What you need to know about SEMA Show 2018

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The floor of the annual SEMA Show is littered with booths and demonstrations of new aftermarket automotive parts. | SEMA photo
The floor of the annual SEMA Show is littered with booths and demonstrations of new aftermarket automotive parts. | SEMA photo

Editor’s note: Get more news from the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas by checking out our dedicated page for daily updates.


Next week, more than 150,000 people will pour into convention centers in Las Vegas to see the latest and greatest in automotive aftermarket and service products.

The main attraction is the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association’s annual showcase — the SEMA Show — which is so large that it spills out of the three huge buildings that comprise the Las Vegas Convention Center and fills the adjacent parking lots, and even a good share of the Westgate convention center located next door.

And not even a mile away, the AAPEX show takes place. AAPEX is short for the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, and its show focuses on products for people who install parts and provide vehicle maintenance services.

Both are trade shows and not open to the general public.

The SEMA Show is massive. It takes about 26 miles of walking — the distance covered by marathon runners — to visit every booth as the show features thousands of companies that specialize in automotive aftermarket parts.

The show has come quite a ways from its start a few decades ago as a small gathering in Southern California, where a few companies displayed their wares on tables outside a sports stadium.

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Here’s what you need to know about the show and the announcements we’re looking forward to the most at SEMA 2018.

Can I buy tickets?

This is a big snag for most people: The public is not allowed in. The show is limited to buyers, sellers, sponsors and the media. The public can check out some of the impressive displays staged outdoors, and can attend the SEMA Ignite car show (with a ticket) on Friday evening, but that’s it.

Its just a bunch of parts?

And much, much more. While the focus of SEMA is, of course, on automotive accessories, the show offers forums and speakers about everything aftermarket. Topics will range from the expected product introductions and trend discussions to accessing markets in other parts of the globe, and everything between.

Will there be celebrities?

Of course. Many companies will bring in their celebrity spokesperson(s) to shake hands, chat with people and simply enjoy the show. A scroll through the show calendar shows hundreds of listings for celebrity appearances.

Tell me more about the unveils

SEMA is a place where some of the top automotive brands pull back the curtain on their latest aftermarket accessories. But it’s not just the automakers: A handful of the world’s top design shops also bring their creations to Las Vegas.

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In no specific order, these are the unveils that have our interest, if not our attention:

Crate show: In addition to the Camaro, Chevy will also show off three crate engines at SEMA. The 6.2-liter LT5 from the Corvette is on the list.

Blazer’s back: Ringbrothers has a Chevrolet K5 Blazer restomod coming, but all we’ve seen so far are some shadowy images. The full unveil, including the LS3 V8 under the hood, will be its debut.

SEMA Vehicle Reveal: Dave Kinding, Richard Petty’s Garage and others will show off the cars they designed for SEMA.

Mustang and more Mustang: Ford will unveil at least five custom Mustangs at the show, while Classic Restorations will bring its Boss 429.

Super GT 40: Superformance and Magnaflow teamed up to design a retro-looking GT 40 with a souped up EcoBoost V6 under the hood in place of the V8.

Crazy Camaro: Chevrolet is expected to introduce a new color, Shock, that looks like a neon lime-yellow. A slew of Camaro accessories – including a black wing, Recaro seats and Brembo brakes -– will also be introduced.

One mean Demon: Speedkore will display its beastly carbon fiber-bodied Dodge Challenger SRT Demon capable of making 1,400 horsepower.

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Hot hatches: Honda has been a little mum on everything its bringing to SEMA, but a Civic Type R TCR is on the list. A Volkswagen Golf R modified by APR will be at the show. It should push about 536 horsepower.

So how do I follow all this?

The ClassicCars.com Journal will have a full team on the ground all week. Be sure to follow our coverage and stay updated on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Seems like a huge “missed opportunity” to not have a day or two for the customers that actually buy these parts, etc and create the market place! All the efforts made to gather and display this show are a perfect venue for the customers of the hobby/sport.

  2. I am the President and Owner of D’s Classic Cars Street Rods. My question: I would like three tickets, one for myself, my General Manage and one for my Accountant. "How much are these tickets and when can I get them?"

    • You don’t need to "buy a ticket" (even if one was available). This just isn’t a regular car show. And regardless of the fact that there are cars here, they are not usually not displaying cars as you would see at the new car auto shows or at the new car dealerships. The cars shown are mostly customized or modified or tricked out with accessories and components you buy in the aftermarket. And the reason they are on display is to show the dealers what the latest trends are and what customers want and are buying– AND what is newly available for businesses to sell to retail customers. THIS is where the retail dealers find out what to stock to see to retail customers. And there are other things like jacks, lifts, tires, battery chargers, tools, headlights, tail lights, waxes, oils, wheels, tires, and more, but this stuff doesn’t get publicized because it isn’t near as flashy as showing a bright-color car with big wheels. Or a hot model standing next to a car. So people who have not been to SEMA see this stuff on TV and in articles and think this is all they’ll see there. Not true… at least not completely true..

      As a legitimate business owner professionally involved in the automotive industry, all you need to do is register… and they give you the nice badge and you’re in.

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