SEMA 2021: The Things That Divide Us

It’s been a pretty wild, if not unusual ride covering the SEMA Show remotely this year.

previously explained why I’ve been reporting on the event from the guts of 8,000km away. It’s not how we would typically cover these major automotive events, and hopefully normal service will resume in the very near future.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to consume as much media from the event as possible in order to get a better understanding of what’s potentially coming down the road for us as enthusiasts.


This is sort of the point of any of these large-scale trade events. It’s both for companies to share their vision for the next big thing, and also for them to gain vital feedback from consumers. It’s a give-and-take situation which helps to keep the wheels turning.


While things have always been done a certain way in the decades since the aftermarket really established a foothold, we are on the cusp of revolution from both an OEM and aftermarket perspective.

It’s important that we engage with this process, as opposed to casually dismissing it.


Naturally, I’m talking about electrification. While this wasn’t the first year all-electric vehicles have been presented at SEMA, I do feel like it marked a turning point. Not just from the presence of modified electric vehicles themselves, but that outright conversions and off-the-shelf electric crate motors are becoming more and more popular.

This isn’t a story about electric vehicles per se, although they will feature while I try to figure out my own thoughts on them.


Here’s where I currently stand on things: I currently don’t think electric vehicles are perfect by any means. Similarly, I don’t think traditional internal combustion engines are perfect either.

From the limited reading I’ve done on the subject, I don’t think hydrogen or e-fuels will be a viable solution in the long run (the energy involved in creating the former and the almost guaranteed prohibitive cost of the latter being just some reasons), which is why I’m willing to give electric vehicles the time required to develop.


I also think that there’s more to cars than just their powertrains, although I’m happy to concede that there are some pretty damn special ones out there.

For me, the most special part of any car is how it feels from behind the wheel. If it drives really nice and happens to be fast, I’m onboard regardless of the energy source.


At the end of the day, fast is fast, which is why I feel like the Evasive Motorsports Pikes Peak Tesla Model 3 is a pretty good place to start a look at the best KW suspension-equipped cars from SEMA 2021.


This is one of the first all-electric race vehicles that has really caught my attention.

Naturally, being an EV makes it perfectly suited for racing at altitude. There’s no power loss for electric motors when compared to their internal combustion relatives when racing above the clouds. The thinner air might affect aerodynamic performance, but it has no effect on the efficiency of the powertrain.


While it differs in one obvious way to its ICE rivals, it’s more alike than you might realise. Both ICE and EV race cars need to be suspended; they need to turn and they need to stop. While the EV has the disadvantage of carrying the weight of its battery packs, the placement of these batteries along the lowest point of the vehicle negates this to some degree.

There’s little weight of any significance above the hubs in an EV.


KW provided a custom Competition 3-way coilover solution for this project taking these factors into account. When matched with a functional aero package (courtesy of Voltex and Artisan Spirits) and a hefty cull of excess weight (carbon fibre doors with Lexan windows, carbon roof, carbon rear windshield and a carbon rear trunk lid) the car becomes competitive.

While Evasive’s Tesla did suffer from some gremlins at the 2021 PPIHC, another Model 3 driven by Randy Pobst won its class beating out multiple ICE rivals. It’s still early days in the overall lifetime of EVs in competitive motorsport, but I’m sure we can expect more as the years roll on.


For the time being, we still have plenty of ICE vehicles to keep you interested. On the Hondata stand was Spoon Sports USA’s recently-completed FK8 Honda Civic Type R, also piloted by Dai Yoshihara.

The car has been built for the upcoming 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race, and has had input from Ichishima-San of Spoon Sports in Japan.


The K20C1 appears to have been retained, although I don’t expect it to be stock. Neither do I expect it to be heavily tuned, as longevity will almost certainly be the goal for its endurance racing appearance.

While trawling the web for more information on this car, I did come across a comment as to why Spoon Sports USA didn’t just buy a TCR-spec Honda Civic Type R and go from there. The response, and I am paraphrasing here, is that you don’t learn anything by buying a race car off the shelf.


While Jonny Grunwald‘s 1,000whp triple-rotor RX-7 was briefly covered in our first Toyo Treadpass story, I figured it’s worth looking at again from a suspension point of view.


While KW don’t offer an off-the-shelf kit for the FD3S, a set of custom two-way Competition coilovers were created for the Pro-Am drift car based on data gathered from Mad Mike’s TCP Magic-built Formula Drift Japan car.

There’s a still some work to make the car competition-ready, such as the installation of a firewall for the fuel system and for the exhaust to be re-routed out the rear of the car. Dare I say it, but I think this RX-7 could be too nice to drift…


SEMA was an opportunity for KW to showcase some of their latest products to the US market, including this manual transmission G82 BMW M4 on KW Variant 4s with 20-inch BBS LMs.


You might have missed that earlier this year KW acquired BBS, and in-turn almost certainly saved the world’s most famous wheel brand from an unenviable fate. I’m not one to normally shout about my own posts, but I think there’s great insight in that feature into both KW and the future of BBS.


I don’t think there’s much point in choosing a side when it comes to the impending flood of electric vehicles into our world. There will always be an industry to support and celebrate the internal combustion engine, and we will always continue to champion them on these very pages.

On a similar note of positivity, we also have the opportunity to shape and enjoy a new approach to car modification. There is so much more to any car than its method of propulsion, and this might be the perfect time for us to implement and learn new things which can be transferred between both EVs and ICE vehicles.

For all of the differences between the two, there’s still enough similarities to keep us involved for a long time to come. I think it’s going to be okay.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Photography by Trevor Ryan
Instagram: trevornotryan

This story was brought to you in association with KW Automotive, an official Speedhunters Supplier



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And this is what I love about SEMA
You get to see all kinds of builds with different kind of styles and they're all just really cool to see


If you're taking a survey, I would never own a hybrid or electric vehicle nor do I ever read articles or features about them. They offer no appeal to me and I simply can't be bothered.


So not even a McLaren P1 or 918 Spyder? Or you're not even a little bit curious what the new Rimac is like?

Fair enough, they're miles out of reach for most of us but they're interesting cars still.


Hi Paddy, correct: absolutely not. While I can admit they achieve certain levels of high performance, they hold no appeal to me and I will not assent to any reason for their existence other than as engineering exercises. They are just very high performance transportation appliances that I would neither drive nor own, regardless of price. For me personally, if it's not turning dinosaurs into heat with three pedals, it is not an enthusiast's car. Your mileage may vary. ; )


The sight, sound, feel, and even smell of a drivetrain impact how we experience cars, but a big turn off for me from EVs is their appearance. They're influenced by aerodynamics, safety, and production costs, but just aren't as visually appealing or exciting as 90's-00's cars, if there were a cost effective conversion for older cars, I think EVs might gain a little enthusiast ground.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

With many cities today banning vehicles with ICE from entering town, it will eventually drive down the prices of EV conversion kits.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Oh boy.. Savage 2 Savage's Chevy pickup looks gnarly!


Interesting post! I think to some extent this has already happened in mountain biking, where ebikes have become prevalent - and perhaps a bigger issue when self propulsion is a major part of the appeal.

Initially there was much ill feeling around using them, but for most people once you’ve had a go, you realise they’re actually bloody good fun and you’re still putting in effort, you’re just going faster. But the key point is that they’re fun.

My other half owns a Tesla model x - it’s crazy fast but also pretty sterile to drive. That said it’s an SUV and therefore not really designed to be the last word in handling or fun. I’m more interested in electric cars designed around handling - would love a go in something designed more specifically for fun to see if it’s comparable to ICE.

Either way we need to embrace renewables in whatever form as ICE as it stands isn’t sustainable. The ford crate engine fascinates me and hopefully will allow people to still be creative with hot rods yet with a nod to sustainability.


The eMTB / MTB part is a great comparison!


The most important thing about cars is the freedom they offer. The fact that you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. No matter how electric car feels or how fast they are, they simply don't offer this freedom if I have to stop more than 5 minutes to recharge/refuel/whatever. We have sacrificed a lot in terms of this freedom during these years, but with the mile range they currently offer we can definitely say goodbye to what's left of this freedom.


You're absolutely right in what you're saying regards recharge times (to an extent), but the difference with EVs is that you should have a full 'tank' every morning you come out to the car after charging overnight.

FWIW, the last EV I drove had comparable range to my Golf and could charge from 0-80% in 20 minutes.

I'm not trying to convince you, but rather trying to show you the other side of the coin.


Electrification is simply a trend that is bound to come. One thing I felt really pity was that, as a small car lover, hatchbacks like Honda-E have to suffer from smaller battery package, which means lower range and power output. It really isn't the best time around given that the market doesn't need any other cheap and fun car.


I think that as EV conversions become more popular, the cars that get built will appeal to enthusiasts. Especially if there is a manual transmission retained to involve the driving engagement. Ideal gear selection for massive torque and then speed. I know it's not a common take, and not necessarily needed from an engineering point. My mid-drive eMTB conversion uses the gears for loads of power and then you shift for high top end. Wicked fun.


A while ago I was part of a development team at a Start up for an Electric vehicle, doing the dEsign, Packaging as well as suspension and Prototype builds and testing.
Parallel my daily driver was a 1980 Porsche 928. Being a racer and race car designer I understand and love big Motors and the thrill they give.
But on the other side, as I am married, I often drive my simulator with the sound off.......

To the point a ICE car brings emotion, think Busso V6, Big V8, Porsche Boxer, Subaru etc.; but anybody that has had the possibility to REALY drive an EV, knows that even a MPV Minvan EV has handling potential and can be more fun than you think.
You feel the car more, and find new inputs to look for instead of Revs and Vibration., and it offers potential for optimising your racing style and line other than an ICE engine.
I have deisigned bot types of vehicles, from Cobras, Porsche 917 Rep, Sevens etc. to EVs and there is an engineering thrill in both worlds. The packaging of the EV Drivetrain opens possibilities in normal cars and race cars that are awesome, but I agree, the batteries don't help much past a better CG.
Modern cars, both EV and ICE, are governed by rules (Range, Fuel Consumption, Pedestrian safety, etc.) that make emotion very difficult to intergrate into the design - hats off to the designers to achieve that!!
The instant torque shooting of an EV out of an Apex is addictive and don't forget, nobody hears you having fun till the tires start talking....

My perfect garage would have ICE Engined cars for the Emotion and Engineering, and EVs for the fun and engineering.


Is the fourth photo of the green RX7 just a really unlucky color choice or is the RX7 actually sitting on rusty wishbones?


Bronze is the color choice of Parts Shop Max suspension :]


I wonder, who will be the first suspension company to offer an aftermarket version of a cross-linked damper, side-to-side, to employ an active (or at least more controllable and tunable) solution to roll control, similar to the McLaren design (and my personal design from the early 2000's)? Heavy ARB's will be a thing of the past.


I took this as neither an opinion or a debate starter for either ICE or EV, but a long winded plug for KW Suspension... with a bit of click bait thrown in.


Interesting article, cheers! I know it's just promotional but lovely pics. On the detailed suspension photo of the green RX7, what's the compressed small yellow coil spring at the based (between 2 adjusters?) for? Looks like it's just acting as a spacer.