Call me a little biased, but I've been coming to SEMA since 2006 and from that very first year, the biggest highlight for me was always this hall, the aftermarket performance, hot-rod, rat-rod, resto-mod, classic cruiser, pick-up truck, muscle car - call it whatever you like - hall.
It's evolved over the years, too, incorporating everything from pick-up trucks, to Japanese cars, electric propulsion and everything else in between.
The legendary names you'd all know if American cars are your thing, are all in attendance: Mooneyes, Edelbrock, Isky, Holley, Optima, Magnaflow to name just a few. And that's not taking into account the modified cars built by the likes of Troy Trepanier, Chip Foose, Dave Kindig, the Hoonigan crew and Jonathan Ward from Icon, the list again is endless.
For me, it's more about the level of quality rather than the types of modifications. This year, Dave Kindig's team (out of Utah) completely remanufactured a fibreglass Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing reproduction, complete with LS power and modern niceties like AC. Most people didn't pick it as a replica, but the level of detail, the quality of the fit and finish, and the attention to the fine details was mind blowing.
Likewise, my joint highlight of the hall, the 49 Mercury built by Jonathan Ward. We've known Jonathan for a while, and he's most well known for his work rebuilding old FJ Toyotas. Check out Icon 4X4 for an idea of what his team creates.
A few years back, he started a 'Derelict' series of cars that are ratty, original looking exteriors, with right up to date mechanicals.
Not just EFI and an auto, these Icon Derelicts have traction control, ABS, satellite navigation, reverse cameras, the lot. This Mercury had all that and more - Tesla-style electric power with a battery array under the bonnet that had been fashioned to look like an old V8 engine - unbelievable.
The Hoonigan F Truck was outside and looked every bit as crazy as it has in videos, but we also loved the smattering of Japanese modified cars as well. That scene is still huge in the USA, and there's a love for JDM cars that didn't always make it to that part of the world. They are fascinated with the R32 GT-R, for example, and it's not uncommon to see a modified RHD version on the street in the States.
Again, the sheer array of replacement parts, performance gear, remanufactured metal bodies and legendary names on display was more than you can possibly take in, over such a short period of time. While other areas of the SEMA show have grown exponentially over the past decade or so, it's this hall that remains my favourite. Take a look at the video for some of our very brief highlights.
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