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HomeEventsSEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization

SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization

Like aftermarket product producers, Original Equipment Manufacturers use SEMA to showcase their creativity, and even their wild side

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There was a time when the OEMs, the original equipment manufacturers of automobiles, had disdain for the annual showcase of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a group of companies that formed the automotive aftermarket and provided the stuff to make cars and trucks go faster or look different.

Early on, Detroit automakers would send people to the annual SEMA Show, but very quietly to scout out emerging trends. But as the show emerged as an ideal place to display all things automotive, automakers from Detroit, Japan and Europe recognized an opportunity to show off what their own designers and engineers could do in terms of personalization and customization. 

The OEMs realized that the SEMA Show provided a sort of automotive-enthusiast focus-group opportunity to access the potential market for prototype parts before going through the expense of actual production.

Although the coronavirus pandemic limited overseas involvement in the 2021 SEMA Show, several OEMs were present, showing not only their own ideas, but how others were using their vehicles as a canvas for automotive creativity.

Here are some examples:

Dodge Challenger Holy Guacamole concept

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Mopar displayed this 1970s inspired 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody in a color called Rotten Avocado with a “Gold School” Shaker hood scoop, lowered Mopar coil-over suspension, and staggered 20-inch Forgeline wheels. Inside are green-and-yellow plaid seat and door inserts and wood-panel trim, just like back in the ‘70s. And, yes, it has a Hemi.

1988 Chevrolet Camaro ZZ632 Hoonigan concept

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Chevrolet worked with Hoonigan to create a showcase for Chevy’s new and most powerful crate engine, the ZZ632/1000, which is rated at 1,004 horsepower and 876 pound-feet of torque. A Jerico 4-speed transmission relays that power to American Racing VF530 rear wheels, and a custom 4-link rear suspension and Baer Brakes help keep things under some sort of control.

1964 Ford Galaxie 500 homologation prototype

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Back in the mid-1960s, Bill France banned Ford’s 427cid “Cammer” V8 engine as being too exotic for NASCAR racing. This prototype, by Matranga Hot Rods and Brown Auto Design, imagines that France had given the engine his OK and Ford had built the 500 vehicles needed for homologation. The body features a teardrop hood and re-contoured and narrowed bumpers. Since this is a street machine rather than a racer, it has leather seating, Vintage Air conditioning, and a period 8,000-rpm Ford tachometer so the driver knows when to shift the 6-speed Tremec manual gearbox.

Ford Maverick XLT Supercrew 

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Ford displayed this modified Maverick by Tucci Hot Rods of Marcy, New York, which Tucci said was inspired by race cars of generations past. Personally, I thought this was about the coolest vehicle I saw at the show. The color is spectacular, as is the unique wing above the pickup bed tonneau cover (with a similar but smaller 3D-printed lip spoiler up front), and then there are those 20-inch wheels with custom white turbofans. A Borla exhaust exiting the center of the rear end helps extract all the power the 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine can produce. 

Bronco Badlands 4-door

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Also modified by Tucci Hot Rods is this Bronco Badlands mounted on triangular tracks by Mattracks for travel over snow to the summit, where your passengers can use the roof-mounted snowboards while you enjoy the drive back to the ski lodge.

Chevy Beast concept

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Based on a full-size 4×4 pickup truck chassis, albeit with a widened 90-inch track, Chevy says the Beast was built to showcase power and off-road capability. Components include a supercharged Lt4 6.2-liter crate V8 rated at 650-horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, custom suspension, 20-inch beadlock wheels with 37-inch AMP tires, and a quartet of Recaro off-road vehicle seats with 4-point restraints.

Jeep Wrangler Overlook concept

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal
SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

Stretch a 4-door Jeep Wrangler Sahara by a foot, raise the roof with a multi-window Freedom Top, add a third-row seat and head off-road on an adventure with friends, family or both.

Off-roading is aided by a 2-inch suspension lift kit with Fox shocks, 20-inch wheels and 37-inch BFGoodrich tires.

Tacozilla Tacoma Camper

SEMA, SEMA Seen: Automakers strut their stuff to inspire customization, ClassicCars.com Journal

I’ve ready media reports claiming this modern interpretation of vintage Toyota camper was the best thing at the show, but I disagree. In fact, I was pretty much unimpressed. The vehicle takes its name from the old “Taco” nickname for the compact Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, and how it carried a camping shell on its bed back in the day. Toyota says this update, based on the mid-size Tacoma TRD Sport model, pays homage to the early camping units and to the current micro-housing craze. The camper part, by Complete Customs of McKinney, Texas, has sleeping space above the cab, a full bathroom with shower, and a kitchen with a 3D-printed dining table that converts to a piece of backlit wall art when not in use.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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