SEMA Show: Everything you need to know about the American hot-rod fest
There are plenty of reasons why Las Vegas is famous, but the SEMA show has to be among the biggest if you have a passion for automobiles. Originally an acronym for Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, SEMA was founded in 1963 as a result of 13 automobile aftermarket suppliers coming together to supply parts and equipment to the hot rod community. Some of these founding members include Ansen Automotive Engineering, B&M Automotive Products, Moon Equipment Company, Weber Speed Equipment, and Weiand Power & Racing.
The first ever SEMA show was held in the basement of the famous Dodgers Stadium in 1967. The event was organized by Robert Petersen, featuring 98 manufacturers and was attended by 3000 people. In the 1970s, government regulations were getting tighter, as a result of which SEMA had to change its name from Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, to Specialty Equipment Market Association. Things were getting bigger over the years, so much so that during the 1976 SEMA Show at the Anaheim Convention Center, the organizers had to send back a few manufacturers due to lack of space. Since then, all SEMA shows have taken place at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
How does it work?
Initially a trade show just for hot rods, over the years SEMA has begun to accept restored and modified jeeps, pickup trucks, sports cars, luxury cars, custom motorcycles etc. The SEMA show has also featured restoration brands, parts and equipment suppliers, aftermarket manufacturers, OEMs, distributors, media etc. It is usually held in the first week of November every year. There is a catch though — the SEMA show is not open to the general public — you need to be an employee in an automotive company or the aftermarket industry to be eligible to attend the show. However, you can attend the SEMA Ignite, known as the official ‘after party’ of the SEMA where all the cars and motorcycles displayed at the SEMA show will be featured once again for the general public.
SEMA is not just a display for car/bike builders, restoration experts and tuners, but also for OEMs who occasionally unveil or launch some new products. Celebrities who are known to be petrolheads also make appearances, such as Jay Leno, and Keith Urban. Chip Foose, an automobile designer also known to appear on the reality TV series Overhaulin’, has won several awards and is now a judge on the Battle Of the Builds — the ultimate title sought after by custom car and bike builders, tuners, and resto-modders. Entrants can choose from four categories to enter — hot-rod, truck/offroad, sport-compact, and young guns. They must then fill an online application, which will also require photos and a written description of the vehicle. Judges will select the Top 10 vehicles in every category, which will then come down to a final Top 12 list regardless of category. These 12 finalists will then become judges and select amongst themselves as to who deserves to win the coveted title of the Top Builder.