By Jay Tilles
Well, another SEMA Show has come and gone. I was told, and it sounds plausible, that the convention is the country’s largest gathering of small business owners. If that means businesses with fewer than 50 employees, I’d say it sounds about right. So many of these little mom-and-pop shops will grow into large well known companies. That’s just one small reason I have mad love for this annual extravaganza. You see inventions and innovations that are incredibly inspiring.
The annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association show takes place the first week of November and fills every square inch of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It spills over into breezeways, parking lots and the Las Vegas Hilton next door. In addition to the booths, 6,000 cars and trucks take up a hell of a lot of space. Some vendors even set up private suites in swanky hotels up and down the strip.
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What is the SEMA Show? It’s car porn, plain and simple.
Imagine you have a company that makes brake parts. How do you show off the parts so everyone will gawk over them? You give a free set to a guy that’s spent the better part of a year building a jaw-dropping show car and you place that car smack dab in the middle of your booth. You make off-road tires? Spend God knows how much money on union labor and suspend a truck from the rafters as of it’s jumping over the crowd. Now you’ve got your customers’ attention. Here’s just one example of impressive product placement: Magnaflow, the leader in automotive exhaust, featured their products on nearly 200 cars and trucks throughout the show floor.
I arrived Monday night and stayed through Thursday. I should note that the show didn’t even start ’til Tuesday. That’s what a freak I am for this stuff. I was there when they opened the door Tuesday at 9:00 am. I broke the three halls up into separate days. North, Central and South respectively. I saw incredible parts that I’ll have no use for… ever. I spent an entire day gawking at computer-controlled alignment racks, vinyl wrap demonstrations and stainless steel hood hinges and that was just in the North Hall. Maybe I chose the wrong profession.
Here’s the bottom line. If you’re into cars, team up with someone that has a shop of some kind. It’s an industry-only show and they’re super strict so you’re going to need some help securing a pass. But if you can get the hook-up, pay the $75 or whatever it costs to get into this show next year. Plan on spending at least two full days wandering around. And bring a dentists drool cup. You’ll need it.
My favorite photo? Picture big plumes of black diesel smoke blasting from this pipe.