The annual SEMA show (Specialty Equipment Market Association) in Las Vegas is where custom shops, auto care brands, and aftermarket manufacturers congregate to show off what they've been working on all year. It's part car-nut heaven (slammed Rolls-Royces, overpowered muscle cars), and part trade show blase (entire booths dedicated to fan belts).
Among both sectors there are gems. We searched the floors for chemical breakthroughs and new tools that got us pumped to spend all Sunday wrenching on something in our garage, and plenty of insane cars, too.
We're Miata fans (like everyone), and we especially love the 2016 MX-5, which is why these concepts drew us from across the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Spyder's leather accents, silver paint, and number decal make it look like a steampunk vintage racer. The Speedster is a stock Miata, slightly lowered, with carbon fiber doors and seats that make it 250 pounds lighter than stock. Oh, and there's no windshield, so bring goggles.
Keys won't slide into the lock? WD-40. Slow ball bearing? WD-40. The name of the iconic lubricant is short for "water displacement 40th formula," and if you ask our senior home editor Roy Berendsohn for his advice about a household issue, there's a good chance WD-40 will be involved in the solution. This new packaging has a bendable neck, like fiber optics wire, that lets you crane the stream into whatever nook needs a little loosenign. That means not having to disassemble parts to get that straw thing pointed in the right direction.
This company is really, actually producing a car fabricated with additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing). The LM3D Swim version on the show floor is one variation of the brand's forthcoming lineup of made-in-USA vehicles. They'll cost about $53,000 when the first ones get delivered in early-to-mid 2016. (For a deeper explanation about why this is big, Ezra Dyer explains). We want the Swim as our weekend beach buggy.
A new formulation of this great product ships in January, and if it works like the demo we saw, we'll throw some on our rims. Brake dust ruins wheels and requires serious elbow grease to scrub off. But polymers in this new protectant are both hydrophobic (water beads off of the rims) and resistant to particles. So when brake dust briefly gathers on the wheel, it will disperse when you roll away. We've seen products that claim to solve this problem, but this new formula is the only one so far that looks like it'll actually keep grime away.
The P1800 has one of the most beautiful car bodies ever made, with lines more like a 1960's Alfa Romeo or Ferrari grand touring vehicle than the boxy mid-90's station wagon that car-pooled you to school. The one on the Las Vegas show floor at Castrol's booth belongs to a guy named Irv Gordon who put more than 3 million miles on it. The lesson: maintenance, especially pre-emptive maintenance, will make a car last forever. Do it yourself or head to the shop, and either way, changing that oil (Castrol or otherwise) will make your car will last forever.
SEMA is about statement vehicles, like those with suspension lowered to barely any ground clearance, or the (seriously). Toyota's Scion line of vehicles came out years ago as malleable platforms for customization, but this wire-wheel allusion to SoCal lowrider culture made us stop. Chain link steering wheel, Louis Vuitton-style two-tone paint, whitewall tires—it's all there, along with gold accents aplenty. We like that it belongs to the guy behind restaurant in NYC.
A gentle driving experience, this ain't. Craftsman, the guys who make the tool drawers every gearhead has in his or her dream garage, worked with the organizers of the (an olde-tyme race in Wildwood, NJ) to build this. It's a Ford Model TT (not a typo) which has two Model T engines powering the car.
Attention rappers: this silicone-based spray leaves a trace of glitter on your tires that, unlike the brand's previous versions (that looked closer to kindergarten art projects), gives a subtle glint as the tire rotates. Consider it something to separate you from the drivers with that basic wet tire spray.
Scion and Subaru (both make nearly identical versions of this same car) answered enthusiast prayers with this two-door rear-wheel-drive vehicle. But look at its performance figures and you see a dip in power that translates to missing oomph when you steer out of a turn. For aftermarket tuners (Hennessy, Ligenfelter, etc.), wrenching on a big engine is easy. But getting power out of something small, like the hardware on the FR-S, is difficult. That's why we dig their supercharger system for this car, especially the intercooler that sends the air throughout twice to keep the motor cool while it sends an extra 77 horsepower to the rear wheels.
This pedestrian Acura built when Bill Clinton was president looked out of place behind velvet rope, which made us wander over. We love anyone who loves an otherwise unremarkable car, and it turns out that Ludacris loves his '93 Acura Legend. That's why Acura repaired it for him after he got side-swiped.