LAS VEGAS, Nevada — SEMA is always good for sporting unusual takes on automobiles. In the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, you’ll walk countless alleyways and corridors, pushing past the throngs of seemingly endless tuners from around the world, your mouth agape from the ridiculously modified machines that feel as if they sprout from Hollywood director Tim Burton’s nightmarish imagination.
However, amongst the lifted “bro-trucks” that’ll never see an ounce of mud, the slammed supercars that’d rip off the entire underside of the car if they ever encountered a leaf, and the reappearance of Under Glo, there are a host of classics, JDM imports, German-luxury, and supercars that are tastefully composed.
Here’s what we thought was rad, head scratching, and downright bad.
Miss: Hennessey debuting a 1:1 plastic Venom F5
Hennessey’s vision for the 1,600 horsepower, 300 mph Venom F5 is purely a theory. The car the brand debuted at SEMA was a plastic toy that just merely resembled what the F5 is supposed to look like. It did not run. There was no interior and the company’s claim that Bugatti and Koenigsegg haven’t chased Hennessey’s Venom GT top speed record because those cars can’t hit it is asinine. It’s a fake car, just like fake news.
The Venom F5 should’ve been called a concept car as it’s writing a $1.6 million dollar check it might not cash, yet. It’s a lot of hype, not a lot of hypercar. The design looks great, but at this point, it’s more of an art project than a work of engineering.
Hit: Toyota’s Time-Attack Grocery Getter
It has 600 horsepower, 550 lb-ft of torque, 23psi of boost, and a gold-plated engine bay. What’s not to love about a time-attack C-HR CUV? It looks the business, the footage of it driving around the track is too-legit-to-quit, and it’s likely the only CUV I’d buy as it’s less of a grocery-getter and more of a beast of the green hell.
Hit: A mullet gone vegan
The 4th generation Camaro is the unloved step-child of the Camaro lineup. It’s heavy, cumbersome, and as rigid as a boiled piece of lasagna. Add an engine lineup that barely made enough power to get it over a small hill, and you quickly understand why no one mods them. Thankfully, someone did and this monster Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge entry is my perfect piece of ‘80’s hair metal. I want it. I need to find the person that owns it and offer them a Billy Ray Cyrus album in trade.
Hit: Finding forbidden fruit
We’ve missed the Ranger. It’s been gone for too long. Now we know Ford’s bringing it back to the U.S. and spy shots of the Ranger Raptor have me thirsting for my go in the mid-size pre-runner. Out of the blue, a wild Ranger appeared as we walked the convention floor. It was lovely and made me even more ready for when Ford finally brings the new Ranger to our shores.
Miss: A Camaro by another name
Why Trans-Am’ing a Camaro is still a thing, I cannot fathom. For the uninitiated, Trans-Am Depot takes a brand new Camaro, reshells it with a bad interpretation of an original Trans-Am, and sells them for around $75,000 each. It doesn’t look good and I can’t believe people are still buying them.
Miss: Weaponized Jeeps. You’re not a Navy Seal.
“It’s just a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t get” is an excuse that doesn’t cut it when a Jeep has a .50 caliber sniper rifle atop its roof. One particular offender had two fake mini-guns coming out of its hood rigged up to its turbos. It’s currently my computer’s background to remind me to never stray from the light.
Hit: Let’s go camping in Mongolia
For those wishing to go off map, off-grid, and generally, very lost, you need to check out the absolutely ridiculous and gargantuan Earth Roamer XV-XD. It costs $1.5 million, its 35 feet long, and weighs about as much as an elephant. However, inside the massive overlanding truck, you get a full kitchen, full-size shower, a 10-point Bose surround sound system, and two king size beds. It will also go over any terrain you find. Lewis and Clark eat your heart out.
Bonus Round: What the hell were they thinking?
Look, Spawn was a great graphic novel. McFarlane is an amazing story teller and Spawn’s story is compelling. That doesn’t translate to the horrendously wrapped, Under Glo’d, chained, wide-bodied, Mustang with rims that over-hang the tires, and a yellow and green engine bay. It’s not bad in a traditional sense of bad. But bad as in, “Why god, why? Why have you forsaken my eyes? What have I done to deserve this hell?”
Subtlety is lost on its creators. Sometimes, this could be a good thing. But when modifications render a car undriveable, it really defeats the purpose of motorizing a vehicle in the first place. The labeling of “Spawn on the side of the car,” perfectly defines that this is a being from hell and there’s evil incarnate under its awful hood. If one car perfectly summarizes the goofiness and terribleness I’ve heard that is sometimes brought to SEMA, this is the car.