The very first SEMA Show in 1967.
It’s been a few weeks since we returned from the 2013 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. What has prompted this post is not only what we saw of interest at this year’s show, but also the vintage photos that we have turned up of the show’s beginnings back in the 1960s. The modern show is massive in size and is honestly a bit overwhelming to try and take in in just a few short days. We spent much of the week walking the show floor talking with old friends, meeting new people and perusing the latest offerings of the automotive aftermarket. We’ll give you a glimpse of some of the vehicles and parts that we found interesting below.
The size and the scope of the SEMA Show got us thinking about the changes we’ve witnessed over the past four decades or so. I first attended the SEMA Show back in 1976 as a new staff member at Street Rodder. The show was then held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California and as you might imagine was a lot smaller than what we see today.
The roots of the show, however, go back to the mid-’60s when the first few years were held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Manufacturer product displays, in fact, were set up in the basement. SEMA was founded in 1963 and the first SEMA Show was held in 1967. The black and white vintage photos shown here are from that very first show. The color photos we snapped with our iPhones during the 2013 gathering.
For years Ford has had a large presence at the SEMA Show. They show off a bunch of their new products and vehicles, but the display always has quite a few older cars in it as well. This year one of the hits of the show was “Snakebit F-100”, a ’56 Ford pickup. The project was the brainchild of Tom Foster, a Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada, resident and businessman. The project was created to help raise funds for a new children’s hospital in the province and the project seems to have taken on a life of its own since it began in 2009. The result is this truck that combines the original lines of the ’56 F-100 along with the drivetrain and styling cues from late model Shelby Mustangs. The engine is a 550 horsepower 5.4 liter supercharged four-cam V8.
The truck was unveiled at SEMA with much fanfare and the help of KISS bassist Gene Simmons and his wife Shannon Tweed, who is a native of Saskatchewan and a huge proponent of the charity. The truck will be auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson in 2014 with proceeds going to the hospital charity.
Ford didn’t have a display at the first SEMA Show, but Shelby American did. Their booth was packed with everything from Paxton supercharged 289s to a Borrani wire wheeled Ford GT-40.
Kent Fuller’s streamliner was on display in the Derale booth. It looks as if good progress has been made since funding was secured using Kickstarter a few months back. The flathead engine is now being reworked at Larry Ofria’s Valley Head Service in Northridge, California. Kent and Larry have been friends since they were teenagers and Larry reports that the streamliner is really close to making an initial run. One of the vintage photos we dug up from the first SEMA Show pictures Larry manning the Valley Head Service booth.
We stopped by Bobby Alloway’s shop in Tennessee on our way back from shooting Skip Wall’s ’32 Ford Phaeton just before SEMA. We saw Bobby and his crew putting the finishing touches on this pair of Chevys. A week or so later they were on display in Vegas in the HRIA booth. The ’52 Fleetline has been fitted with a 409-based powerplant and has received the typical Alloway treatment slammed on the ground with big and little blackwalls mounted on polished aluminum wheels made to Alloway’s specs by Billet Specialties. The ’62 Impala convertible is a bit less menacing in appearance with its silver paint and red upholstery. It is powered by a conventional big block Chevy, but Bobby couldn’t help but affix a set of 409 valve covers to the rat motor. We like them both.
We always enjoy dropping by the Dynamat booth where we always seem to have an interesting conversation with proprietor Scott Whitaker and Beth Maranda. Scott’s taste in automobiles is wide and eclectic and when he doesn’t have a new project of his own to showcase he consistently digs up an interesting car or two to add interest to their display. This year Dynamat showcased a wild, first generation Mustang that had been created entirely from scratch by the Ring Brothers. The body was made entirely of carbon fiber.
Also in the Dynamat display was Dennis Varni’s latest effort. It is a bullet nosed Studebaker that has been fitted with Fleetline-style bodywork made from wood. Doug Carr of Woodn’ Carr in Signal Hill, California, handled the impressive work on the body. The project was started by the late Joe MacPherson and Varni has now just about seen it through to completion. It lacks only upholstery and small details.
The engine in the ’Stude is a story in itself. Varni purchased the fuel-injected Edsel V8 that was on the cover of the June ’59 Hot Rod and installed it in the Studebaker. The engine’s prototype fuel injection was developed by Propulsion Development Laboratories and was intended to replace carburetion in OEM installations. In the HRM article Research Editor Bob Pendergast noted that he kept up with PDL employee and developer of the injection, Ed Johnson, when he would run into him while surfing their mutually favored break in Manhattan Beach.
United Pacific displayed their new Deuce five-window metal body in both stock form and as a ’60s style hot rod. The baremetal coupe shown here is the work of Bobby Walden and it featured one of Walden’s “Jake” chassis, a smallblock Chevy fitted with Walden’s retro 4-71 blower set-ups, and a nicely chopped top.
We’ve known Jerry Magnuson since the 1970s. Several years ago he sold the successful supercharger company that bore his name and this Track-T what he has been working on since. It is a well-proportioned Model T-based roadster that will perform as good as it looks. Jerry plans to offer the car as a roller along with many of the individual parts and pieces that he has developed in the process. Jerry is a life-long hot rodder as well as an engineer at heart and has set the bar for performance at an extremely high level. With 530 horsepower, a weight of just 1600 pounds and a thoughtfully designed suspension, Jerry plans on proving that a solid-axle suspended car can compete with just about anything on the street.
Johnson’s Hot Rods had their new Bonneville racer on display in the ARP booth. It is a ’53 Studebaker that they hope will be the first full-bodied door slammer car to break the 300 mph barrier without a power-adder such as a supercharger or nitrous oxide. The computer designed front end and healthy smallblock Chevy SB2 powerplant enabled the car to go 228 mph on its initial outing with Johnson’s Hot Rods employee Shane Phillips at the wheel. The car is owned by Betty and Paul Gilliam of Birmingham, Alabama, and they have christened it the “Stupidbaker”, a moniker that was jokingly used every time they had to write a check during the car’s construction. We look forward to seeing the Stupidbaker on the salt in 2014.
Alan and Angie Johnson were awarded the prestigious Ford Heritage award for their Deuce highboy roadster. We featured it in baremetal back in TRJ #43. The Heritage award is one of three of the prized Ford Design awards that were won by early-Ford bodied hot rods this year. The Ridler winning ’40 coupe of Ron Cizek took the Ford Best of Stand trophy and John Mumford’s AMBR winning Track-T was recognized with the Ford Best of Show award. We do think its is significant that all three of these Ford Design Awards were taken by early-model hot rods and all three have flathead-based engines. Congratulations to all.
We stopped by the Rocket Racing Wheels booth initially to say “hi” to David Coker, but our attention was immediately drawn to a couple of their new wheel offerings. David has a great interest in – and an impressive knowledge of – Indy car racing, particularly in its post war period. He has long wanted to build a street wheel that mimicked the look of what was being run at the Brickyard. He had his new Rocket Fire and Rocket Solid on display. The Rocket Solid is the smoothie styled wheel while the Rocket Fire is the one with the ribs shown in the accompanying photos.
Each of these wheels is very cool in its own right, but it is particularly interesting how they go together. The Rocket Solid has the pattern of the Rocket Fire on the backside and visa versa. David did this intentionally. Back in the 1950s Indy teams would turn either the right or left side wheels around backwards to change the handling of the cars by changing the wheel offset. Rocket will offer these wheels so that you can run one type on one side and the other on the opposite side in homage to the old Indy roadster look. In a modern street application, however, the offset will remain the same. Both wheels will be available in Spring of 2014 in 16×5-inch sizes with an 18×6-inch size following shortly thereafter.
Coker Tire continues to expand its already massive line of vintage-style tires, but the two items that captured our imagination in this year’s display were the Honest Charley’s shop truck and the Lencki engine. The F-100 Honest Charley truck had a neat vintage vibe, but what really piqued our interest was the huge two-piece mold in the pickup bed. It gives you a good idea of just how tires are made and it is a thing of beauty in its own right. It looks cool in the same sort of way that a wooden buck for a body or a Track-T nose does.
For our money one of the neatest things at SEMA this year was the Lencki Six engine in the Coker booth. It was originally designed by Leo Goosen and was assembled at Offenhauser back in 1938. The powerplant made its debut at Indy in 1939. The inline-six is similar to the Offy four-cylinder as you might imagine. Corky Coker acquired the patterns and has teamed up with Mike Cunningham to create the Lencki Six Mark 2. It retains the original architecture, but utilizes modern componentry including custom ground camshafts from Comp Cams and electronic fuel injection from Hilborn with a FAST electronic module. The plan is to put it into production.
The Classic Instruments booth was chock full with a dizzying array of new components. Several items caught our eye including the Holman & Moody, So-Cal and Hollywood Hot Rod branded gauges. We were also intrigued by their new Rocket Tach, which features a half-sweep retro design with lighted rocket boosters. It’s just the thing to add a ’60s vibe. Perhaps what we found most intriguing are the plans for new products that Classic’s John McLeod and Bill Mullins alluded to. We’ve been sworn to secrecy, but we will say that traditionally oriented rodders will be very excited about some of the new products they now have in the pipeline. We’ll keep you posted.
Speaking of gauges. Hot rodders have always sought cool ways to show off neat gauges, which to our way of thinking are the jewelry of an automotive interior. The folks at Lokar have teamed up with Goolsby Customs to come up with a new signature line of products with a traditional feel. We especially liked the new Auburn-style dash insert. It is milled from aluminum and can be had with a variety of inserts including the engine-turned piece shown here. We also have a feature on Lokar proprietor Skip Walls’ ’32 Ford Phaeton coming up in TRJ #62.
What we found interesting about the Moon booth are the similarities between what it looked like this year and how it appeared back in 1967. The iconic Mooneyes logo remains a fixture of the Moon display as do a plethora of cool finned-aluminum parts. Many of the items seen in the vintage photo such as the direct mount gauges, breathers and valve covers are still offered by the company today. Dean is shown in ’67 with an appropriately attired Moon girl.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what cool and new stuff we saw at SEMA. We thought it was worth showing some of the latest traditional goodies along with some neat old vintage photos of the very first SEMA Show.