In automotive parlance, the greatest show on earth just may be the one put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) in Las Vegas every year. The SEMA Show, as it is best known, is not just dominated by aftermarket auto parts suppliers. These days, mainstream car manufacturers utilize the Vegas venue to showcase concept and pre-production vehicles. At SEMA 2016, we have identified five of the brightest stars on display.
1. 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS Slammer
Let’s face it: muscle cars are a hot commodity, and whenever one is dolled up for the big show it has our undivided attention.
Such is the case with the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS Slammer, a road-hugging beauty outfitted with 22-inch rubber up front and 24-inch tires in the rear. This Camaro’s air shocks deflate when parked, lowering this luscious coupe further to the pavement.
The SS Slammer features a black finish with gloss-white flakes, adding depth and sparkle to its appearance. Under the hood is a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine that’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission with active rev match.
We also couldn’t veer our eyes away from the Chevelle Slammer, a handsome 1969 model receiving the same treatment as the Camaro. Although the Camaro concept has a chance of being built, the dapper Chevelle is simply eye candy.
2. Ford Mustang GT4 Race Car
Ford has the SEMA show down pat. This year, Ford Performance brought in no less than 50 customized vehicles to the show. The Ford Mustang GT4 race car was our favorite, a race-prepped Mustang that builds on earlier models such as the Trans-Am Boss 302 of the 1970s and the more recent championship-winning Shelby GT350R-C from which this race car is derived.
The turnkey Mustang GT4 features chassis modifications from Multimatic Motorsports, including shocks, lower rear control arms and stabilizer bars. Stunning Forgeline 18-inch wheels with racing slicks demonstrate that this Mustang is track ready.
To enhance aerodynamics, several parts to improve downforce were added, including a rear spoiler, splitter, additional hood vents and a rear diffuser. Unlike many of the other vehicles showcased by Ford, this one is being readied for sale by Multimatic, builder of the Ford GT.
3. Dodge Shakedown Challenger Concept
What the Dodge team did was to take a 1971 Challenger and outfit it with 2017 parts (grille, headlights and taillights) to advance a look that is at once heritage and contemporary. Well, that’s the demeanor the current Challenger is supposed to convey, but the Shakedown version just does it better. With its custom lower front fascia, rear lip spoiler and modern Hellcat wheels, this concept gets it done.
The Shakedown Challenger is a performance beast, too. It’s outfitted with a 6.4-liter V8 making 485 horsepower and a six-speed manual gearbox that’s swiped from the Dodge Viper sports car. Inside, you’ll find a modern Mopar gauge cluster, as well as a steering wheel and seats from Viper. This model is a true two-seater too with the rear seats removed and a roll bar and parcel shelf occupying that space.
Another Dodge product we like is the Durango Shaker concept. Beyond its stunning countenance, we believe this Durango previews the long-rumored Durango SRT and is likely to go into production.
4. 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Race Truck
We know some of you cannot get enough of pickup trucks. Just as Ford, Chevrolet and Ram have had wild success with each variation on their large pickup truck themes, Toyota continues to serve up new versions of its top-selling midsize Tacoma. Enter the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Race Truck.
Toyota began the transformation with a 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine and added a four-wheel drive system with Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control. The engineers then went to work on the suspension system, adding a Fox 2.5-inch coilover suspension and Fox 3-inch Bypass Shocks.
Although we’re not certain the race truck will ever become available for consumers, we do know Toyota is entering the truck in the 2017 MINT 400, also known as “The Great American Off-Road Race.” For five days next March, the TRD Pro Race Truck will showcase its off-road prowess with not-yet-disclosed “name drivers” at the helm.
Besides the Tacoma, we liked the fetching 2017 Customized Lexus LC 500 dressed in the brightest yellow finish we’ve ever seen. Who knew that Lexus had a 5.6-liter V8 making 525 horsepower ready for the show? What we want is for this fantastic luxury coupe to head for production.
5. Mazda MX-5 Miata Concepts
The first model is the MX-5 Miata Speedster Evolution. This version picks up where the 2015 MX-5 Speedster left off. It’s a lightweight machine weighing 150 pounds less than a stock soft-top Miata. You may have already seen this beauty at work at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. this past summer. What you didn’t know is that when the Speedster returned to the U.S., the California-based design team removed an additional 100 pounds by swapping out various parts, dropping this model’s final weight to a svelte 1,980 pounds.
The second Miata marvel is the MX-5 RF Kuro concept. Based on the 2017 MX-5 Miata RF going on sale early next year, the concept offers a street-focused package with an adjustable suspension and Brembo dual-piston front brake calipers. Dressed in Satin Black Metallic, the semi-matte finish is simply stunning.
SEMA 2016: Best of the Rest
With hundreds of concepts on display, the SEMA Show offers many production possibilities, although we know most models will not be built.
The 2,000-horsepower Toyota Land Cruiser, Kia Niro Triathlete, Jeep CJ66 and the 1,040-horsepower Hyundai Santa-Fast were among the many standouts served up by automakers. Other displays featured vehicles modified by aftermarket tuners, including a 1970s-era Ford LTD and a pair of 1940s-era Dodge Power Wagons.
As for attending the SEMA Show, it is closed to the public. Instead, equipment manufacturers and the media have access to the floor, with the rest of us relying on their reports to satisfy our curiosity.