SEMA eNews Vol. 11, No. 47, November 20, 2008

MUSCLE, TRUCKS & SIPPERS: 2008 SEMA SHOW TRENDS


GM's Camaro Black Concept proved a favorite with showgoers and journalists.

Economic and gas crises be damned, the specialty-equipment industry made clear at the 2008 SEMA Show that it’s not willing to sacrifice time-honored street performance.

Although almost everyone agrees that burning fewer hydrocarbons is in everyone’s best political, social and survival interests, even the most promising green-electric-bio-sparrow’s nest milkgrass technologies aren’t yet ready for mass consumption.

In the meantime, we have diesel performance strides from Volkswagen, improved fuel economy efforts from Honda, a rethink of the commuter car concept from smart, and yes, plenty of petroleum-thirsting, rear wheel-drive options to lead us into the lithium-electric-hydrogen age.

Muscle, Muscle, and More Muscle
Until that day arrives however, we have the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Nissan GT-R—two American icons and an equally iconic beast in its Japanese homeland—all making their respective bows to the tuner and enthusiast communities at the Show.

The Camaro was the official Vehicle of Show and SEMA research staff counted more than 35 of them on the floor, including the four 2010 models that GM showed in its floor display.

Of those four models, some writers, including Motor Trend's Angus MacKenzie and Top Gear.com's Jared Holstein, favored the GS Racecar concept, a tribute to driver Mark Donohue and the Trans-Am racing series.

But an overwhelming favorite seemed to be the Black Concept. InsideLine.com said the sinister mirror black Camaro stood out “without being overt, not an easy thing to do at SEMA.” The 2010 Camaro was “proof positive that the 2010 Camaro can look good even when it’s only packing V6 power.”

But it wasn’t just the new Camaro that got people excited. Check out what the editors at MyRide.com had to say about the ’69 Camaro that won the 2008 Mothers Shine Award.

The specialty-equipment industry is very much on-board with the new Dodge Challenger, every bit the broad-shouldered linebacker of its predecessor. The car was seemingly everywhere.

Hurst chose the Challenger to restart its unique performance vehicle program, started in 1968 and last rolled out with a 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Dodge unveiled the Challenger that driver Samuel Hubinette will pilot during the 2009 Formula Drift season.

But the beast of all Challengers had to be the SRT10 concept, making an official debut at the Show. Stuffed with a 600 hp, 560 lb-ft Viper V10, six-speed Tremec, stiffer springs and revalved Bilstein shocks, and six-piston Brembo calipers, the SRT10 concept proves that, as AutoWeek notes, “there are still talented people in the business who are not working on hybrids or electric vehicles…these people are having high-horsepower, tire-smoking fun.”


The Nissan GT-R made its own debut with tuners and hardcores at the Show. Although officially unveiled earlier this year and one of the worst-kept secrets in the business, the GT-R is the first of the Nissan Skyline lineage available for America’s mass consumption.

One of the most respected tuner cars ever manufactured, the Skyline was previously only available in America through sketchy importers and in a left-hand drive configuration. The GT-R continues the Skyline legacy, with performance rivaling a Porsche 911 Turbo.

The GT-R’s sophisticated electronics have tuners scratching their heads today, but tomorrow holds the promise of scorching horsepower from a twin-turbo V6 that doesn’t need much goose to peg 500.

TopGear.com did find one way to impair a GT-R’s otherwise supercar performance, courtesy of Japanese tuner Branew: slap a set of 23-inch wheels on it.

For a photo rundown of GT-R’s at the Show, check John P’s blog at Fatlace.com.

Tonkas

Thought gas prices had all but killed trucks? Not quite. Ford showed the truck it has been dropping hints about for over a year: the F-150 SVT Raptor. Laughing in the face of rutted desert roads and washes, the F-150 SVT carries Ford’s hopes of dominating the Baja 1000.

Toyota’s Tundra Dually returned to the Show, this time packing an 8.0-liter Hino heavy-truck inline-six diesel. The scribes at Jalopnik were curious about how many fully-loaded train cars it could pull.

Then there’s the mad scientist execution of stuffing a HEMI V8 into a current Jeep Wrangler, dubbed Orange Crush. The editors at InsideLine were impressed.

Sippers

The SEMA Show always offers intriguing contrasts, but none perhaps more so than this year. Where else will you find an 8.0-liter diesel dually and customized smart fortwo’s in the same arena?

Honda introduced its Civic HFP, a variation on the Civic that uses lighter curb weight and aerodynamics to improve fuel economy. Ronn Motors debuted its Scorpion, powered by a hydrogen-injected Acura V6 engine. And Ford showcased an F-150 powered by four electric motors located in each wheel hub.

The inaugural SEMA Making Green Cool Zone featured everything from a George Barris-blessed Toyota Prius with orange paint and scissor doors, to an old Japanese fire engine converted to run on salmon oil from Alaska to Argentina.


There was even a two-wheel movement this year, but not from the motorcycle community. Over in the South Hall, a group of Honda Ruckus enthusiasts, led by the guys at Los Angeles lifestyle boutique BOWLS, showed their enthusiasm for one of the latest tuning movements. Honda’s Ruckus scooter is affordable (around $2,000) and, thanks to an established scene in Japan, has a million parts with which to personalize. Enthusiasts say these 30-35 MPH scooters get about 100 miles per gallon.

But perhaps the darling of this year’s small cars was the smart fortwo. Everyone from German tuner Carlsson (16’s in front, 17’s in back) to Barris got in on the smart act, the latter adding his smart take on his classic Batmobile build.

Undersize Me

While a general trend in the auto business now anyway, downsized rides enlivened the Show, whether it was the Kia Soul Burner or the new GLK from Mercedes-Benz. As a first-time exhibitor at the Show, Mercedes-Benz gave four tuning shops one of its new compact SUVs to transform as they saw fit. The results ranged from chopped-top bling to the flat-matte Pikes Peak Rally-inspired hill climber built by RENNtech (above).

Black, Black and More Black, Please

“Murdered-Out”: This unfortunately-named trend towards painting and tinting everything—body, wheels, all exterior components, windows—black turned up at the Show (witness the Camaro Black Concept or the Mobsteel Ford Flex pictured above). The cool kids call cars like these “murdered out.” The not-so-cool kids call them unimaginative.

Whatever your opinion, they made an impression this year. But here’s one example that went awry, found by the MyRide.com editors. 

Shiny, Flat or Both?

Motor Trend pointed out a trend towards matte, glossy, and tone-on-tone finishes, often all used within the same scheme on one car, as exemplified by the carbon, gloss and matte (hood) textures used on this GT-R.

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