Overwhelmed in Vegas: A SEMA Newbie Navigates the World's Most Intense Automotive Show

It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Las Vegas time, when the pretense of politeness wore off.

Feeling punch drunk, and perhaps ready to throw an actual punch, after five hours of walking all over the Las Vegas Convention Center while attending the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, I whipped out my phone for a pic of a stanced Nissan or Porsche or whatever (I don’t remember) and bumped into another person doing the same. The look we exchanged is the kind of look two strangers share in a movie scene – the look that precedes a bar fight or street rumble.

Hours earlier, we’d have both smiled and said “sorry”, but the day was clearly wearing on all involved. We grumbled and grunted some sort of acknowledgment that may or may not have been apologetic, and moved on.

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Ford Mustang Lithium: 900 Horsepower, Entirely Electric, Six-Speed Manual

Ford’s whetting electric appetites at SEMA this week with its new Mustang Lithium prototype. Officially a one-off model for the show, the automaker said it was present to prove how utterly dope future electric performance vehicles will be. Good timing, too, as the debut of Ford’s all-electric, Mustang-inspired crossover is almost upon us.

Ignoring the timing in relation to the Mach E, it’s mildly curious that the brand would first preview the prototype at an aftermarket trade show. But it’s worth noting that the electric Mustang actually cobbles together quite a few parts from various catalogs. The manufacturer informs us that Lithium is equipped with Ford Performance’s Track Handling Pack and Brembo brakes sourced from the Shelby GT350R ⁠— though they’re the tamest inclusions by far.

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2020 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak Announced at SEMA

While this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) event was laden with utilities and pickups, American manufacturers have not forgotten models riding closer to the ground. Dodge presented the latest incarnation of its Mopar Dodge Challenger “Drag Pak” — presumably spelled poorly due to the existence of Ford’s Drag Pack cars. Unlike most vehicles at SEMA, it’s something you can theoretically own.

Normally, SEMA display cars exist to showcase individual parts. While this also applies to the Challenger, Fiat Chrysler’s parts arm is at least interested in offering a comprehensive ass-hauling package. It’s a turnkey racer, something the industry has embraced a bit more fully these last few years. Yet the Drag Pak isn’t a track car meant for curves or corners. It’s all about straight-line speed and is legally obligated to keep itself off public roads because it’s not good at doing anything else.

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QOTD: Totally Embarrassing Mods?

The SEMA show kicks off today in Vegas, not that any of the general public will be allowed to wander inside the convention center halls. Bizarrely, given the amount of money spent in the aftermarket every year by real people, SEMA is a trade event and only those toiling in the automotive aftermarket industry are deemed worthy of a badge.

I digress. There’s a very good chance that most of us, especially in our younger years, spend our hard earned cash on very suspect and — in retrospect — totally embarrassing aftermarket gear for our rides.

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Powerrr: Mopar Teases an Elephant-sized Crate Engine

Are you ready for a Dodge Omni R-GLH? (Really Goes Like Hell)? Okay, maybe this new engine won’t fit between the fenders of an old Chrysler subcompact, but it will probably plug quite nicely under the hood of your 1970 ‘Cuda.

As is Fiat Chrysler’s wont, they’ve left us plenty of clues over which to mull. All of them point to one thing – a return of the 426 Elephant engine.

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Chevrolet Gives the Camaro a Much-needed Nose Job for SEMA

In what might be one of the quickest shifts to a styling change in recent memory, it appears Chevrolet might be into the idea of fixing the gaping maw on its Camaro SS by repositioning its bowtie.

Gee … if only someone had mocked up such a fix in the form of a hastily-cropped image. Oh, wait! That’s right! We did just that last week.

Thank you for listening, GM.

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The C-HR R-Tuned: If This Is the Direction Crossovers Are Heading, We'll Stop Complaining

Intended to be the best of both worlds, crossovers deliver the ruggedness of a sport utility vehicle with the handling characteristics of a sedan. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, we’ve often found them lukewarm — sacrificing the best traits of either segment to deliver something that can bridge the gap between them. If that’s what you’re looking for, then there isn’t much of a problem. But we’ve often thought you’d be better off in a hatchback or a more traditional SUV.

Crossovers do have a role to play, however. I find petite examples particularly adept at city duty. But there aren’t many crossovers offering driving excitement below the $40,000 mark, and none of them are particularly svelte. Toyota seems to understand our plight and, in continuing its attempt to rebrand itself as a bold automaker, decided to make something genuinely thrilling out of the ho-hum C-HR.

It’s called the “R-Tuned,” and the manufacturer claims it’s the quickest CUV ever to grace God’s green earth.

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QOTD: Having Aftermarket Regrets?

This week, the population of Las Vegas will explode with leagues of auto industry people attending this year’s SEMA Show, an extravaganza filled with aftermarket car products and over-the-top custom vehicles.

Pretty much every gearhead on the planet has affixed an accessory or five onto their rig — with varying degrees of success. From underglow lights to themed valve covers, most of us have at least one aftermarket accessory we’ve affixed to a car that we now look back upon with deep regret.

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TTAC News Round-up: U.S. Marshals Raid on SEMA Nabs Parts Plagiarizers

Federal authorities busted numerous nefarious organizations for selling illicit auto parts at the SEMA show this week.

That, the automotive industry loses Martin Leach, endangering lives has led Takata to mull bankruptcy, and VW’s diesel emissions scandal continues as the company races for the finish line… after the break!

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Seven Off-Roaders You'll Never See Off the Asphalt

For the automotive aftermarket, SEMA is all about showing off the latest and greatest gear, and more often than not that comes in the form of vehicle builds around the Las Vegas Convention Center. There’s everything from mild to wild, but there’s also plenty of trucks and SUVs that go so far over the top that they reach a level of absurdity.

That leads us to this collection of trucks. Although fitted with suspension lifts and aftermarket wheels, in spite of the aggressive tires these trucks and Jeeps at the 2016 SEMA Show will live their lives on asphalt and never see the dirt.

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TTAC News Round-up: Your Factory Ford Mustang Racecar Has Arrived

Ford is offering a new turnkey GT4 series racecar, meaning ‘Stang owners can now race on a track instead of just strip mall parking lots.

That, Volvo is moving S90 production east, a Texas woman is suing Honda and Takata for almost fatally spraying her with bits of her own car, and Mopar is letting you refresh old cars with new Hemis with a lot less hassle… after the break!

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EPA Ends Bid to Further Justify Itself

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is dropping proposed policy language that would have done, well, nothing.

That’s right, and it would have made a great Seinfeld story line: faceless bumbling government agency seeks to reframe public debate with a redundant, unenforceable, and unnecessary policy revision only to meet unanticipated wrath from industry and enthusiasts, forcing it to ultimately retract its proposal.

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Showdown Over EPA Racecar Regulations Begins in Congress

Is it curtains for modified street cars on the racetrack, or will a compromise save the day?

The first meeting of a congressional committee tasked with deciding the fate of drivers who race modified street vehicles took place on March 15, and a glimmer of hope emerged, according to Jalopnik.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill — Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 — was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate in a bid to make converted race vehicles exempt from proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

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Bipartisan Bill Aims to Kill EPA Racecar Regulation

Attention, racecar enthusiasts: Your Congressional representatives are looking out for you!

Normally, this phrase would be met with suspicion and outright fear, but for those fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation on racecar conversions, it’s the best news they’ve had in weeks.

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would protect the track-only use of modified street vehicles for use in competition, a practice the EPA is seeking to prohibit.

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Mission Inaction: EPA, Volkswagen, and Your Racecar

The temperature was already well above average on Friday, September 18 when the Environmental Protection Agency issued Volkswagen a steaming-hot Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act. The seriousness and accuracy of the allegations are now well known. Emitting up to 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxides is no small infraction, particularly when done with intent. And as a result, heads quickly rolled and resigned at the Volkswagen Group. The company continues to reel from the impact of its malfeasance as new penalties are imposed.

What has been going on at EPA Headquarters? Gina McCarthy was the agency’s Chief Administrator when the scandal broke. She is still in charge. Christopher Grundler has been at the EPA since 1980 and was the Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) on that warm fall day. He too, remains at his post. Despite calls for resignations from lawmakers, such as Michael Burgess House R-TX, no senior EPA staffers are known to have been dismissed with cause related to the VW scandal.

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  • Carlson Fan The way the truck drops in the rear and the bed/tailgate become a ramp is genius! I'd buy it just for that alone!!! It would be awesome for loading snowmobiles and garden tractors in the back. However, my trucks need to be able to regularly tow heavy loads long distance, summer & winter. Sorry folks, current battery tech. isn't even close to what it needs to be for me to think even one second that a battery truck could replace my current ICE powered truck. An EV for a DD makes sense , but for truck you need a MUCH better battery.
  • Inside Looking Out For midsize sedan it is too small. It basically is a compact car.
  • Stodge I test drove the 200S and damn, its suspension was so firm, I was convinced it didn't actually include suspension at all. It hurt my spine and hip, it was that firm.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird If Mopar had only offered sport hatch versions of the 200 and or Dart they might have sold more of them for folks who wanted some more versatility without having to go for a small utility Compass Patriot or new at the time Renegade or Cherokee.
  • El scotto I started driving in the late 70's. The cars high school kids could afford and wanted were very very worn out muscle cars. Oh Lordy those V-8's bring back some happy memories. Oh there some outliers in my crowd, a VW Bug and a Dodge Scamp with slant six; neither car would die. In 10 years their will be young people wanting very used Teslas or Dodge's with hemis. B&B, I say that if someone is excited about their EV, Hybrid, or Hemi welcome them to the club of people who like cars.