Another SEMA Down - Final Gear
Attending the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show every November is an annual tradition. The show has been held every year since 1967, starting in the basement of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. As the show continued to grow, it moved to the Anaheim Convention Center, and then in 1977 it landed at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In recent years, the show has drawn more than 125,000 registered attendees, along with a fair amount of non-registered folks. At its current rate of growth, the SEMA Show will overtake the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) very soon.
If you’re a gearhead at all, the SEMA Show is the Holy Grail—a must attend by any means necessary (not that I would ever condone sneaking in, since the show is closed to the public). The outdoor displays are, unofficially, open to the public. And the Friday afternoon SEMA Cruise is certainly a must-see. Watching all the cool display vehicles drive out is simply amazing. And for the first time ever, SEMA held a huge car show specifically for the public, called SEMA Ignited. It was on Friday night after the show had closed and was a huge success for its inaugural year.
Inside the show, I noticed two very interesting things: the amount of diesel trucks on display was up from previous years, but the rigs on display seemed to lack the performance we’d expect, based on their appearance. This is a really unfortunate trend, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I hate to think it, but has the EPA really gotten us all so scared that we can’t show off our high-performance diesels anymore? The hot rod crowd had any number of insanely built muscle cars, complete with huge turbos, loads of nitrous, and no-exhaust aftertreatment.
Maybe I have it wrong; maybe people aren’t scared of the EPA. However, the alternative is even worse: Are we losing interest? This can’t be the case, either. The National Hot Rod Diesel Association (NHRDA) is seeing record attendance, and sled pulling is more popular than ever. Sure, it’s more difficult to modify new trucks, but people are doing it. And companies are producing new products for these trucks in record numbers.
So, that must mean only one thing: the diesel-performance crowd isn’t interested in the SEMA Show. Fair enough. There was still a metric ton of other diesel goodness to check out. Most trucks were lifted pretty high and had big wheels and huge tires. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were a few HDs dropped to their rockers. A couple of diesel-powered rat rods stood watch, though their attendance was down from previous years. And I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the two race trucks that did show. Bully Dog had its Pro Street drag truck on display, and G&J Diesel trotted out its new Duramax-powered Pro Stock ’41 Willys that’s driven by Ryan Milliken.
The 2014 show was a good one, and using it as a gauge for the industry as a whole I’d say we’re heading in the right direction. Attendance was up, there were more exhibitors than I’ve ever seen, and I could hardly turn around and not trip on a truck of some kind. I’m just hoping next year the diesel performance crowd can gather with some force and show the industry exactly who we are.