The automotive industry goes on a pilgrimage to Las Vegas each November for one reason: the SEMA Show. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show is the largest automotive trade show in the world, with nearly 7,000 vendors from every corner and niche of the industry gathered in one place. Well, technically the show takes up three exhibit halls and a few parking lots, and it is the most overwhelming show of any kind I have ever attended! Both vendors and manufacturers displayed the latest technology, hottest vehicles and coolest products. This was my first time attending this event, and I’d like to take you through the whirlwind that I experienced as a newbie at this most coveted industry event.
There’s everything for everyone: suspension, lighting, tires, detailing products and, especially interesting to me, a lot of Ford cars and trucks! The SEMA Show may be the ultimate place to make connections and develop your network with vendors, organizations, media and fellow car enthusiasts. Close to a hundred seminars with guest speakers from major brands were on hand giving product demonstrations, providing various trainings and workshops. I attended the opening day of this insane event. The show ran November 1-4, 2011, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Click here to view all of the Ford and SEMA related content on Ford Social.
To start of a busy day trying to cram one week’s worth of information into one day, I decided to grab breakfast at the SEMA Opening Press Conference held at the Las Vegas Hilton where they would announce the winners of the 2011 SEMA Awards. The food was great and it satisfied some of my hunger; however, I was really hungry to know who the winners were. A row of vehicles were blanketed on the floor, and I tried to guess the make and model of the vehicles underneath those mysterious black covers. Trophies were displayed adding to the anticipation. Could Ford sweep the 2011 SEMA Awards? Ford Explorer, Fiesta, Focus, F-series trucks and Mustang were nominated for their respectable categories. The winners were revealed and I was in a huge state of shock when Mustang, Fiesta and Focus did not win. That doesn’t mean the Blue Oval left without a prize; the Ford F-series won SEMA’s Hottest Truck Award. SEMA people pulled the blankets revealing a trio of F-150s during the acceptance of the award by a representative from Ford Racing. The Ford delegation was happy and had big smiles while posing for pictures. I was pretty happy myself, but yet disappointed that Ford didn’t return to Dearborn with awards for Hottest Car and Hottest Sports Compact Car.
At any car event I attend, I usually like to pay my first visit to the Ford booth, so I made my way towards the Central Hall. I expected to spend the lengthiest time at this booth, since there is no place like home, right? The display and layout were unlike any other auto shows I had attended. Ford usually takes up a large rectangular block of space at the LA Auto Show and Orange County Auto Show with a lot more vehicles, technology present and engaging activities on the floor. Other manufacturers did take a more traditional layout with their displays at SEMA as if it was like a new-car auto show. I felt the Ford booth at SEMA was very long and narrow with vehicles lined up on both sides of the aisle. The carpeting down this long aisle resembled wide LeMans racing stripes to me. What I though was really unique about this display was the way that Ford paid homage to Ford Racing’s 110th year celebration with a racing theme and displaying past and present icons of Ford Racing. Historic Ford Racing was represented by Henry Ford’s 1901 Sweepstakes, the second oldest car I have ever seen in my entire life. I also saw Dan Gurney’s brilliant red 1967 Le Mans winning GT40 Mark IV and Jim Clark’s classic 1965 Indy 500 winning Lotus-Ford 38/1. These celebrated Ford race cars were in outstanding conditions. I was really excited seeing the race-purposed 2012 Focus ST-R and Brian Deegan’s rally-cross Ford Fiesta. I really loved the aggressiveness of how these cars looked. The ROUSH RS3 Focus with a beautiful ROUSH supercharged 2L Inline-4 on the floor was clean, stylish and hot too! The RS3 Focus was my favorite concept at the Ford booth. One of the coolest and most original concepts I saw was the fire-fighting vehicle Matchbox F-350 Super Duty® Brush Truck by Superlift. I used to play with Matchbox cars, and this concept brought out the kid in me, as did the Ford Fiesta by Hot Wheels, which was also there.
Ford was also well represented outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center occupying a huge portion of the parking lot where Ford Octane Academy “instructors” Ken Block and Vaughn Gitten Jr. took time from their busy schedules to drift around a closed course entertaining fans. I saw Tanner Foust’s Ford Fiesta there too which I’ve seen several times prior, but a cool sighting nonetheless! I had to visit Galpin Auto Sports right next to the course because a bright green Focus RS was catching my eye. And then, a custom wide-body matte-orange/black BOSS 302-X got my attention too! I was drooling. The BOSS 302-X was one of the most incredible vehicles at the SEMA Show and the most memorable car for me.
I was attending the SEMA Show for the first time and it certainly will not be the last. It was an experience I will never forget and adds to the Vegas excitement. There was too much to see! I’m already excited about next year’s SEMA Show.
This article was guest written by Tom Fong, a Ford enthusiast, to share his experience from the event.