Photos by the author, Denise Rounds, and courtesy of SEMA
As years go, 2009 might go down as one of history’s worst for the American automobile. The Great Recession hit enthusiasts hard: two of our three automakers spiraled into bankruptcy, and the loss of American jobs and a big drop in family income put a serious damper on the disposable income that car nuts used to spend on their hobby. And as the yearly Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas is the crowning event for everything automotive, the faithful were very curious to see how America’s economic turmoil would affect this great spectacle.
It definitely had an effect: though the roughly 120,000 members that attended this year’s show is no small number, it was less than was seen only a few years ago. And it did seem like the Las Vegas Convention Center wasn’t as jam-packed as it normally is during this year’s event, which was held on November 3-6, 2009. But typical of our industry, its members made the very best of what turned out to be another great SEMA show by showing determination, excitement, and optimism for better times ahead. Energized by three hot new muscle cars, SEMA show exhibitors showed up with some absolutely wild Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang project cars. You literally couldn’t walk a row without running into a supercharged 2010 Camaro, flamed-out 2009 Challenger SRT8, or slammed 2010 Mustang. And true to form, the aftermarket took these cars and started cranking out go-fast parts en masse. This flood of new parts complemented a large amount of “classic” parts as well–which goes to show that just because it is out of production doesn’t mean that new parts aren’t being built! Of course, the celebration of the new also inspired many companies to show respect for the originals, with many displays of the 1960s versions of these great rides. And speaking of the classics, GM chose to reveal its revolutionary new E-ROD emissions-compliant crate engine with one stuffed into a sano 1955 Chevy, Ford blended new and old models seamlessly in its massive and breathtaking booth, and a trick Mopar tunnel beside the proving grounds was chock full of new Challengers and Vipers sitting right alongside Hemi and 440-powered Chrysler and Plymouth muscle. If that wasn’t enough to blow your hair back, Bondurant’s Corvettes were burning rubber on the proving grounds, reproduction-bodied classic Camaros were giving gearheads ideas, and an electric-powered street rod dropped jaws in the main hall as quite possibly the next step in aftermarket performance.
And as AutoTrader Classics was an exhibitor again this year, it put some special touches out there for the attendees. One of the more impressive ones was the Fusion 1932 Ford, a $1 million piece of rolling art decked out in striking orange. Once showgoers were done gawking at this fantastic roadster, they spent time on the available computers to search AutoTraderClassics.com for a new project, and grabbed some reading material from the expansive magazine racks. There was even an invitation-only happy hour on Wednesday evening for old and new friends!
So even though 2009 was a forgettable year for the automobile, the 2009 SEMA show will be remembered as an exciting event for the automotive industry–and hopefully, the start of even bigger and better times to come.
Specialty Equipment Market Association