The Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas is an annual celebration of all that is new, popular, wacky, unsafe, and occasionally production-ready in the world of aftermarket tuning. SEMA concept cars range from lifted trucks to slammed hot-rods, and from turbocharged hot hatches to luxury sedans with shimmering paint jobs.Some cars are tweaked by start-up outfits, others by established tuning companies, and others by automakers themselves.
This year's SEMA show proved no different than before, with cars on display running the gamut from awesome production-intent vehicles to tuner specials of questionable taste. Our top ten favorite vehicles from the 2012 SEMA show are listed below in no particular order.
1. Ford Cobra Jet Twin-Turbo Concept
As if a 5.0-liter V-8 engine in a turnkey NHRA-legal drag car wasn't good enough, the engineers at Ford Racing bolted on two turbochargers to create this concept car. Ford says the twin-turbo Cobra Jet will run the quarter-mile in about eight seconds at over 150 mph. This car and its modified engine won't be put into production or made available in the Ford Racing parts catalog, but engineers say lessons from building the Cobra Jet Twin-Turbo concept will be applied to future street cars.
2. Icon D200
We love old-school pickup trucks to begin with, and we love them even more when companies like Icon rest-mod the trucks of yesterday with modern-day equipment. Based on a 1965 Dodge D200, the Icon D200 packs the chassis from a brand-new Ram 3500, a 4.5-inch lift kit, and a Cummins 5.9-liter inline-six turbo-diesel tuned for 975 lb-ft of torque. Icon says the D200 is just a one-off for this year's SEMA show, but as the company already offers a line of resto-mod vehicles like the Toyota FJ40 and Jeep CJ, we're crossing our fingers the D200 will eventually be sold to the public.
3. Dodge Charger Juiced
We're already fans of the Dodge Charger -- we named it an Automobile All-Star and have been pleased with our Four Seasons example -- but this version tweaked by Chrysler Group's Mopar for the SEMA show is even hotter. The main upgrade is the addition of a Dodge Viper-derived 8.0-liter V-10 crate engine, rated at 650 hp and 600 lb-ft, and backed by a six-speed manual transmission from the Dodge Challenger SRT8. The copper paint job, lowered suspension, and 20-inch wheels make the Charger Juiced look good, too.
4. Chevrolet COPO Camaro Convertible
Like the Ford Cobra Jet, the Chevrolet COPO Camaro is a special turn-key drag racer. Chevrolet will build just 69 copies of the car this year, and two of them will be convertibles. Yes, convertible drag racers -- a roll cage keeps occupants safe, the fabric top is fully functional, and Chevrolet assures us the car can legally be run at NHRA-sanctioned events so long as the convertible top is raised. Under the hood is a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 engine good for 550 hp, coupled to a three-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet will keep one of the two convertibles, and the other will be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson in January, with profits benefitting the American Heart Association.
5. Toyota DragQuoia Family Sequoia Dragster
The Toyota Sequoia is a pleasant and practical vehicle, but it was never exciting until NHRA driver transformed it into this DragQuoia. Apparently inspired by Brown's desire to take his family racing with him, the DragQuoia packs a full roll cage, 21.5-inch wide rear tires, a supercharged 5.7-liter V-8, and a nitrous-oxide system. Yet the car also packs two adult-sized racing seats, two child-sized race seats, and a special baby racing seat. We doubt Brown will actually take his family down the drag strip in this modified Sequoia, but it's certainly a cool concept that could add some excitement to the morning school run.
6. 2013 Chevrolet Camaro Hot Wheels Edition
At last year's SEMA show, Chevrolet revealed a bright-green concept car that was supposed to look like a real life Hot Wheels toy. This year, the automaker revealed the Camaro Hot Wheels Edition, a $6995 package that goes into limited production early next year. Developed in partnership with Hot Wheels, the treatment includes several visual tweaks designed to recall the style of the eponymous toys: 21-inch wheels with a red lip, Kinetic Blue paint, the front grille and rear spoiler from the Camaro ZL1, matte-black exterior accents, branded door-sill plates and floor mats, plus a smattering of Hot Wheels logos. The Hot Wheels package can be applied to any Camaro 2LT or 2SS, whether coupe or convertible. The car looks just like the toys we played with as kids, making it perfect for any adults who have yet to outgrow his or her youth.
7. Fiat 500 Beach Cruiser
Mopar also worked its magic on the Fiat 500, transforming the cutesy Italian runabout into the California-inspired Beach Cruiser. The car's body has been widened a foot, and those massive fenders now house red aluminum wheels with shiny center dishes. Atop the roof sits a chrome-and-teak surfboard rack, while the interior carpeting has been replaced by more wood. Topping off this funky, old-school Beach Cruiser is a hula-girl toy wobbling on the dashboard.
8. Hyundai Veloster Turbo "Velocity" Concept
What's better than a Hyundai Veloster Turbo with 201 hp? How about a factory-tuned concept version called Velocity that has 400 hp?A new body kit, spoiler, and widened fenders hint at the performance upgrades, which include new pistons and connecting rods from Cosworth, as well as a larger turbocharger and intercooler. The interior features a roll bar and data recorder GPS and video, while the chassis benefits from larger Brembo brakes and firmer Bilstein springs and dampers. Yeah, this is the sort of Hyundai Veloster Turbo we'd be more than happy to drive.
9. Subaru WRX and WRX STI Special Editions
It's no secret we're fans of the all-wheel-drive, turbocharged rockets that are the Subaru WRX and WRX STI, so we were pleased to see special versions of the cars at SEMA. Subaru showed off versions of the 2013 WRX and WRX STI sedans with a Halloween-like orange and black paint scheme. The exterior has Tangerine Orange paint, black wheels, and black mirrors, while the interior gets orange stitching on the door panels, seats, shifter, and floor mats. Subaru will make just 200 copies of the WRX Special Edition and another 100 copies of the WRX STI Special Edition. The cars reach showrooms in the spring, and we think they look pretty darn cool.
10. Silver Bullet Ford F-150
Truckin' Magazine got their hands on a 2013 Ford F-150 EcoBoost and, rather than lift it skyward, lowered the truck and added more power. Their goal with the F-150 FX2 Sport was not to create an off-road or towing monster, but a truck with a sportier driving experience. New 22-inch wheels are wrapped sticky Nitto tires, and larger brakes are meant to help counteract the truck's weight and newfound performance. The latter comes courtesy of a new intake, new headers, and a new exhaust for the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, plus a computer reflash from Bully Dog. Truckin' Magazine's goal is to bump output from the factory rating of 365 hp to 500 hp. Lowered suspension, better brakes, and more horsepower? That's our kind of tuner truck.