Las Vegas really is a strange place. Home to over half a million, yet host to tens of millions annually.
As such, it’s a bit like Waikiki, the famous beach in Hawaii’s island of Oahu that isn’t really a beach at all. Instead, it’s mostly concrete with several inches of beach-like material (I think it’s called sand) spread thinly over the top. Las Vegas is a bit the same, as if some maniac had read about a city and then decided to make the most city-like city they could. This isn’t to say Vegas doesn’t have any depth, because it really does. I spent a couple of summers in the city and became enamored by the great culture and ceaseless activity that exists outside the tourist traps.
But you just don’t get any of that if your visit is confined to a few days on The Strip.
Everything on Las Vegas Boulevard has a bit of an artificial air, and I found the air itself painfully dry as I walked from my hotel to the Las Vegas Convention Center for my first day of the 2021 SEMA Show. It is a desert, after all.
In addition to the suspiciously-warm-for-winter temperature, I found myself a bit apprehensive as well, not sure if the SEMA turnout would be a disappointment compared to previous shows.
In the absent year a new addition has sprung up, as the city that never sleeps continues to grow. The West wing of the Las Vegas Convention Center provides an additional 1.4-million square feet of show space, which miraculously has been filled nearly to the brim by booths for SEMA. Not to mention the three usual halls…
While the hot rod and muscle car contingency continues to remain strong at SEMA, I’ve enjoyed seeing the ever-increasing number of Japanese and European cars on display. Naturally, they’ve always played a role, but with the newfound surge in popularity (and prices) of many foreign classics, the cost of parts for these cars have gone up proportionally.
As SEMA is a celebration of all things aftermarket, I expect to see this trend continue, as once slept-on econoboxes become harder and harder to find. Alas, gone are the days of clean $2,000 AE86s and E36s. But as these cars become harder to acquire, it makes more sense to invest in them, make them nice again, and keep them on the road.
This is good news for the aftermarket, and thus the SEMA Show is as alive and well as ever.
Of course, there’s still plenty of room at the show for some good ol’ American iron, as well as for an endless number of really nonsensical creations.
With a new project in the garage, I took the opportunity to do a little window shopping myself.
It’s a car I’ve had a long time, but I won’t let on beyond a carburetor and Classic-series Recaro seats being well suited for it.
It never ceases to amaze me how every notable brand and hundreds you’ve probably never heard of manage to all gather in this one convention center each year. From big to small, if you can imagine it, SEMA has it. And on the bigger side of things…The OEMs
None of this aftermarket activity would exist if it wasn’t for the actual manufacturers who, you know, build the entire cars in the first place.
I loved the retro vibes I got at the Toyota booth, and the juxtaposition of the JTCC-style Accord wagon not far from a full-blown F1 car at the Honda booth wasn’t so bad, either. Though both Toyota and Honda had a slew of new offerings shown in stock trim, unmodified cars are mostly discouraged here.
Some marques do better at gathering the appropriate cars than others. Ford in particular has always had one of the stronger booths in my opinion, and the dramatic presentation makes for interesting shooting as well.
With the new Bronco, the new front-wheel drive with optional 4WD Maverick, and the F150 Lightning among other new or refreshed models, there was plenty of room for Ford to go wild this year.
And wild they went.
When it comes to modified cars, though, one area of SEMA always seems to excel. Shooting in this spot feels a bit like cheating, but it’d be even worse not to share the Toyo Treadpass with you.
With Brandon’s own glorious Z31 displayed here this year, and a few other spotlights to come from this space, I don’t want to spoil the Toyo display too much. But a quick, small taste shouldn’t hurt until Brandon goes into detail with his first story from the 2021 SEMA Show tomorrow.