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Top Trends From the 2009 SEMA Show

The SEMA Show is not only the year’s best opportunity for the specialty-equipment industry to do business, it also serves as the proving grounds for trends that will either meet quick and superficial ends or will take hold and dominate the thoughts of builders, fabricators, designers, engineers and the like for the next 12 months.

The top trend of the 2009 SEMA Show wasn’t a vehicle or product, however. It was a business philosophy, namely, survival. Businesses that attended and exhibited made a commitment to set-up for success in 2010. Twelve months ago, the economy was in free-fall and no one knew where it would land, writes Motor Trend editor Angus MacKenzie. “This year, the mood among most exhibitors was a mixture of relief and quiet optimism: We’ve survived the worst, and things are slowly getting better.”

And with the worst behind, exhibitors offered a mix of innovative, optimistic and playful vehicle builds and designs.

Old School Meets New
Ring Brothers Fairlan
Ringbrothers Ford Fairlane was a highlight for many, including Motor Trend and Jalopnik’s writers. A Roush V8, some chop work and artfully integrated billet and carbon-fiber work make the Afterburner an innovative blend of old and new.

Compact Cubism
Kia, Scion and Nissan now all have mobile boxes, and with the success of the Scion xB, why not? These cube cars, with their unique stance and highly customizable layouts, have become top sellers with a young generation of car enthusiasts. The Kia Soul, which made its SEMA Show debut last year, and the Nissan Cube offered platforms for a variety of manufacturers, from mobile audio wire and component makers Scosche to veteran Nissan tuners Stillen.

But the xB, which launched the box trend more than five years ago and now is in its second-generation, still holds sway over the pack. The Scion annual design contest brought out some truly inspired takes on the xB, including the stretched, chopped and Moon-inspired pickup/Ruckus hauler pictured above built by the crew at BOWLS in Los Angeles.

Lexus Continues SEMA Hot Streak
The Lexus IS-F was a hot debut at the 2007 SEMA Show, and this year Lexus maintained its SEMA momentum with the first North American showing of its LF-A supercar. But it was the newest variation of the IS family, the convertible, that got many enthusiasts pumped, as InsideLine noted.

Diesel: Not Just for Trucks and Converted Benz 300s Anymore
Livingston Cadillac
More than a few journalists covered this sinister sled, but the guys at got some nice shots of Amanda Livingston’s '65 Cadillac, complete with Cummings turbodiesel drivetrain. Although the flat black exterior and sparkle top aren’t breakthrough aesthetics, the diesel swap makes an interesting twist. Here's more flat-black love from the Show floor.

Cake and Eat It Too
Ford Ecoboost
The gap between traditional hot-rod values and environmental responsibility further narrowed at the 2009 SEMA Show. GM debuted its E-Rod engine line—430hp LS3 crate engines that allow you to legally title a project vehicle in California—within a ’55 Chevy. And Ford displayed its application of new and old school with its twin-turbocharged Ecoboosted ’34 Ford, shown above.

Show Concepts to Reality
Jay Leno Camaro
Although billed simply as a Jay Leno project car with GM, with a meager 425 hp from a V6 and a pair of Turbonetics T-3 turbos, recent auto show speculation suggests that this Camaro may very well be the next Z28—an idea welcomed by the writers at InsideLine.

Bigger, Wider, Larger…

Mopar Jeep Lower Forty
Mopar’s Lower Forty Jeep caused a stir in off-road circles, as noted by the crew at AutoWeek. The tires on the Lower Forty measure 40 x 13.5, wrapped around 20-inch wheels. There’s also a nearly 400hp Hemi for good measure.

Only at SEMA…
WRX STI snowcat
...will you find a Subaru WRX STI snowcat. Unless you happen to ski or board at rally driver and DC Shoes cofounder Ken Block’s Utah compound, in which case you might be offered a ride up to the half-pipe in this purpose-built STI snowmobile. It offered a “why not?” moment for writers such as Motor Trend’s Ed Loh.