Surprisingly, things at the 2008 SEMA Show weren’t quite as bleak as expected. Sure the parking lot wasn’t overflowing with vehicles but the one million square feet of convention center space was almost entirely filled.
The evening before the show opened, Mercedes-Benz held a private function at the Wynn Hotel and Casino to help create interest in the company’s entry-level SUV the GLK Class. Titled the Tuner Challenge, Mercedes handpicked four tuners and gave each a GLK and a theme to work with.
First up was the Pikes Peak-inspired Rally Racer by RENNtech. Known more for modest designs and serious performance, this completely transformed and matte-red GLK was a big surprise from the Florida-based Mercedes tuner. It also has a stripped-down and race-ready interior complete with roll-cage and racing seats. Being performance nuts the RENNtech crew did do some work under the hood, however, borrowing several parts from the 3.5L V6 found in the SLK and adding a custom hybrid system that delivers 40 ft-lbs of boost using 12-volt batteries.
A less surprising entry was put forth from German Mercedes-tuner Brabus, which has the unofficial motto of “fast, black and expensive.” Brabus’s offering is stunning with fender flares and 21-inch wheels… but next to the outlandish competition it looked almost stock. It is, however, the only vehicle of the bunch that is road worthy.
And while the exterior may not be all that exciting the interior certainly is, with diamond-stitched cognac leather interior everywhere (even for the floors).
Brabus chose to modify a Euro-spec diesel-powered GLK that uses a 3.2L BlueTEC V6. With just a Brabus ECU tune power is rated at 258hp and 450 ft-lbs of torque all while getting 28 mpg!
Boulevard Customs designed the Urban Whip GLK, with 26-inch wheels and a chopped-off roof while the final offering came from Legendary Motorcars and was titled the Rock Crawler.
All the vehicles were put on display at SEMA and later at the LA Auto Show for the public to pick their favorite.
LEXUS IS-Fs, PLUS A CUSTOM GS
Along with a modified LX570 and an IS350 sporting the entire lineup of F-Sport performance accessories, Lexus had a very special GS to unveil at SEMA, as well as four modified IS-F models.
The GS, much like the IS-F from the year before, was modified by Five Axis and featured a custom wide-body as well as custom Satin Titanium Pearl paint. It also featured Five Axis wheels with custom designed Yokohama Advan tires. To round out the package, Five Axis threw on a big brake kit, a custom suspension kit and a performance exhaust.
The other four vehicles at the Lexus booth were custom IS-Fs, which Lexus had commissioned to become custom projects by several different companies, including Fox Marketing, Motorworldhype.com, 0-60 Magazine and Import Tuner Magazine.
The Fox Marketing car sported the company’s own aero kit as well as custom fender flares and a Sunset Orange Pearl paint job. Artisan Performance built a 600hp turbo kit for the car while iForged specked a set of 20-inch FS Imola wheels.
The blue Import Tuner car is more track-oriented with TEIN coilovers and a load of braces from Tom’s. It also features 19-inch Volk RE30 wheels and Bride racing seats.
Back in the high-horsepower category is the 0-60 Magazine IS-F with a Greddy supercharger.
The final car, a pristine white model, was designed by RJ De Vera and built by Motorworldhype.com. RJ is known for his extreme designs, but this IS-F couldn’t be more subtle with some very impressive carbon fiber parts from Vorsteiner.
As the official car of the SEMA Show for 2008 Chevy came out swinging with four incredible (and incredible looking) Camaro concepts.
The Camaro LS7 concept is powered by, no surprise here, an LS7 crate engine that makes 550hp. With a bare-bones interior the car is still comfortable and can do double-duty, running the drag-strip on the weekend and cruising to the office during the week. As inspiration, the car’s creators used the 1960s COPO cars, made famous by dealers like Yenko. Under the hood you’ll also find a GM Performance Parts camshaft, headers, air intake and exhaust system.
Power makes it to the ground through a Tremec six-speed manual with a GM Performance Parts Hurst shifter.
While GM doesn’t plan to offer this package, it can all be purchased through the GM Performance Parts division and likely will be many horsepower freaks.
The Dale Earnhardt Jr. Camaro concept is pretty much what it looks like with the exception that under the hood the factory 6.2L V8 has been made to run on E85. It also features a big brake upgrade, a lowered suspension and a set of 21-inch wheels inspired from the Camaro Convertible Concept. And the best news for those who love the look of this car is that the aero kit featured on it will be available through GM’s Vehicle Accessories department.
As more than just a SEMA show car, the Camaro GS Racecar Concept is actually a prototype for the cars that will run in the GS class of the Grand Am Koni Challenge. With an upgraded chassis and suspension, as well as a plenty of carbon fiber parts (including the hood, trunk, doors and fenders) the Racecar Concept uses Chevy’s LS3 engine.
Chevy hopes to relive the Camaro’s racing heritage with this new vehicle and so the decision was made to paint it in the blue and yellow of Marc Donohue’s Trans Am Championship winning ’69 Camaro.
The final show car from Chevrolet was the sinister looking Camaro Black Concept. Along with black paint and matte-black detailing the Black Concept features the Chevy Accessories aero kit as well as a set of Chevy Accessories 21-inch wheels (which have been custom painted). Impressively, the car makes 300hp from the factory 3.6-liter V-6!
While the Chevy Camaro was the official car of the 2008 SEMA Show, the Dodge Challenger was likely the unofficial auto. Challengers were in abundance at the show including at the Chrysler booth where professional drifter Samuel Hübinette helped unveil his 2009 Mopar Drift Challenger. Making 850hp and 849 ft-lbs of torque, Hübinette will drive the Challenger in the 2009 Formula D series.
Also of particular note from Dodge was the Challenger SRT10 Concept, which sports the infamous 8.4L V-10 engine that is found in the current Viper. The concept also features a carbon fiber front splitter and rear deck lid, as well as larger wheels, bigger brakes and an upgraded Bilstein suspension.
VW SUPER CC ECO PERFORMANCE CONCEPT
A surprising sight at the SEMA Show was the APR-modified VW Passat CC. With just a 2.0-liter inline-four under the hood, APR managed to bring the boost up and the power up with it. Now the car makes 311 hp and 313 ft-lbs of torque. APR also offers a 222hp mode that apparently gets better gas mileage than the stock car - 27/33 (city/highway) mpg versus 19/28 stock.
Outside the CC looks significantly different thanks to black chrome accents and a custom grey pearl paint. The car also sports 20-inch wheels, H&R coilovers and a Brembo brake upgrade.
HYUNDAI GENESIS COUPE
Much like Mercedes, Hyundai used the SEMA Show to help drum up interest it the upcoming Genesis Coupe of which they had three modified examples on display,
The first was the Rhys Millen Racing Genesis Coupe, a race-ready version of the car with a carbon fiber wide-body kit (and mandatory wing). The car’s stock turbocharged 2.0-liter engine receives a larger Turbonetics turbo and plenty of other goodies under the hood. A KW coilover suspension is also part of the package, as is a set of SSR Type-F wheels.
The Street Concepts car is a serious example of a street build, with 19-inch Volk wheels, a black-camo paint scheme and some Fast & Furious add-ons like the APR rear wing.
The final coupe on display came from HKS and was completely rebuilt with a GT2835R turbo, stainless tubular manifold, intercooler, blow-off valve, cat back exhaust, carbon fiber air box and even a Hipermax III adjustable suspension… all by HKS. The aerodynamics on the car were designed by Ken Style and actually look like a very reasonable design.
The Genesis Coupe, we should point out, is offered in two engine options: a 220hp turbocharged and intercooler four-cylinder, as well as a 310hp 3.8-liter V6.
HYUNDAI GENESIS SEDANS
Hyundai also decided to display three modified Genesis Sedans, however, each of these cars were aimed more at highlighting the luxurious side of the Korean manufacturer’s flagship vehicle.
The tasteful RK Sport sedan is a definite sleeper with a supercharger mated to the 4.6-liter V-8 engine to produce 460hp… this is a Hyundai remember?
The Rides Magazine Genesis sedan was easily the best looking of the bunch with one-off aerodynamics and custom MHT wheels that work perfectly with the Genesis’ front grille.
The DUB Magazine car was the usual (big wheels and a sound system) although the interior was an impressive black and white leather piece of work.
The Genesis Sedan in stock form comes with either a 310hp 3.8-liter V-6 or a 375hp 4.6-liter V-8.
MUGEN HONDA FIT
Honda had plenty of modified vehicles in its booth as always. One of particular note, however, was the Mugen accessories equipped Fit with 16-inch rims, a front grille, oil cap, lip spoiler, side skirts, rear lip, sports silencer, short shifter, shift knob, pedals, floor mats, mirror covers and emblems. Honda will offer all these items for the fit at dealerships in 2009.
SCION tC AND xB
While there was one modified xD at the Scion booth, the focus this year was placed on both the tC and xB.
The lineup of tCs was varied with three different designs. A wide-body baby blue model by John Pangilinan features a turbocharger and a big audio setup and next to it sat another wide-body creation from Fatlace. This DTM-inspired matte-black car gets its motivation from a TRD supercharger. The final tC was from Neu-Vintage and drew inspiration from WWII fighter planes.
In the xB department, there were four distinctive models, including a turbocharged and stroked 2.7-liter time attack concept from Chris Rado; a wide-body yellow pick-up truck creation from MV Designz; a chop-top xB with a Five Axis aero kit and the “Killer Bee” xB from Rogue Status.
Ford, as always, had a massive display at the SEMA show and every vehicle on hand was as custom as they come. In total, Ford gave 11 of its new Flexes to tuning shops and media outlets to customize as they wish. A few notable mentions are:
The 3dCarbon Flex, and its 10-piece aero kit. The company branded its car as a hot-rod inspired European tourer.
Heavy Hitters Magazine built a triple-black machine with a menacing look.
Rick Bottom Designs created a stunning two-tone pearl paint job with an 11-piece aero kit, chrome detailing and grilles and a set of 22-inch rollers.
Lastly, the Galpin Auto Sports Ford Flex grabbed eyes with a Butterscotch Orange paint job and a pearl white roof. It looked urban, sporty and elegant.
Ford also had several other modified vehicles on display including three Lincoln MKZs, an MKX, three Focuses, two Escapes and an Edge.