If the Vegas strip is packed with cool cars then it must be time for SEMA!
The 2010 SEMA show is in the history books, but what a show it was! The clear message this year was that the automotive aftermarket is on the rebound. Manufacturers had tons of new products to show, show cars were plentiful, and booth babes were back! Crowd attendance was definitely up over last year which is a great sign for all gearheads.
In a change up from last year the the offroad test course was joined by a large skid pad course. It was here that Ford brought out none other than Ken Block to show off his precision driving abilities. I was among the few chosen to ride along with Mr. Block and I can attest to his almost mythical car control.
Speaking of Ford, it was hard to not notice the presence of the big blue oval at the show. Tuesday night kicked off with Ford and Monster Energy presenting the "Unleash The Beast" party outside Central hall. The air was filled with screaming engines, tire smoke and fat beats from T-PAIN himself. Ken Block fired up his Fiesta and thrilled the crowd with 4-wheel power drifts, donuts and a haze of tire smoke. Vaughn Gittin Jr. brought out his Mustang for some drift action from the "correct wheel drive" department. The bellowing V8 annihilated the rear tires as Vaughn brought the Mustang around the track in every direction but straight. The crowd was packed five deep around the entire perimeter of the skid pad. As the engines died down T-PAIN brought his skills to the wheels of steel and rocked the crowd into the night.
But this wasn't the only trick Ford had. Next to the skid pad was an offroad proving ground being patrolled by full out trophy race truck and Ford's newest toy, the Raptor. This was no ordinary "idle the truck around the park and crawl over a bump" experience. No, I was pointed to the passenger seat of a bone-stock new Raptor and told to hold on. My pilot proceeded to slide the truck around like a drift car, soaking up foot tall berms before pointing it towards a massive central jump. With a judicious amount of right pedal the truck launched cleanly into the air and landed with nary a hiccup. I can't remember wanting a truck as badly as this one. Did I mention this was not some dressed up race vehicle but a bone-stock truck? The driver and I even chatted while the A/C kept us comfortable in the Nevada sun.
The fun didn't stop there. Miller Motorsports Park brought out a herd of their Ford Racing Performance Driving School Mustangs to thrash on the skid pad. These drivers are used to chicanes, straightaways and hairpin turns. This was their chance to play and see how they stack up to Ken and Vaughn on the skid pad. Being the official driving school of Ford Racing means that these guys know how to push a Mustang around. After going for a ride with one of the Miller Motorsports instructors I wasn't sure who had a bigger grin on their face, my driver or myself!
During the SEMA show attendees were given a glimpse into the new world of TopGear for American audiences. To promote the show History Channel had several exotic and luxury cars dressed up as taxi cabs complete with a taxi stand. If you were chosen and needed a lift one of the series hosts would ferry you around the show. The real question on everyone's mind though was: will the show be any good? Luckily for me my friend Chris Howd from MotorCityMuscleCars.com landed two of the coveted preview event tickets. After attending the sneak peek Wednesday night I can gladly report that the show lives up to the namesake. History Channel did not simply try and duplicate the BBC show. They picked three great hosts (who are not just American versions of their BBC counterparts) and have put a truly unique spin on the show premise. I look forward to the debut on November 21st.
On Thursday morning PowerBlock TV host Courtney Hansen stopped by the AutoTrader Classics booth for an autograph session for her fans. I was honored to be asked to interview Ms. Hansen while she chatted with her fans. People were lined up half an hour before she was scheduled to appear and the line eventually wrapped down the aisle. If you only know Courtney from her hosting duties on PowerBlock I have to tell you that she is an infinitely more complex individual than she appears. She has the car family background and the work ethic to honestly claim her current position. I don't want to spoil the story though so check back here next week for the full interview.
If you didn't make it out to SEMA this year, or if you couldn't see the whole show, no problem! Simply scroll down and check out over 400 photos from around the show.