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SEMA 2004

Parnelli Jones at the wheel of the new Mustang

When it began, more than 40 years ago, the annual SEMA Show was a small gathering of southern California speed equipment manufacturers. Now, more than 40 years later, the Specialty Equipment Market Association show is the second largest trade show in the U.S. attracting some 1900 companies occupying more than 9800 booth spaces, displaying more than 2000 top notch customized vehicles and, most importantly, introducing more than 1100 new products to more than 115,000 attendees in just four days.

Unlike those early days, when the show was dominated by real speed equipment manufacturers, the current event is a showcase for everything automotive from factory concepts (this year Ford rolled out the all-new 2005 Mustang) to tyres, to, well, air fresheners.

Aftermarket scoops, spoilers, suspension, wheels, tyres - all ready and waiting!

Unfortunately, as the association and the event has grown, the real speed merchants have moved to the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show held each year in Indianapolis. However, many of the big boys; Edelbrock, B&M, Holley and the like still support SEMA and use it to spring board the following year’s sales programmes.

Rods are now rare at SEMA but these two Fords typify subtle and extreme treatment

I've been making the annual pilgrimage since 1988 and the show has grown in quantum leaps. It is now so big that to take it all in over the 4 days it is open is nigh on impossible. Consequently, the organizers have pushed the all-important new products section to the front, just inside the main doors. A walk through the display gives you a great overview of the diversity of the show with awards for categories such as Best New Mobile Electronics Product to Best New Street Rod/Custom Car Product.

Chrylser's Skunkwerks interpretation of the Durango was on show

Besides all the new products there is a fair smattering of celebrity participation with TV production companies like Overhaulin, Pimp My Ride and American Chopper there along with celebrities ranging from Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top to Jay Leno and Hulk Hogan to Snoop Dogg. All, no doubt, looking to scam parts for their personal projects - hey, it's all part of the fun of SEMA.

Snoop Dogg and heavily-modified Chrysler 300C Hemi and more extreme version below 

With more than 2000 custom-built vehicles on display the show is probably one of the biggest and most diverse car shows in the world. Of course, the show reflects the prevailing trend and now it's the sport compact market that is hot - all those raspy Hondas.

Outside off-road action was new to SEMA 2004

SUV's are still big, pun intended, and people drop and raise 'em with impunity. However, this year was the year of the new Mustang and the new Chrysler 300C Hemi sedan as well as the Hemi-powered Dodge Magnum wagon.  Both are hot cars for the aftermarket, but the Mustang will be the home run for the industry with everybody on-board to make brakes, wheels, spoilers, wings and bits to make 'em go faster, look cooler, ride lower. And that, is what it's all about....

Story by Tony Thacker

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