra replica.
  4. Finally, for the youngsters back at AUTOMOBILEheadquarters: This is a carburetor. Ask your grandpa what it was for.

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