Like the cars themselves, car shows have a personality. Oftentimes that personality is derived in large part from the show’s location. The Concours d'Elegaance in Villa d'Este in Italy and in Pebble Beach in the U.S. have a refined and sophisticated (it’s OK to call it “snobby”) air about them befitting their sophisticated locales. These are car shows where you hear terms like “period correct” repeatedly and understated taste reigns, albeit expensively.
Then there is SEMA. Held in Las Vegas, it embodies the city’s over-the-top spirit. SEMA is an auto show where more is better. Have a car with 800 horsepower? Why not crank it up to a 1,000? Like Las Vegas, it can be a little tough to handle after more than a weekend, but for that short period of time, it’s a blast.
Regardless of what kind of car guy you are, this year’s SEMA show had something that would make you turn your head. From jacked-up trucks to a Frankenstein’s monster of a drift car, here are the seven most drool-worthy rides from SEMA 2016.
CHEVROLET COLORADO Z71 HURLEY CONCEPT
The classic surf-mobile used to be a “woody” station wagon. This collaboration between Chevy and surf brand Hurley has a little more ground clearance. Building off of the Colorado Z71 truck, the concept vehicle was designed to get surfers to the beach no matter what obstacles lay in the way. There is a custom board rack that sits atop the bimini top created to provide shade from the blazing sun. The seats are made from a water resistant neoprene-like material so you can hop in the driver’s seat in trunks and not worry about your car smelling like wet dog for the rest of your life.
DODGE SHAKEDOWN CHALLENGER
The current Dodge Challenger owes a lot of its muscle car lineage and body design to the Challengers of the 70s. So for SEMA, Dodge decided to take a 1971 Challenger and update it for the modern age. With the exception of a few enhancements, the look is pure 70s muscle car, but the guts of the car are even more pumped up thanks to a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 capable of putting out 485 horsepower through its six-speed manual transmission, because with a car this badass you want to have your hand on the stick.
RINGBROTHERS CADILLAC “MADAM V”
The brothers Ring always bring some serious heat to SEMA. One of the builds on display was a freakish Winnebago RV with 900 horsepower, but this 1948 Cadillac fastback coupe was the true star. Borrowing parts from two classic coupes as well as two modern Cadillac ATS-Vs, the car is a great combination of old and new. The chassis was lengthened 14 inches and a carbon fiber hood that took over 600 hours to craft to create a Caddy with plenty of style and giddy'up.
This is what makes SEMA great, because nowhere other than there would you find a Toyota GT86 with its engine swapped out in favor of the V8 from a Ferrari 458. The bizarro creation in all its awesomeness was the brainchild of Formula Drift driver Ryan Tuerck, who showed what the car can do by performing donuts around another Ferrari.
CHEVROLET COPO CAMARO
This car is built to do one thing: go really frigging fast down a drag strip. COPO stands for Central Office Production Order and it was an acronym given to special models of the Camaro with beefed-up engines that required management approval to roll off the assembly line. The new COPO Camaros are designed to compete in the NHRA’s Stock Eliminator classes and will be available with either a supercharged, naturally aspirated, or direct-injection engine.
KUHL RACING NISSAN GT-R
The paint job on this Nissan is absolutely remarkable. The body panels look like they are some kind of ornate car jewelry. Artist Takahiko Izawa created the distinctive look by applying thick layers of paint and then sculpting the intricate patterns. It’s hard to imagine the man or woman that would actually want to drive a car this gaudy (acutally it isn’t that hard), but it is certainly enjoyable to look at.
FJ COMPANY ASPEN PROJECT
While the Chevy x Hurley Z71 truck was built to reach the beach, the FJ Company’s first SEMA vehicle has its sites set on hitting the slopes. Starting with a 1981 Toyota FJ43 Land Cruiser, the crew added a new engine and gave it a matte white paint job that would make G.I. Joe’s Storm Shadow proud.