If you have never been to Vegas before, prepare to empty your wallets and leave your morals behind. Not only will you spend $16.00 on a cheeseburger, but you’ll feel overdressed while doing it, especially on Halloween. Which just so happens to be your warm welcome to what is arguably the best automotive show in America, the Specialty Equipment Market Association show, aka SEMA. With tens of thousands of people in attendance from all over the world, and over one million square feet of show to cover, it’s something that anyone who owns a wrench needs to experience.
Kicking things off Monday night was Freaks of Nature’s SEMA Kick-Off Spectacular, showcasing some of the local rides in the area, along with some of those who made the trip from out of town. This included Von’s badass 1967 Toyota Scout that was recently featured in MiniTruckin’ magazine. Located in downtown Vegas, Hogs and Heifers Saloon was decked to the hilt in the true, Vegas Halloween spirit (women wearing skimpy nautical uniforms serving large quantities of alcohol). But if drinking and women wearing practically nothing is not your idea of fun, too bad! If you don’t like it, then you need to sit in your room alone and watch Law & Order, which is apparently the only thing on TV in Vegas.
However hard this may be, it is probably in your best interest to get some sleep that night because you’re about to walk to what feels like the moon. With over one million square feet of show ground to cover, a nice pair of walking shoes is a must. Halls after halls, filled with some of the nicest cars and trucks that anyone had ever seen. Every genre and taste were present, satisfying the pickiest of attendees. You could start by walking outside to admire the hundreds of show vehicles, from slammed trucks to the Bugatti Veyron with a custom matte finish on display in the DUB area. If you were tired of the sun, you could walk around the huge Las Vegas Convention Center to admire all of the latest products from every aftermarket company worth knowing about, and see their products put to work on some of the nicest customs ever built. If that didn’t make you feel poor enough, you could walk over to the Wheel and Tire hall to see customized Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Several trends stuck out this year that should really set the tempo for future builds coming up next year. Pre-runner style trucks were very popular this year, along with lifted 4x4s in general. Some of my favorite builds involved the builder taking a late model chassis and drive train and adapting it to an old body, such as the beautiful Mercedes convertible built by the BASF Corporation. But perhaps the biggest trend is the one that’s been going on for years. No matter what it is, the bigger the wheel, the better. Anything and everything was sporting big rollers, from classics to imports, even if it was making them look old, such as they did on the 1960 F100 on 24s built by 2 Brothers Custom Trucks.
But immaculate builds and new toys are the focus of every SEMA event. What really made this year special, and somber, was the memorial held for former editor and legend Courtney “Tito” Halowell at the Hard Rock Hotel on Wednesday night. The Circle Bar was packed with everyone from close, personal friends to admirers of the work he did for so many years at numerous magazines, all gathered to celebrate his life and influence that shaped the scene for so many years. Custom wrist bands were also passed around and given to everyone present as a permanent reminder of Tito and a great night of celebration in his honor.
In reality, if you don’t know what SEMA is or hadn’t heard of it before this article, then your head has been in the sand your entire life. No amount of writing or pictures can adequately describe the sensory overload that is SEMA. With SEMA 2012 already penciled in for October 30th through November 2nd, expect next year to be just as impressive as it has been for the past 34 years.