SEMA 2011: Part One

Words by Matt Willis

Its only been a few weeks since we were in Vegas for SEMA 2011. I must say…it feels like its already been months. Between reviewing all the photos…going to other events…and of course catching up on the day-to-day crap, I’m exhausted. The good thing is…the year is coming to a close. Which doesn’t make a huge difference to us because there are still a number of high profile events in 2011 that have yet to go down, but at least everyone (including ourselves) will get to spend time with family and relax a little through the holidays…that’s always important.

So…here’s the situation…there was literally so much content from SEMA that we decided we’re going to approach the coverage in a different sort of fashion. Tim and I frequently consult each other on what cars are cool…sort of like the guys on Top Gear and the “Cool Wall”. On the show floor we were no different. Often times we completely disagreed or just liked/disliked specific parts of a car. Sometimes the cars just had more meaning to one of us. Some stuff was just plain jaw-dropping and other stuff looked a little out of place. The point is…we both had our own perspectives…as everyone did. And in that regard, we decided to sort of split the coverage in two pieces…the first set being from my perspective and the second from Tim’s. It should make things a bit more streamlined and consolidated. We’ll also have the complete set of pictures on our Facebook gallery later on, so you can flip through the whole show as we saw it…

We packed up our things and left San Diego on Monday afternoon. As many of the Socal heads know, the drive to Vegas is quite uneventful…other than passing the occasional uniquely-named rural town like Zzyzx, Needles and Thermal, its pretty boring. We arrived in Vegas around 9pm, where we then headed east to my grandparents’ pad in the Henderson area. It’s about 20 minutes from Henderson to the strip…not too bad. Once we got there, we unloaded our gear and headed back out to the Mirage Buffet to eat. It’s one of Tim’s favorite spots so we hit that up first. After walking around the strip a bit, we decided to head back, prep our stuff for the next day and then grab the most sleep we could.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to get our media passes and just start going through the show, shooting whatever we could. There were two primary challenges with photographing SEMA…the tight layout and the volume of people. It got frustrating at times…but eventually you find different angles and such and learn to move forward. Plus we had four days to cover…it wasn’t like we had to have all of our shots by the end of the first day. Having multiple days definitely helped and gave us some breathing room…it also allowed us to plan ahead and prioritize effectively in-between. We already knew that SEMA was going to be larger-than-life just from the amount of people walking down the registration hall. And then…figuring out there was more than one hall…oh man…just so much stuff in one place.

Anyways, on with the pics. Enjoy…

Heading down after we got our passes…

Walking along the exterior of the central hall, I spotted this old rally-spec Subaru Impreza. I love rally cars and rally racing of any kind…be it trucks or cars or whatever…the guts that it takes to do it continues to baffle me. This was either a livery of one of the 90s class Rally cars or a real one that was in really great shape…


This beautiful NA1 NSX was tucked away in the corner of the main plaza.


Eibach’s Evo X…


Audi R8 Spyder…

Mishimoto’s beautiful right-hand-drive S13. This SR20 is built from the ground up with a Crower stroker kit, fitted with a Turbonetics 650 turbo, and fancy Artisan intake components…


9K’s sharp looking S2000 making it’s debut. Amuse body work and Signal Green seem to make a great couple…


At the entrance to the main hall, Chris Rado was on scene showing off his new Supra build. The outside looked nice and all…but I was really hoping to see the monster engine bay all finished up. Unfortunately, when the hood was lifted, there were still some pieces missing. It’s coming along though…by the looks of it, there’s no doubt this thing will be making some serious power.


I just bought Need for Speed: The Run and Rado’s Supra is one of the featured cars. I like EA’s concept of bringing real-life race builds into Need for Speed games for everyone to experience. Driving Rado’s time attack tC in Shift was a blast…its too bad The Run is a terrible game haha…

I’m not (and never have been) an MKIV Supra fan. The power and potential is one thing, but I think they looks are very lack-luster. The styling on this one, though, is very tasteful. The bright stainless finish on the HRE wheels and the jet black paint contrast so well and give it a refined appearance.

I’m a huge Porsche fan and I go nuts over 911’s. This is a 997 Cup car, which shares the new 3.8 GT3 power plant. I would just love to hear one of these in action…unfortunately they don’t run them in the U.S. circuit…


This drag Civic was at the Exospeed booth. We saw this car at the IDRC 2011 Finals in Fontana a few weeks before.

Hondata hatch that also ran at the IDRC finals…


Kyle Higgins’ STI that we saw running strong at X Games 17.

Miss Genna and Ashley Malia representing Spec-D Tuning…

Cool engine bay accents on this ZR1 from American Car Craft…


One of two Shelby GT500s that were being raffled off by Ford. Tim’s always wanted a ’67 GT500 so he was drooling over this…

…and here’s the other one…

If I had to pick a favorite from the whole show, this would be it. The ALMS M3 is just breathtaking. I love the craftsmanship and research that went into this car. The aerodynamics, the wide body, the channeled carbon fiber undercarriage, the duct work, the cockpit, the integrated side-exit exhaust, the custom Rays GT2 wheels and the growl of the BMW V8…this car embodies everything that I love about automobiles. It is one car that I can truly call…complete.




This dragster caught my eye…I thought it could use some more aircraft fittings…


Ken Block, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and the Monster Girls on the Ford stage…

Brian Deegan’s Rallycross Fiesta that won X Games 17



I loved Rotora’s booth. Rotora makes high-end brakes that I can’t afford…


They had their GTR up front-and-center…

Full Race turbo equipment was on display for both Honda B- and K-series engines…

Aggressive M3 in some kind of touring class. Looks great with the black wheels…


Down in the wheel and tire section, we found a Fisker Karma at the CEC Wheels booth…along with some blondes and nice hardwood floors…

…and a rear view. The Karma is an all-electric car that makes around 400 horsepower…not bad at all…and I think it looks great.

Nitto had a kickass booth with some classy models, freebies, soda bar and a bunch of their tires on these cool displays…in my opinion, one of the best booths at the show…

Kenda Tires is apparently involved in all sorts of motorsports but if it weren’t for their booth, I wouldn’t know of them otherwise…

One of two RWB (Rauh-WELT Begriff) Porsche 911s on display. RWB has its own style that’s become very popular in the recent year or so. The flared fenders, whale tail spoiler and wide rear wheels are now iconic. This one was commissioned by Illest and ran at Global Time Attack the very next week.

Another iconic Porsche at the Falken booth. This is an ALMS GT2 version that you may have seen gracing the streets of Long Beach.

Lamborghini Aventador with its wings spread at the Giovanna wheels booth.

Pretty Nissan Skyline at XXR Wheels…

I love this Camaro NASCAR body. This was in the “Green” section of the show where they had all sorts of environmentally conscious R&D on display. I’m not sure what was special about this…other than the new body, the only difference I noticed was the fuel injected engine rather than carbeuration.

One of two Le Mans Corvettes on display from Chevrolet.

Porsche GT3 RS in the Mother’s tent outside…

Trucks and off-road vehicles were also a big hit at SEMA. We don’t look at trucks a lot here on the site, because its kind of a different realm altogether. Trophy trucks are just plain awesome, though. These things are made to run very demanding endurance races such as the Baja 1000. Maxxis had a couple of them on display for us to check out…

…Yo dawg, I heard you like off-roading…

No seriously though…this thing was seriously outfitted…notice the disc brake is actually on the driveshaft…not at the wheel hubs.


This Super Snake from Galpin Autosports made my jaw drop to the floor. It’s difficult to even describe how wide this thing was. This wasn’t an ordinary Super Snake either…this thing was pushing 1,000 horses. Just ridiculous. Absolute perfection…


Here’s a 400-horsepower Focus RS-420 from the same booth, in its iconic lime green color. People are usually on the fence with the new Fiesta/Focus family…I personally am very fond of them. I like Ford’s new direction…a topic I will go further into at a later time…

This confused the hell out of me at first. I thought it was some sort of VIP Boxster thing with a Panamera front end. As a Porsche guy, it was totally driving me nuts…I even considered it being some new Porsche that I didn’t know about. Until I started looking at the details, of course, and realized that the door handles were actually from a 350Z. Then the interior made sense, and some of the body lines fell into place. So, it’s a 350Z with a Panamera kit and VIP styling. I like it…I think it works. At the same time, I have to ask myself “WHY” out loud…but I guess if the owner wanted the best of both worlds then that’s his/her gig. Cool nonetheless…and it is SEMA, the one place to see crazy builds like this…




Time attack WRX…

Mr. Block’s Gymkhana car sitting just outside the demonstration area. He did a few runs for the crowd that we’ll share with you soon.

Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s team working to get the Falken RTR Mustang ready for action…

Out back, Chevrolet was taking people for rides in their flagship ZR1. These things sounded so badass…

Flawlessly painted Mercedes SL at the BASF-Glasurit booth. Glasurit makes some of the most prestigious coats in the world…



Hennessey Venom GT at the Meguiar’s booth…



I’ll stop there for today…more to come tomorrow!

Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook for more updates and extras…

Thanks for reading!

2 responses to “SEMA 2011: Part One”

  1. Thanks for including our 2001 Subaru Impreza rally car in your gallery! It’s actually not a vintage replica but rather a recently built car that I race in the United States Rally Championship and California Rally Series events. She just got some fresh paint before the show, so it was looking especially good in your photos. We’ll have to run over some more bushes competing to properly break in the new livery. Keep it Dirty! – Aaron @

    1. Thanks Aaron! Where do you race? Baja? Local deserts? – Matt

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