2009 Subaru Forester - Behind the Scenes of a SEMA Show Vehicle

Rex Roy

If you watch enough cable TV, you'd think than any monkey with a flame wrench can build a killer machine in twenty minutes or less with parts scavenged from unaware neighbors. Reality lives on a different planet: one inhabited by skilled professionals working to a plan. This is the story of one such plan.

Because we're SEMA veterans, we knew where to look during October to find dozens of teams burning the midnight oil readying their vehicular creations for SEMA. In industrial parks and corporate garages across the country, the final push was on to complete the stars of the Las Vegas extravaganza. November 3rd stood as the "drop dead" date because it was the final day of move-in. If a SEMA-bound car or truck wasn't done by then, it would miss the following four days of show craziness. As you can imagine, over the years more than one car or truck has pulled into the Las Vegas Convention Center with tacky paint (and we mean soft to the touch, not ugly ... although there is always plenty of that).

Early October 2008
In a suburb of Detroit not unlike those around Indianapolis, Fort Lauderdale, or Oxnard (that's in California), a group of guys stand around the naked shell of a vehicle. Stripped of its identity, it's hard (but not impossible) to tell that we're looking at a 2009 Subaru Forester. It will remain a Forester after this team finishes their work, but it will become a Forester like no other.

The project started when Subaru decided it could gain promotional booty from of building a "tougher" Forester with altruistic overtones. Erik Lukas, Subaru's Accessories Marketing Manager had already commissioned an STi version of the crossover, so a Forester with a mighty off-road presence danced around in his head like sugar plumbs before Christmas. Discussions with Subaru designer Peter Tenn generated sketches and renderings. The concept of the Emergency Response Subaru Forester was hatched.

Subaru management approved the project in August. Minus the time Subaru would need to ship the vehicle to Las Vegas, the vehicle's constructor would have about 45 days to build the show property (that's what these vehicles are called). The clock was running.

Lukas and Tenn turned to Specialized Vehicles, Inc. (SVI), a Troy, Mich. firm you've never heard of. So secret are the projects SVI normally works on that it is company policy to shoot to kill trespassers, especially when said trespassers are toting a camera. (This is a joke, SVI calls the police and they shoot the trespassers.) With Subaru's permission, SVI president Mike Koran offered us hoist-side seats as Subaru's SEMA Forester took shape. No shots were fired.

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