BY Ben Bower
SEMA 2018. What a show!
In 1974, I attended The SEMA Show as an offroad racer. Little did I know that I would not miss another to present day. SEMA opens your eyes to all that is possible, now and into the future. It does more than just let you know what is out there in the aftermarket land, but also invigorates the mind to try and do new things. It is the barometer for new tech that is coming.
“When doing business at SEMA think budget. Otherwise, forget the budget and enjoy the ride.”
Number one. SEMA is about people. Making friends, networking, discussing projects and ideas, questioning, watching, and listening. You may never know who you are talking to until they open up knowing you are interested. Many times they get great ideas and potential markets from those cruising the carpets!
The offroad market and presence at the show has grown over the years. This year there were many themes: Adventure, Work Trucks, Older “Jeeps,” Rat Rods to Hot Rods. Every product imaginable was on display either on special builds or separate to show the features. It IS overwhelming, and you can only hope to get most of it.
Bronco as well, so many were looking at the Ranger from a different perspective as well. With reviewing, it seems, the IFS suspension that was on the Ranger will have minimal wheel travel so the aggressive offroaders may be disappointed in what may become available for the Bronco. Without the new on display yet, the older Broncos were well represented, each individually personalized. If there is ever a theme at SEMA, it is To Be Different.
Early Broncos have a very loyal following ….as do Older Jeeps. You will find tons more out on the trails and streets than at SEMA. All for fun!
Along the way, you can’t help but be exposed to the finest automobiles and customs. They all catch your eye, but what turns your head??? It might be stance, paint, an engine, a tire, wheel, build, etc. etc. It is endless, but important is to understand why. Was it the look, tech, or build quality. What did you appreciate? This can be good or bad if you have your own project going. You might want a change…which usually means a delay.
Definitely a head turner was a $3mm Koenigsegg sitting in a small booth and manned by reps in daily wear. Always appreciating the build and therefore the price. Take a picture. Nod your appreciation. Move on. You won’t be able to figure out that suspension in even a day. But a reminder to find out on their web site.
This pick-up bed has awesome wood, but then you saw the detail in the chromed tie down strips.
Once you put a race car into an exposition, there are few secrets to those who care. Offroad is mostly about suspension and it is on display everywhere. In this case I appreciate Joe Thompson’s and the Gomez Bros. winning creativity!!
Sometimes you never know what you are looking at, except that is is different and something special. Here, a sand car suspension was grafted under a Willy’s truck. Then you really start looking and the front A-arm works around the grill. Totally unique..and it went on from there!
I am all in for tech. Suspension is so important in offroad that you can’t ignore it. Lately independent suspensions (IFS & IRS) have been developed by racers working with specialty designers and builders. This is a catgory that is constantly evolving. Because of the suspensions, the drivetrains cannot handle the shock loads from the higher speeds and beating. I took on the task of trying to figure out a better hyploid differential gears (also commonly known as ring and pinion gears). My research started with a specialty manufacturer that can make 16 different combinations. Wow, try to comprehend that!
Then I thought maybe we could run an engine in reverse like a boat. That was a problem as the ONLY torque converter made for counter-clockwise rotation was a Corvair ~ but we did find a specialty manufacturer that would make it if it made sense. Amazing how you can understand the parts while at the show to consider and digest for more thought later.
Funny, when I asked the question about the reverse gears, all asked “why”? I believe this year we will see advancement into electronics making a difference. Motor driven axles, active shocks and electric accessories instead of belt driven, etc.
The new products showcase will help see some of the newer products to solve old and new problems. Some were developed because of racing “rules.” The bypass single shock is one of those but also improves packaging a double shock system into the more complicated suspensions. We are also seeing more use of CV joints in drivelines to solve vibration issues. It goes on and on.
Work trucks were a threme to go along with work tools. Lots of modern with the nostalgia.
It almost seems like building your own into a new vehicle is getting tougher. The aftermarket has responded so well it makes it a lot easier to paint your own ideas on the stock canvas. Sometimes it could be paint, some bolt-ons, a removal. Think first without a budget!!!!!
Knowing what you might not like is valuable also. Have a great year.