The Truth About Cars » SEMA The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 19 Jul 2014 05:27:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » SEMA We’re Sending Someone to PRI. What Do You Want To Know? Wed, 11 Dec 2013 13:30:18 +0000 missy

While TTAC typically covers at least three of the major US auto shows and a couple foreign ones, usually by proxy in the latter cases, we have never formally sent anyone to SEMA or PRI. This is changing for 2013, courtesy of NASA racer and Great Lakes Region Instructor Of The Year, Melissa Davis, who is not the dude on the right.

“Missy” has been autocrossing and/or road racing since 2006 and races one of the finest cars known to man or woman — the Dodge Neon ACR, of course. She’s been ordered to scour the stands and displays of the Performance Racing Industry show and bring you anything that might be of interest. If you have any particular brand/platform/engine/item type you’d like to see covered in depth, let us know in the space below!

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TTAC Author Gets Schooled: Tries Again Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:47:33 +0000 engine3web

Earlier this week I wrote a little article about the SEMA show and those weird little auto add-ons that so many people choose to stick all over their otherwise decent looking rides. In it, I contrasted performance add-ons with “auto accessories” and tried to poke a little fun at those plastic chrome doo-dads and the people who abuse them. It wasn’t really intended to be a heavy “think piece.” It was supposed to be light, fun and maybe elicit some cheerful banter from the best and brightest. Nice and easy, right? Hell no. As usual, the TTAC readership doesn’t make anything easy…

No excuses, the premise of my article was silly. I said performance add-ons were a good thing and that auto accessories were by their very nature, stupid. Despite that, a couple of you guys took the ball I punted so lazily downfield and ran it right back up the field. The points you made are really good and since my earlier article wasn’t intended to start a serious discussion I’m not sure they got the attention they deserved. But you made me think, and when someone does that I figure they might make others think too. That means another article and, hopefully, a fuller discussion.

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha Image courtesy of

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha
Image courtesy of

In response to my assertion that performance mods were justifiable while appearance mods were not, Carlisimo wrote:

I scoff at mods that looked tacked on, as many of them do. But I understand them. Even a small mod can make your car feel fresh for a little while, and that’s a good feeling. Especially when you know your car isn’t everything you’d like it to be. And I have a soft spot for underglow that I won’t admit to out loud.

Those modders are more honest than those of us who install performance mods. What could be sillier than increasing our car’s top speed from 137 to 140mph when we never exceed 80? Oooh, my coilovers save me a second when I drive around in a circle on a loop in the middle of nowhere. Best $1,000 evar! (I did install coilovers on my Miata. I like them, but it wasn’t a purchase I try to justify.) In contrast, visual mods make their difference 100% of the time, including when parked, and in heavy traffic. That’s value.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Athos Noble wrote:

Personally I don’t care, even in the most offensive of the cases. And I saw plenty of those in Venezuela. Here not so much, but they’re still out there… Brembo brake caliper covers anyone? chintzy 20″ chrome wheels? As far as I’m concerned, people can spend their money in whatever they want.

For example, I would use the aftermarket to upgrade my headlamps to projectors, complete with angel eyes. I also would like a fancier stereo and some “sport” seats would spice up my current ride. Some 18″ wheels would make it look more actual too. And retrofitting later model suspension bits would make it drive nicer. A turbo kit would certainly give it more oomph and coupling it with a LPG kit would make that “affordable” to run. I could sort those issues via OEM bits, aftermarket or a wrecker.

There were other comments as well, and while they were all great these are the two I want to focus on. Part of me wants to follow Carlisimo’s point to its logical conclusion and decry any form of performance add-on for the street but Athos raises a great point when he talks about improving a lot of your car’s basic characteristics through the aftermarket and selective scavenging. It’s clearly not the black-and-white issue I tried to lay out in that earlier, sillier article and I am hoping this new discussion allows us to fully explore the topic.

I’m curious, what are good add-ons for the street? What add-ons have you mounted over the years? What did you hope to gain and did the results meet your expectations? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Photo Thomas Kreutzer

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Plain Jane to Bling Queen Courtesy of SEMA and the Miracle of Plastic Chrome Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:29:48 +0000

Image courtesy of

I hear the SEMA show was last week. You know the SEMA show, right? It’s that important aftermarket manufacturers’ show held each autumn in Las Vegas where various companies try to pitch their products to customizers and retailers. Like all good automotive trade shows, SEMA features hundreds of companies and dozens upon dozens of custom vehicles. The fancy, hand-built cars draw people to the displays and form a pretty canvas on which a company can display its wares. But like any fashion show there is a hidden truth. The special parts on this or that big-name builder’s hot rod won’t have the same effect on your own, more mundane vehicle. No, for most of us beauty is an illusion; the phrase “lipstick on a pig” exists for a reason.

The SEMA show is a big deal because there is a lot of money at stake. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association predicts 2014 sales to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 248 Billion dollars so it makes sense that the manufacturers go all-in when it comes to the Las Vegas show. Why wouldn’t they? If they have a unique product this is their chance to get it to the consumer. My only question is who actually buys this crap?

Now I’m not talking about performance parts – not genuine ones at least. If you drop a bunch of money on a set of headers or a cold air intake and you buy something that looks clean and neat I’m not going to criticize you. A carbon fiber hood saves weight and if it just happens to look really cool on the black and white Twin-Cam Corolla you have tarted up with JDM Trueno badges I won’t laugh – much. But that’s because I believe in performance modifications. Every enthusiast knows the Feds have regulated all the fun out of the business and that new cars are tuned too lean in order to meet strict emissions guidelines. A reflashed control module and a new exhaust just puts a car right back where it should be and it’s only natural that you should want to get everything you pay for, right? Right?

Photo courtesy of

It’s the other stuff that I wonder about, the stick-on bits of bling and little doo-dads to decorate your car’s interior. Larger modifications too, things like Lambo doors and weird body kits. The economy has been tough these last few years and people are hurting. Still, for whatever reason people seem bound and determined to still squander what little they have. What is the point of buying these things? How much time do you spend in your car that you need to have the insides entirely decorated in Hello Kitty seat covers and lace throw pillows?

We’re all car folks here. We all love our cars and if you are like me you probably spend hours cleaning and detailing your ride to make sure it looks its best. But buying this stick-on crap is over the top. When you face St. Peter at the Pearly Gates he’s sure to ask you why you put those fake Buick porholes on your Saturn. What are you going to say then? Unless you are under 18 or a Japanese “gyaru” there’s no excuse.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Toyota’s Retro FJ Cruiser to Become History in 2014 Thu, 07 Nov 2013 15:00:45 +0000 2014_Toyota_FJ_Ult_002

With every mountain climbed, every river crossed, and every supermarket parking lot conquered since its showroom debut in 2006, the Toyota FJ Cruiser prepares to retire to the countryside in 2014.

The retromodern SUV — based upon the bones of the venerable Land Cruiser and the looks of the FJ40 — took one final bow at the 2013 SEMA Show with the introduction of the 2014 Trail Teams Ultimate Edition. The edition will comprise of 2,500 unites painted in a hue called Heritage Blue, offer a TRD off-road suspension ready to take on the Baja 500 paired with knobby BF Goodrich tires and a TRD heavy-duty skid plate, a roof rack to hold all of your precious cargo, and an assortment of high-tech systems to keep you from landing upon your roof on the trail.

The Trail Teams Ultimate Edition will enter showrooms in February of 2014 (final year FJs are in showrooms now), with production of the FJ drawing to a close before the beginning of the 2015 model year with 200,000 examples sold in the eight model years it has been with the world.

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Stillen Will Sell Scion FR-S Body Kit Designed By Contest Winner – Should GM Bring Back the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild? Sun, 22 Jul 2012 16:27:58 +0000

Former Nissan racer Steve Millen’s aftermarket performance company Stillen is running a contest involving Facebook. Amateur designers can style the company’s body kit that will accompany Stillen’s performance toys for the Scion FR-S. The winner will get to attend SEMA this November, when the body kit will have its first public display. When I saw the headline my first thought was, “What, another social media hypefest?” Just the other day, Derek Kreindler questioned the value of Nissan’s efforts to crowdsource product planning via social media sites. Does the general public know any more about designing cars than it does about product planning? As thousands of aesthetically challenged body kits will attest to, the most talented designers seem to be working for OEMs and design houses, not the aftermarket. Then, my cynical self calmed down a bit and the automotive history buff in me took over and I realized that it’s just a new gloss on an old idea. Entrants have to design their own body kit that consists of a front lip spoiler, side rockers, and rear valances. Stillen’s professional in-house designers will judge the entries, winnowing them down to the top 5 designs. Then via Facebook the public will pick the winner. Stillen has provided a template at the contest’s webpage, and they are encouraging people to enter (multiple times, if they wish) even if they don’t have top level digital rendering skills, saying that the judges’ focus will be on shape and design, not how much Autodesk wu you have.

The use of Facebook may make this contest look contemporary but it hearkens back to a design competition for young designers that started in the 1930s and lasted over three decades, the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild. Not only was the Guild an important part of the way General Motors marketed itself to young people, but GM’s styling department, then under the leadership of Harley Earl, also used the Guild competition in a serious manner to identify and mentor teenagers with enough talent to actually design cars. Furthermore, at its heyday, the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild was a bit of a cultural force. With over 8 million participants, the only youth organization with a larger membership was the Boys Scouts of America. If you were a member of both organizations, you could use your Guild entry to win a merit badge.

Obviously, the Guild was bit more serious than Stillen’s contest, though the goal was about the same: identify talent. Instead of a trip to Vegas, Guild winners won college scholarships. There were junior and senior classes, with first and second place winners in both age categories, as well as regional winners in the national competition. Guild competition winners didn’t just get scholarships. At least two dozen winners went on to careers as auto designers including some very notable stylists like Virgil M. Exner, Jr., Chuck Jordan (who eventually ran GM styling), Richard Arbib, Elia ‘Russ’ Russinoff, and John M. Mellberg.

Though the rules changed over the years, the original structure of the competition was in two levels. The first was to scratch build a scale model of the Napoleonic coach that had served as Fisher Body’s logo since 1922. Winners of that competition would then design and submit models of their idea of a futuristic “dream” car. In 1937, perhaps as a reflection of how important Earl’s Art & Colour department had become in GM’s business model, along with the establishment of design studios at Ford and Detroit’s contract body builders like Murray and Budd, the rules changed to allow an entrant’s choice of either doing the coach or a car model.

The Fisher brothers, like many other successful Detroit automotive industrialists, were very charitable and the Guild started as an effort in philanthropy, with an emphasis on the scholarships. The scholarships were valuable. In 1934, the top prize was a $5,000 college scholarship. With inflation that works out to about $85,000 in 2012 dollars but college costs have vastly outpaced inflation so a $5,000 scholarship was pretty much a full ride deal. In 1934, for example, at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, tuition was $400 and total annual costs including fees and room & board were less than $1,000 year.

By the late 1950s, though, with past winners working at GM and other companies as designers, many young men understood that winning the competition was a career opportunity to do the thing they loved most, beyond just the chance for a college educations. I say young men because the program was clearly aimed at craftsmen and not craftswomen. Entry blanks in 1930s vintage ads for the Guild say “Boy’s name”, and even into the late 1960s, the ad copy mentioned boys even if the entry blanks didn’t. It’s not clear if girls’ entries would have been rejected but the Guild’s male focus has not escaped attention from academic feminists.

It’s interesting that just as the domestic auto industry embraced youth marketing in the late 1960s, they abandoned the Guild. Perhaps a model making contest was seen as a bit old fashioned after 1967′s Summer of Love. In any case, 1968 was the final year of the competition. Of late there’s been a flurry of interest in the Guild, with books like John Jacobius’ The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild: An Illustrated History and reunions. The vintage models have even attracted attention from the fine art world. Veterans of the Guild have called on GM to bring it back and, to be honest, with the rendering and 3d printing tools available today, the results might be very impressive. If I was Ed Welburn and Joel Ewanick, I’d pay close attention to Stillen’s contest.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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More Sexist Car-Related Claptrap. Have They No Shame? Thu, 12 Nov 2009 18:45:35 +0000

Sex sells. Or does it? I’ve long argued that sex actually gets in the way of selling cars. Who can think about cars when they’re thinking about sex? Sure, the blog posts on The Babes of SEMEN—I mean SEMA get eight billion hits. But so what? Does a pretty face and a pneumatic chest do anything to stimulate people to buy the trash and treasure (mostly trash) on display at a show or available (God help us) via the web? The example here is a perfect example of why you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But as far as I know, the only reason to catch flies is to kill them. Or at least trap them on a sticky stuff until they die. Hey, come to think of it, maybe sexual come-ons (so to speak) aren’t such a bad idea . . .

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