2003 SEMA Show Highlights

November 6, 2003

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) holds its annual trade show in Las Vegas every November. And every November the convention center there -- the entire convention center -- overflows with cars and stuff that can bolted, welded, glued, or spit-wadded onto them. Take the seven deadly sins, imagine every possible way to indulge in them that involves a car or truck, and then multiply that by a thousand and you've got SEMA.

Some of the aftermarket products displayed at SEMA are spectacular and at least as many of them are crap. But it's undeniable that the combined market for efficacious and cruddy car stuff grows every year and the OEMs ignore that at their own profits' peril. So every year for the past several years, more and more of them have been consuming more and more of the show's floor space in order to show how well their particular vehicles can be customized and their own stocks of personalization components.

Of course the 2003 SEMA Show was the largest one yet. And for at least these four days, every girl with a good tan who's just graduated from Las Vegas High School and can teeter atop a pair of Lucite platform spike heels, can find make a few bucks by standing next to garishly painted cars.

Automotive highlights follow. For photos of the girls, try AutoExtremist.com.


Though practically every other manufacturer is taking a run at them, Hondas remain the most popular vehicles with the younger portion of the aftermarket. At SEMA this year Honda and Acura pressed their advantage by re-launching their Factory Performance packages of components for Acuras as "A-SPEC," rolling out some twisted versions of the Honda Element and Acura TSX, and displaying some representative vehicles from various tuners and racers.

While A-SPEC includes the conglomeration of bits introduced last year under the FP brand for the RSX Type-S, it also brings with it a new kit for the 2004 TL. The kit's new springs and revised shocks lower the TL by an inch and are tuned to work with specific 18x8.5-inch alloy wheels wearing Yokohama tires. A decklid spoiler and lower body components painted to match factory colors, and a whole passel of soon-to-be-prestigious A-SPEC badges complete the visuals. The TL A-SPEC stuff goes on sale this month only as a complete kit that must be installed by an Acura dealer. The price is expected to orbit somewhere near $5000.

The A-SPEC package for the slightly smaller TSX sedan isn¡¯t ready yet, but the TSX A-SPEC Concept -- through sheer dint of its name if nothing else -- shows they're working on one. The Concept's body kit, 18-inch wheels, and slightly modified suspension all seem destined for production. The prototype Recaro front seats and Brembo front brakes are probably long shots.

The Honda Element Concept doesn't seem destined to do much more than look pretty at SEMA. Wearing 21-inch wheels, a lot of custom body pieces and powered by a 200-horsepower version of the 2.4-liter VTEC four, it's at least one direction in which the Element can be modified. That leaves a lot of other directions unexplored.

General Motors

Honda may have the youngsters pretty much covered, but it's GM that's traditionally inspired the greatest loyalty amongst hot rodders and the aftermarket in general. They had vehicles from every division (some nice, some dopey), have entered the "dub" business with new 20-inch accessory wheels for full-size Chevy trucks and SUVs and displayed some truly mouthwatering crate engines -- the kind of powerplants that make buying that derelict '67 Camaro sitting in a pasture seem almost rational.

2003 Leno Buick Roadmaster SEMA

2003 Leno Buick Roadmaster SEMA

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