SEMA Roundup: Our Take on the Week’s Custom Cars

By Jacob Brown | November 01, 2011
Four days. One hundred thousand visitors. Two thousand vendors. The Specialty Equipment Market Association converges upon the Las Vegas Convention Center once a year to show off the future aftermarket equipment bound to be bolted on to tomorrow’s cars. In more recent years, automakers have jumped on the bandwagon to showcase their factory-supported extras you can pick up at dealerships and car shops for a nominal cost. Some manufacturers also use SEMA to gauge reactions on upcoming products and, if the reception proves positive, can actually lead to regular production.
We’ve mulled through the automakers’ custom cars for the 2011 SEMA show to get the nitty gritty and see whether any of this year’s crop of cars has a shot at seeing the light of day. Here are some of the highlights:


Silverado Realtree Concept

Chevrolet has partnered with outdoorsy company Realtree to bring you this Chevrolet Silverado concept. With 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft of torque—almost twice the torque number from Ferrari’s 458 Italia sports car—it shares its platform and powertrain with the most powerful Silverado 3500 HD models. Jacked up with off-road goodies and featuring a truck cap, the Silverado Realtree concept looks like it can go anywhere and should be more than tough enough to bring home Bambi after a long day of hunting.

Coolest feature: That platinum paint job with the buck-antler graphics job. Making it to production? Slow down there. Put down your Bud Light. The answer is ‘no.’
Corvette Carlisle Blue Grand Sport Concept

The 2012 model year is the Corvette’s last year of production before receiving a major overhaul. Chevrolet is pulling out all the stops with this special edition Corvette concept that features neato Carlisle blue paint, a new Bose audio system, gray-painted brake calipers, and the top-level 4LT package on a car that commemorates the Corvettes at Carlisle gathering, the biggest annual Corvette event in the nation, held every year in Carlisle, Penn. Coolest feature: Who would have thought baby blue would look so good on a Corvette?

Making it to production? Even if Chevy doesn’t call it a special edition, expect the color and other improvements to make it to showrooms in the sixth-generation Corvette’s last hurrah.

Chrysler Group

Challenger SRT8 ACR

Decorated in the same livery as the Dodge Viper ACR that set a lap record on the 12.9-mile Nurburgring last year, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 ACR comes back as a retuned, sharper-focused version of the brand’s muscle car. Rather than loading it with more than the standard car’s 470 horsepower, Dodge felt inclined to pareweight from the base car’s two-ton heft via removing the rear seat and making the hood out of carbon fiber instead of steel. The automaker also gave the Challenger a flat-bottom steering wheel and revised the suspension for a sportier experience. Coolest feature: Just look at it. Then again, the standard model has almost as much machismo. Making it to production? It makes no sense to build—which is why we want it.

Fiat 500 Titanium

Fiat quits acting cute and instead makes a Fiat 500 that comes across as a little more sinister. Draped in black with the chrome bits tinted black, it’s subdued, and yet it makes the vehicle come across as so much more mature. All of the other touches are subtle from the cold-air intake and strut brace for better handling to the 500’s lowering springs. Coolest feature: All of the parts on this car will be available from Chrysler’s Mopar parts unit.

Making it to production? No, but we’re holding out for other versions of the 500, including the Abarth.


F-350 Super Duty by Hulst Customs

So someone tacked a Bentley grille onto the front of a Ford F-1350 Super Duty. And graphics stickers. And gaudy giant chrome wheels. Okay, maybe taste was left out in the wild to fend for itself when Hulst Customs got a hold of a Ford pickup truck. But it does have LED headlights and Katzkin leather seats, and those have to count for something, right? Coolest feature: Um, er, it’s a lowered pickup truck? Making it to production? Thankfully, no.

Focus by COBB Tuning

Anyone who follows in the Subaru enthusiast community knows what COBB Tuning is. A longtime performance booster for that brand, now COBB is branching out to the Ford community with a turbocharged version of the Ford Focus. With a host of hop-up goodies, including a revised suspension, exhaust system, and an engine with pistons sourced from performance tuner Cosworth, the COBB Tuning Focus has us absolutely salivating for a high-performance Focus. Coolest feature: That engine makes a whole lot more than the stock Focus’ 160 horsepower.

Making it to production? Not likely, but Ford will be bringing its go-fast Focus ST to the market shortly.


Rio 5-Door Antenna

Made in collaboration between Kia and Antenna magazine, the Rio 5-Door seen here is outfitted with hipster surfing enthusiasts in mind. Exterior modifications include a lower body kit, a new exhaust system, gold paint, and gold aluminum wheels. Inside, it features an old record player, jacks for a retro video game system, and shelves for shoes and a wetsuit. Oddly enough, it also has a planter for grass. Make whatever assumptions you wish on that one. Coolest feature: Life is a beach, and Kia and Antenna seem to understand this completely.

Making it to production? Although it isn’t, we bet the grass planter wouldn’t fly in any state but California anyway.


GS 350 with F Sport Package by Lexus

The Lexus GS 350 F Sport seems like a natural fit for Lexus as it builds momentum back for its GS lineup. Featuring a revised front bumper with a wide air intake, an F Sport adaptive suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a host of other luxury and performance upgrades, the GS 350 F Sport adds some pizzazz to the new car. And the standard Lexus GS isn’t even out yet! Coolest feature: It has a red leather interior. Your car probably doesn’t. Making it to production? In the words of an Alaskan governor, you betcha. At least in some form. Mazda


Imagine taking the ultra-punchy turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine from the Mazdaspeed3 and dropping it into the significantly smaller Mazda2. Well, with the Turbo2, Mazda did just that. With 260 horsepower going to the front wheels, it somehow reminds of us the muscle car era when companies would lodge their biggest engines into their smallest cars to gain an advantage. Coolest feature: It weighs 600 pounds less than a MazdaSpeed3 with the same engine.

Making it to production? We wish.


Tacoma TRD T/X Baja Series Limited Edition

Though not as radical as Ford’s SVT Raptor off-road truck, the Baja Series Tacoma is similar in concept. With all of Toyota’s best off-road goodies thrown at it and a new Bilstein racing suspension, the Tacoma is able to ford just about anything you can throw at it. The rear shocks have 1.5 inches of greater travel than the standard Tacoma’s, allowing the truck to fly through the air with little issue. Coolest feature: For greater durability, much of the suspension and underbody is covered in zinc. Making it to production? On behalf of everyone who wants a Raptor but can’t afford one, Toyota is making our dreams come true at a dealership near you.

Camry Daytona 500 Pace Car

Mentioning special NASCAR edition cars like the Plymouth Superbird, Buick Grand National, and Dale Earnhardt edition Chevrolet Monte Carlo, we’re pretty sure a special edition NASCAR Toyota Camry for the Daytona 500 was likely the next thing on your mind. Based on the redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry SE, the Daytona 500 pace car seen here packs the same 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine available in cars on the showroom floor. Where it differs is the 19-inch BBS wheels, the upgraded brakes, lowered Tein suspension, and, of course, a racing roll cage. Coolest feature: Having to unlatch off four-point racing harnesses instead of traditional seat belt buckle to get out.

Making it to production? A special edition for the Daytona 500 may come out, but most of the parts won’t make it onto a production car, if any.


Numeric xB

The xB seen here was created with one purpose in mind: snowboarding. If that doesn’t explain the neon color scheme, maybe this will: Scion outdoes every other auto brand for SEMA. The Numeric xB is just one example in a long list of cars designed especially for the event. The windows are designed to look like ski goggles, and most of the car’s outside features are made of lightweight aluminum, carbon fiber, or breathable fabric. Of course, the interior keeps up the design and throws in a custom stereo, heated floor mats, and a dry compartment for good measure. Coolest feature: It comes with a custom avalanche shovel. Because if you’re going to be stuck in a natural disaster, you might as well do it in style.

Making it to production? No way, dude.


Subaru 1986 XT Drive Magazine restoration project car

Subaru owners’ publication, Drive Magazine, took what was an unloved, over-the-hill XT and brought it back to its former greatness. Long before the Impreza, and far earlier than when Subaru had begun its ascension in the mainstream market, it made quirky, sporty cars with the ruggedness of industrial machinery. The XT broke the mold in a design that looked wedgy and futuristic. It had an asymmetrical steering wheel and a digital dashboard long before it became popular. You may not remember it, but Drive did. Coolest feature: It was turbocharged and all-wheel drive long before those two features were considered cool.

Making it to production? Yeah, 25 years ago. If that’s too old for you, Subaru will soon sell you a BRZ instead.


Grand Vitara Marine Concept

Suzuki partnered with Ohio Technical College to provide what should have been in Suzuki’s lineup from the get-go: a Grand Vitara convertible. Inspired by boats, it has rugged tires, surfboard-inspired mirrors, a winch, snorkel, and antennae galore. It even has an outboard motor on the back, but don’t go jumping off a dock quite yet; the motor is just for show, lest you want to sink your Grand Vitara at the bottom of a lake. Coolest feature: It can go off-road, and it’s a convertible. Why isn’t it competing with the Wrangler? Making it to production? In Japanese: Iie. We'll let you figure that out in English.


I want that Chevy Realtree concept and I want it yesterday.