The post-SEMA comedown is something you either welcome or dread, and there’s seemingly no in-between.
I can’t recall many other shows or exhibitions that are both so renowned and divisive at the same time like SEMA, it’s a proper love/hate kind of deal. Personally, I choose to take the good and ignore the bad, which is how I approach pretty much every show or event. For certain, nothing in this world is perfect and it’s up to each of us to take what we want from any given situation.
The SEMA talk is relevant here because in recent years LT Motorwerks (LTMW) have been turning out an incredible number of what many would consider the ‘halo’ builds of the Las Vegas show.
The latest models bagged, kitted and tuned before most of us even get the opportunity to see a stock example on the street.
What might not be obvious to those of us from outside California, is that LTMW is based in a part of Los Angeles county that is a hotbed for tuner car activity. The shop itself is a stone’s throw away from Irwindale Speedway, and is nearby quite a few other respected and famous names in the modified car-building world.
Ordinarily, we tend to turn up to LTMW in the days before SEMA to capture the chaos of multiple builds coming together at just the right time before they’re delivered to the Las Vegas Convention Centre. This time, Mark decided to drop by weeks after SEMA, and to no one’s surprise it turns out that the SEMA crunch at LTMW is a 365 days of the year sort of deal.
We’ve long since stopped trying to make apologies of these sort of builds, and as Mark quite succinctly puts it: “I would much sooner they exist than they didn’t.”
I would then like to take this opportunity to point you towards my personal thoughts on this, detailed in a previous feature called ‘The Overfender Paradox.’ To summarise, these cars don’t make a whole lot of sense when only viewed online or on social media (I’m aware of the irony of presenting said cars to you digitally online), but they make one hell of an impression in person.
If you’re like me, and get a kick out of car-spotting even the most mundane of rare cars out on the road, then you might be able to relate to the sight of one of these spaceships lurking amongst ordinary commuters.
These are the cars we drew as kids; big wings, big wheels, impossibly low and with exaggerated proportions.
It’s really only been since 2013 that these sort of builds have become feasible. When Liberty Walk debuted their Lamborghini Murciélago in 2012 at SEMA, it was still on stock suspension so it was always a bit compromised from an aesthetic point of view. When the 458 made its first public appearance in 2013, it was only outfitted with Liberty Walk’s own lowering spring kit.
When a car is designed to be a visual showpiece, first and foremost, then the ride height has to be perfect. Of course static setups can work, but you really need the benefit of air to make the most of the build and to avoid the limitations of traditional springs/coilovers.
Try driving this Liberty Walk GT Evo-kitted Aventador at this ride height while static and it most likely wouldn’t be able to move without it tearing itself to pieces. If you were to raise it on a static suspension platform, it would cost the car a lot of its impact. It absolutely has to look absurd to work, which means that it has to be sat millimetres from the ground when parked up.
To go this route with a car, it just has to look (literally) unbelievable. It shouldn’t look like it’s capable of existing, because that’s part of the appeal.
Of course, some will bemoan the compromise of outright performance with these kits and ride heights, but they’re infinitely more usable than similar examples tied down to a fixed ride height.
For the little that it’s worth, I tracked my Mk6 GTI for years on Air Lift Performance 3H, and never once did I feel like the suspension setup on the car was limiting it in anyway. It was a sentiment that was consistently shared by others who had the opportunity to drive the car, who had their reservations about air beforehand.
Any product that encourages you to drive a car more often is a good one, in my book. The advances in digital management for air suspension systems, along with the rigorous testing and damper development have only contributed to air’s abilities. If Cody Miles can keep winning events and championships in his Air Lift Performance-equipped Impreza, then there’s no reason why someone else can’t either. The debate has long since ended – air has proved its worth.
While taking cars to these extremes will never attract a 100% approval rating, I’m much happier to see someone taking a grinder and drill to these cars in order to enjoy them as often as possible, versus the other owner that brags to their friends about their low mileage, never driven ‘investment’.
Cars are for driving, and that doesn’t matter if it’s cruising down PCH or going ten-tenths at the track. Once someone is behind the wheel enjoying themselves, that’s what is really important.
I’m just glad its Long Tran wielding the tools here, because I think he’s pretty much got the hang of it.
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