Fun Stuff

Vegas-Ready Customs at SEMA, From the Automakers

How I wish that there were more than the 24 hours in the day. ’Cause even with 40 more, I wouldn’t have enough time to see everything there is to see at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. But while a full day isn’t nearly enough, it is enough to find the best that the major automakers have sent to the show. And this year that includes electric Camaros, turbocharged Kias, and a stampeding Hellephant. This is the best of SEMA 2018.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association is the trade group that represents aftermarket accessory makers and car builders – from tire stickers to roof racks and everything in between. The massive show brings out thousands of vendors and countless show vehicles. Each year, some of the big automakers bring out some customs of their own. Some are just shy of making it to production; others are out of this world.

Kia Forte Federation

Kia brought a pair of Fortes to the show this year. The Forte Federation was impossible to miss, finished in bright green paint. Under that paint it had a host of modifications from intake to tailpipe, including a cold-air intake from K&N and an axle-back exhaust from Borla. It featured a full body kit from Air Design that added a spoiler, diffuser, and side skirts. The springs came from Eibach and the wheels from TSW. The name of that searing green paint? Livid Lime.

2020 Kia Forte GT

The deep-blue Forte hiding behind the Federation is the big news, though. While it looked unassuming next to the other hot cars on the show stand, including a purpose-built drift car, this little Forte is coming to market. The 2020 Kia Forte GT turns the Forte up to a fortissimo.

Following in the Stinger GT’s tire marks, the Forte GT gets a 201 hp 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder and independent rear suspension. Its dark 18-inch alloys can be optioned with Michelin Sport summer tires, linked up to either a six-speed stick or seven-speed dual-clutch.

On the outside, the GT gets a special black grille as well as new side sills and a rear spoiler. It has LED headlights too. Inside, it comes with available Sofino GT sport seats and bigger bolsters that give it a baby-Stinger appearance. The Kia Forte GT is expected to arrive next summer.

Chevrolet eCOPO Camaro

A little less production-ready, though still exciting was the eCOPO Camaro. COPO is code for the special-order system that was used to “sneak” drag-ready cars out of GM plants in the 1960s. Now it lives as a purpose-built drag car Camaro.

The eCOPO uses an all-electric driveline that produces more than 700 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet says that it should be able to complete the quarter-mile in the nine-second range – without waking the neighbours. It’s also GM’s first 800-volt battery pack – more than double the voltage of the pack in the Bolt or Volt – which backs up that extra power.

More importantly for electric enthusiasts, GM is calling this an electric crate motor concept. The electric motor system uses the same bell housing pattern as Chevrolet’s LS V8 engines, which means it can attach to the same transmissions. This could allow customizers to add 700 hp of electric power to just about any car. Now that’s electrifying.

If you want an idea of how popular this one was, the constant crowd surrounding it made getting a photo the single biggest challenging at the show.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro Revision?

Chevrolet also brought out a new Camaro in a new Shock Yellow colour. While the neon hue is likely visible from space, the most significant part of this one probably isn’t the paint – it’s the nose. Slightly different from the already revealed Camaro update, rumours were circulating that the production 2019 car might get this one instead of the one previously revealed due to feedback on that design.

Ford Series 1 Mustang RTR

Ford and pro-drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr.’s RTR Vehicles have teamed up to build a range of parts to customize the Ford Mustang. The Series 1 Mustang RTR will be available in early next year. It adds an RTR grille with custom lighting and graphics. There are real performance mods, including a Ford Performance-tuned magnetic ride suspension. There won’t be more “go” to accompany the show, but it will be available with the 2.3L EcoBoost four or the GT’s 5.0L V8.

Toyota Tundra PIE Pro

Toyota’s Tundra PIE Pro could have been the tastiest vehicle from the entire show. Except that it wasn’t cooking while it was on display. The Pizza Tundra was a collaboration with Pizza Hut, with Toyota Motorsports and the Hut’s HQ being neighbours in Plano, Texas.

The Tundra SR5 was stripped to a bare chassis and reassembled. The V8 was ditched for a hydrogen fuel cell, for zero-emissions pizza. Where the magic happens, though, is the bed – what Toyota’s tech center calls “The Kitchen”. It has a fridge, an oven, and computer-guided robotic arms. That’s right: pizza robots. The robotic arm takes the pizza from the fridge, puts it into the oven, and then another robot slices and serves. The process takes about seven minutes from fridge to pie hole.

Nissan Project Clubsport 23

We showed you Nissan’s Project Clubsport 23 earlier this week. It's a 370Z coupe that’s been fitted with a 400 hp 3.0L twin-turbo V6, an engine borrowed from Infiniti to make a very quick Z-car. At the event, Nissan said that this is one they’re taking a serious look at for production.

Honda Rugged Open Air Vehicle

Honda’s Rugged Open Air Vehicle concept has a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s probably the most extreme concept from a major automaker at the show.

It’s a combination of Ridgeline pickup and Pioneer side-by-side. It looks like a full-size truck-sized ATV because that’s what it is. It uses a highly modified Ridgeline chassis and suspension and doors and styling from the Pioneer 1000. The seats come from the Civic Type R with an outdoor-grade fabric. Don’t expect this one at your Honda Powersports dealer anytime soon.

Ram Low Down

Fiat-Chrysler’s Mopar division never disappoints at SEMA, and this year is no different. The aftermarket parts and service branch of the company brought a pair of trucks to the show, as well as one heck of a car. But first, the trucks.

Mopar went high and low with two Ram 1500 pickups. Starting low was the Low Down concept. Mopar took a Big Horn Ram, dropped it 50 mm, and gave it a custom paint scheme they call Brassphalt. That comes from the Brass Monkey stripe and the billet silver body. The roof is gloss black.

The truck rides on 22-inch wheels from the Laramie Limited. The hood is a concept that borrows some styling from the Sport’s with a couple fewer vents. It wears a one-piece Mopar tonneau cover and 5.0-inch exhaust tips.

Ram Rebel Smoke

Moving on up is the Ram Rebel Smoke concept, named for the special blue-grey Rebel Smoke paint colour. The 50 mm of height taken from the Low Down was added to the Rebel Smoke. It also wears cast aluminum step rails. In the bed are a spare tire carrier and a Rambar sport bar with a brace of LED lights fitted. The tire carrier, bar, and step rails are all prototype items that might enter production. The 50 mm lift is available now. Inside, the Rebel concept drops the production Rebel’s red anodized trim for a black monochromatic look. The rear bumper features a clever folding rear step to help get in and out of the bed.

Both pickups also got a prototype Ram Airflow cold-air intake system. The system takes air from below the hood line and adds a reusable air filter element.

Mopar Hellephant

Finally, the elephant in the room. Make that the Hellephant in the room. The Hellephant moves forward from the Hellcrate 707 hp crate motor in a massive way. It’s an engine that is difficult to describe as anything other than elephantine. 426 cubic inches. That’s 7.0L. Plus it’s supercharged and has an all-aluminum block. The magic figure is 1,000 hp. Backing that is 950 lb-ft of torque.

The engine will be available for sale as a ready-to-install kit motor starting in the first quarter of next year. Mopar calls it the first 1,000 hp crate motor ever offered by an OEM.

To show off that engine, Mopar built a special 1968 Dodge Charger. The Super Charger concept stretches the Charger’s wheelbase while trimming the overhangs to make a car that looks lower and wider than the original. It was streamlined by removing the original car’s door handles and drip rails and wears a fibreglass induction hood. Behind the Charger’s pop-up headlight doors are modern Challenger SRT Hellcat headlights.

The wheels are 20-inch parts taken from the Challenger SRT Hellcat up front and one-off 21-inch in the back. Six-piston Brembo front calipers offer a massive upgrade over the factory drums. This big grey Charger is made to suit to show off the Hellephant engine.