The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show held every year at the Las Vegas Convention Center is a celebration of everything excessive in the car market.
While the original premise of the car show was the display of automotive aftermarket products, the event has expanded to include major manufacturers seeking to expose new products. Often the exhibits include cars and trucks that have been raised or lowered, fitted with huge tires, and equipped with massive engines. These vehicles are often borderline absurd.
SEMA is closed to the public, and entrance is only granted to those in the industry. The intent is to permit vendors to show their wares to those who might purchase bulk orders of superchargers, suspension kits, and more.
Despite the limitation, SEMA continues to grow with estimates of 160,000 people attending in 2018. Every year the cars and trucks get wilder.
Here are twenty strange photos people took at SEMA.
20 Big Bandit from Zombie Body Shop
Built by the Zombie Body Shop in Winnipeg, the Big Bandit is a combination of five trucks. The vehicle started with a 1977 Dodge motorhome chassis and a 440-cid (7.2-litre) V8. The Frankenstein-style body followed, created with parts from four vintage Ford trucks. After 270 days dedicated to the construction, the completed truck was driven 3,800 kilometers from Manitoba to Las Vegas.
19 1958 Chevrolet from Japan
Takahiko Izawa of Rohan Art Design applied a five-millimeter-thick layer of primer on the body of this ’58 Chevy before spending six months to hand-carve every inch of the coating with elaborate designs. The entire body was then covered with a chrome-style paint. None of the car’s metal was etched, not even the bumpers. The entire effect was done with paint.
18 Flaming 1954 Ford Tow Truck
Backyard mechanic Vin Erwin took two years to build his masterpiece, a ’54 Ford two-ton tow truck. The vehicle was disassembled; everything cut down to produce a lower stance and then reassembled. The only parts that are not original are the grille and the wheels. The truck participated in a huge display celebrating Hot Wheels’ 50th anniversary. Perhaps it should be one of the next toy models.
17 Red Graham Sharknose
Graham was a Detroit-based automaker that manufactured cars in the 1930s but suffered financial woes and ceased production in 1940. This 1938 Graham cabriolet made from a sedan demonstrates the unique front-end styling characteristic of the Graham cars. Powered by a Ford 302 engine under the long hood, it boasts a custom chassis with an air suspension and rear-opening doors.
16 Green Goblin Customs Shop
If there had been a contest for the worst-looking cars at SEMA, the Green Goblin would have contended for the top prize. The awkward vehicle that took six months to build, started with a 1962 Chrysler Newport that had been stripped for parts. The roof came from a 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the side doors welded shut, and then a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado engine was installed in the rear.
15 Electric-powered 1949 Mercury
Although this 1949 Mercury looks like it was just hauled out of a garage after being abandoned for more than 50 years, the power comes from the latest technology. While the body and the interior are original, the Merc boasts a custom chassis with dual electric motors and an 85-kWh Tesla battery pack. This sleeper generates 400 horsepower, 470 lb-ft of torque, and reaches a top speed of 193 km/h.
14 Dodge Rat Rod ‘Resurgence’
Refurbishing a custom rod doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. This steampunk-inspired Dodge Rat Rod is an example. It was fabricated on a Dodge chassis with a chopped 1936 Autocar truck cab installed over the rear wheels. Resurrected Rust Garage built the vehicle for less than $3000. OK, so it looks like a $3000 car, but it is cool anyway.
13 Twin Engine Mini
Ireson Motorsports of Fort Myers, Florida custom built this Mini with gull-winged doors, an air suspension, composite panels, and a single-seat cockpit. A regular at SEMA, the two-toned blue and orange beast is powered by two Honda B16 engines. Based on a 1965 original, this nitrous-injected Mini pickup generates a combined 1115 hp.
12 Mid-Engined Berlin Buick
This “wolf in sheep’s clothing” Volkswagen was a returnee to SEMA in 2018. The Berlin Buick is a mid-engined Beetle that was built by Browns Metal Mods in Port Leyden, New York. The team at Browns removed the rear seat and installed a 215ci (3.5-liter) Buick ‘Nailhead’ V8 and coupled it to a modified VW transaxle.
11 Twin Mill Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels first introduced the Twin Mill into their toy collection in 1969. Although the idea of twin engines is cool, the practicality of the design seemed preposterous. However, the full-sized version arrived at SEMA as a close replica. The car not only features two power plants, but its original suspension was replaced by an airbag conversion courtesy of Level Ride Air Suspension.
10 2018 Sherp ATV
Featuring a Halloween-themed display at SEMA, the Sherp ATV has been called: “The ideal machine for survival in the apocalypse.” The off-road vehicle can climb a step one meter high, and the sealed body allows it to float. A skid-steer machine, it can climb out of the water onto ice and uses unique fuel reservoirs to keep it moving while tilted.
9 2018 Nissan Kicks Sound Machine
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato
Nissan agrees, so the company created the DJ-ready Kicks. Vehicle Effects in Hollywood fabricated the SR-based Sound Machine the includes more Bose speakers than the standard Personal Plus sound system. They are mounted inside and under the vehicle, and an articulating rear drawer supports the Pioneer DJ equipment.
8 Unpainted Emory RS Porsche 356 / 964
It’s not clear if this unpainted modified Porsche 356 is a work in progress or left in its crude form intentionally. Rod Emory's shop married an actual 1960 356B body with a 1990 Porsche 964's structure and brakes. The Porsche is powered by Emory’s signature Outlaw 4 flat-four engine and rides on center-lock 17-inch wheels.
7 Yellow Volvo TP21
Originally used as military vehicles in Sweden in the 1950s, this unique sedan/truck Volvo TP21 is extremely rare. Only a few thousand were made. This one has been lifted and equipped with oversized off-roading wheels. The original 90-hp Volvo six-cylinder engine was jettisoned in favor of a big block Chevy V-8 making this a vehicle ready to take on any obstacle.
6 Tesla-Powered RWB Porsche 911
At first glance, one wonders: where is the engine in this 1977 911? StreetFighter LA replaced the traditional internal combustion engine with Tesla-sourced electric motors producing 563 electric wheel horsepower. While no changes were made to the 911's chassis or engine bay, the subtle modifications to the body make this one a sleeper.
5 Hot Wheels Deora II
Adults who played with Hot Wheels cars as kids are occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of their favorite toy in full size. The Deora II is one of those. It became a best seller when launched as a Hot Wheels collectible in 1968. The full-size version, built in 2001 to commemorate Mattel's 35th anniversary, features Cab-forward design with flip-open front hatch, rear-mounted V8 engine, and automatic transmission.
4 Car or Artwork
Clearly, this rolling masterpiece of tubing and weldments is not street-legal, but as a work of art, it is a stellar achievement. Although the front end is equipped with coil-over shocks, suggesting that the vehicle could be modified for use on the street, the unidentifiable structure mounted on the backend may be a deterrent.
3 The Age of Aquarius
Rick Dore’s “Aquarius” has been described as, “…a delicate balance with undeniable rhythm and flow, masterfully executed by some of the most gifted hands in custom car building and metal shaping.”
The flowing teardrop body is complemented by elegant and stylish details like the handsomely scalloped side pipes. The enclosed pontoon fenders feature a chrome touch rearward, and the ornate DuVall-style windshield highlights the lift-off hardtop.
2 CrystalNinja Porsche 356 Speedster
The 1956 Porsche 356 California Widebody Outlaw by Aston-Garrett, a Bruce Lafko Speedster, is completely covered in over one million Swarovski crystals. The task of meticulously gluing all the crystals took over five years. Surprisingly, the application to Guinness for "Most crystals on a car" was declined as the vehicle did not have at least 1,001,000 crystals.
1 Polaris Slingshot Three-wheeler
This Polaris Slingshot Three-wheeler was converted into a four-wheeler to support its massive blown V8 engine. However, all that power is a bit of overkill for the lightweight aluminum exoskeleton which vaguely resembles corvette lines. Although the “flow-through” design creates a fascinating high-performance vehicle, the lack of a smooth body most certainly creates more drag.
Sources: car and driver, speedhunters.com, msn, autoref.co.za, autocar.co.uk