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SEMA Show Highlights 2006

Ask anyone who has recently attended the annual SEMA (Speciality Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, and they’ll probably tell you the same thing – that it’s so huge it’s difficult to cover fully in the four days it is open to trade visitors.  This year’s event wasn’t any easier either, with apparently 500 new exhibitors.  Why are so many companies brought to this single event?  Because it is the premier automotive products event of its type in the world, drawing the industry's brightest minds, attracting the hottest products and appealing to over 50,000 potential buyers.

Of course, SEMA is not just about cars....

Such is the appeal of SEMA that the big three manufacturers, Ford GM and Daimler Chrysler all use it to showcase their creative talents, with hot new cars built primarily to create a buzz at the event.  It’s the same throughout the hot rod industry, and Chip Foose used SEMA to debut his radical new Hemisfear three window coupe which borrows from old and new hot rod influences to make a powerful statement.  (check out for full video coverage of the car). Here we take a look at the highlights from the big three manufacturers and some other notable exhibits in an area covering over two million square feet!

Offerings from Ford
Celebrating “American Muscle”, the Ford Motor Company showcased more than 30 vehicles at SEMA. Among the most newsworthy were a trio of tricked out Shelby Mustangs and a brand new version of the legendary Boss 302 motor.

The focal point of the Ford stand was made up of the three Mustangs — one painted red, one white and one, you guessed it, blue. The red car was a GT500 drag race version, an all-out track car – just like Shelby released in the 1960s with its “Dragon Snake” offering.  The white Mustang was a GT500 Road and Track car, while the third blue Shelby was an all-out competition GT500 road race car.

Road race-inspired Mustang Cobra

The street-legal drag car’s 5.4-liter V-8 features a Ford Racing supercharger that’s enhanced by a cold-air box and billet aluminum pulleys. The engine also has modified reservoirs, oil pan, and the chassis has a tubular K-member. Transmission-wise there’s a GT500 factory TR-6060 six-speed with shifter modifications and the front seats are ditched in favour of Recaro race buckets.

The Road and Track car is street-legal, modified with a Ford Racing Performance Parts power pack that boosts horsepower to approximately 600. There’s also a Ford Racing handling pack (lower stance, larger anti-roll bars, new strut tower brace and dampers), performance brakes and three-piece Fikse race wheels.

The blue, track-only competition GT500 had a 5.0-litre Cammer engine that puts out more than 500 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed sequential shift race transmission. The brakes have six-piston front calipers with two-piece rotors; the rears have four-piston calipers with two-piece rotors. There’s  an 8.8-inch full floating rear axle, three-way adjustable dampers, a GT-spec rear wing, a carbon fibre nose splitter, a 22-gallon fuel cell and three-piece BBS racing wheels. Kerb weight is a trim 3,100 pounds, about 800 pounds less than the conventional Shelby GT500.

“For Ford, this really is one of our Kodak moments,” said Bob Adams, a manager in Ford Motor Company’s Global Auto Show Strategy Department. “We’ve got the three flavours of Shelby all in one place. This is a dramatic showcase of some fantastic cars.” 

Three automotive icons, Ford Motor Company board member, Edsel Ford, Carroll Shelby and Chip Foose celebrate American Muscle on the Ford stand at the 2006 SEMA show. Ford announces that they are joining with Chip Foose to build customized cars and truck that will be available through Ford Dealers. Ford is exited about this partnership and our ability to deliver more choices to our customers.

Return of the  BOSS 302 motor
Ford is reviving the legendary 5.0-litre 302 cubic inch V-8 engine for the aftermarket with a new line of BOSS 302 crate engines, which will go on sale in early 2007.

As enthusiasts will know,  the original BOSS 302 powered a limited production Mustang model sold for two years (69/70), which was known as the BOSS 302. The car got its name from the legendary engine that powered the Mustang to a Sports Car Club of American Trans-Am series win.  

“The original BOSS 302 was a race winning engine. Sharing the DNA from the original, the new BOSS 302 begins with a block designed with racing in mind from the beginning,” said Jamie Allison, manager, Ford Racing Performance Group. “Whether racing in a sealed engine class, building an all-out drag racing engine or looking for a street performer, the BOSS 302 block and engine family meets the needs of all Ford 302 enthusiasts at a price that is comparable to a performance-prepped stock 302.” - starting at $4650!

The Boss 302 is back

The new Ford Racing Performance Parts BOSS 302 line was conceived because there was an unmet need for engines built from a block stronger than original regular production 302 blocks but more affordable than full race-prepped blocks. The new BOSS 302 engine block features greater strength than most race blocks and offers a street-capable cooling system design, something that race specific blocks tend to sacrifice.

Despite its strength and capability, the new BOSS 302 line would seem to be surprisingly affordable because of its high volume production. And since it was designed within Ford Motor Company, the engine also benefits from the improved quality and durability that comes with a production type engine.

“The original BOSS 302 delivered less than 300 hp. Today, enthusiasts are making 500 hp street cars and they need a robust block. Race-specific blocks offer the strength required but cool poorly for street use and are very expensive for the average enthusiast,” says Allison.

Tough looking bottom end with four-bolt mains

Built from the all new BOSS 302 block, the BOSS crate engines feature performance and packaging that accommodate displacements from 302 to 363 cubic inches. Entry level engines feature the Ford Racing GT-40X Xtra Performance Turbo Swirl aluminum heads to retain stock exhaust locations and are rated at 340 and 345 hp. Higher performance versions include Ford Racing's “Z”-head equipped 302 and 347 cubic inch engines rated between 360 and 450 hp, depending on configuration. The BOSS engine series is capped by a 500 hp 331 cubic inch engine that showcases the capability of the new block by breathing through all new ported Z-heads.

Features that separate the new BOSS 302 from its competition include:

  • 4-bolt mains for lower-end stability at high power outputs
  • High-tin 41,000 PSI tensile strength iron alloy for ultimate strength
  • Nodular iron main caps for additional strength
  • Screw-in freeze plugs for additional more strength and stability
  • Front cross-over lifter oiling for high RPM valvetrain capability
  • Siamese bores with specifically engineered drillings between cylinders for maximum wall stability and gasket sealing with street capable cooling performance

The suggested retail price for the BOSS 302 block is and affordable $1,759, with BOSS engines ranging from $4,650 to $10,000 for the 500 hp BOSS 331 cubic inch engines. The engines come with a 12 month/12,000 mile limited warranty.

For more information on these engines and other Ford Racing Performance Parts, visit:

US TV's 
“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, invited General Motors Advanced Design Studio team to help design a mid-engine, turbine-powered supercar called EcoJet. Leno and Ed Welburn, GM vice president of Global Design, introduced the car at SEMA recently.

EcoJet’s genesis goes back to a discussion between Leno, an avid car enthusiast and collector, and Bernard Juchli, the chief mechanic and caretaker of Leno’s collection. Leno then turned to Welburn for design direction.

EcoJet - a happy looking supercar

“A couple of paper napkins later, Ed had begun to capture the essence of the car,” said Leno. “I’ve admired the work of GM’s Design Studio in North Hollywood, Calif., and asked Ed if the studio’s director, Frank Saucedo, and his guys could continue the design study,”

Welburn agreed, and a two-week sketching frenzy commenced as GM’s designers began working after-hours with Leno’s team on the project.

Borrowing design cues from jet aircraft and Formula One racecars, the supercar began to take shape under the watchful eyes of Leno and Welburn. A concurrent engineering program defined the vehicle’s proportions and mechanics.

Amazing rear end styling is pure sculpture

 “We thought we pushed the creative envelope with the ’66 twin turbo Toronado project with GM, but this turbine-powered monster is a whole new level of complexity,” said Juchli, who constructed the car at Leno’s facility.

The 650-horsepower (400 lb.-ft. of torque) Leno original is powered by a Honeywell LT-101 turbine engine that runs on bio-diesel fuel. The engine sits in a modified Corvette Z06 hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium structural and chassis components. The vehicle’s shell is an advanced construction of carbon fibre over Kevlar.

Buick had various custom shops create unique versions of the new Lacerne - including these two stunners

Chrysler Group’s SkunkWerks Team

In the past, the Chrysler Group’s SkunkWerks team has produced some really eye catching custom vehicles for SEMA and this year’s event was no different.  Having said that, having been somewhat spoilt by the amazingly inspirational designs from this team in the past, this year’s offerings lacked that usual ‘wow” factor.

Dodge tricked out the new concept Challenger to look like an old Super Stocker, but it didn't work for us.

Amongst the line up was a 5.7 litre Hemi Dodge Nitro with 360hp and rolling on custom 22-inch Alcoa rims with 14-inch Brembo brakes behind them. The custom body panels, including carbon fibre hood, plus front and rear fascias were covered in a one-of-a-kind blackberry pearl paint, accented by custom purple rain glass. Gear slamming is done through a Tremec 5-speed transmission via a Hurst pistol grip. 

5.7 litre Hemi-powered Dodge Nitro

Mopar® relaunches Legendary 392

To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary HEMI engine next year, Mopar took advantage of this year's SEMA show to launch an all-new 392 HEMI crate motor for a new generation of performance enthusiasts. This engine — built with all new components — is a complete engine assembly from the throttle body to the oil pan, and cranks out 525 horsepower in it most potent form.

Three different versions of the new 392 are available from Mopar: 

P5153604 392 HEMI Crate Engine – Carbureted, 540 horsepower and 490 lb.-ft of torque 

P5253605 392 HEMI Crate Engine – SEFI, 525 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque 

P5153603 392 HEMI Long Block HEMI Crate Engine

Technical specifications include: 

Deep-skirted cast iron block with cross-bolted mains 

CNC-ported aluminum twin-plug cylinder heads 

Stainless steel 2.100" intake and 1.600" exhaust valves 

Ovate wire (beehive competition) valve springs 

Viton competition valve stem seals 

279°/285° hydraulic roller camshaft with 0.584" intake and 0.552" exhaust lift 

Forged pistons (4.055" bore) 

10.5:1 compression ratio 

Aluminum single plane high rise intake manifold with holley 870 cfm 4-bbl carburetor for carbureted 392 applications (1) 

4140 forged steel crankshaft — 3.795" stroke 

4130 forged- steel I-beam performance connecting rods — 6.200" length 

SFI-approved competition crankshaft damper 

“Plug-and-Play” wiring harnesses (2) 

80 mm manual throttle body on fuel-injected engines (3) 

Premium tri-metal performance engine bearings 

Precision balanced rotating assembly 

Distributorless coil-on-plug (COP) ignition system


Story: Andy Kirk
Photos: Manufacturers and Pete Stafford - thanks Pete!


Dunlop had some great products on display!

Tacky Tikki Ford

These rims have to be somewhere in the region of 28 inch diameter - gulp!

Lovely Camaro created for US sportsman Reggie Jackson

1950 Ford Woody on display outside the main halls 

Tough looking slammed early Ford Falcon with monster motor

Pop Browns