The 2002 version of the Specialty Equipment Marketing Organization's International Auto Salon was bigger and better than the 2001 edition. The Salon's claim to fame? Unlike the trade-only SEMA Show, it's open to the public. Manufacturers, tuners and distributors have a chance to get some feedback from the end-user. It also affords enthusiasts a chance to see all the companies that support the scene under one roof.
Standouts at the show, held again at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif., were plentiful. The number and quality of the cars was high and there were several drag cars in the main hall.
One of the highlights was Shaun Carlson's Nuformz/ Meguiar's Focus, which was totally revamped for 2002. The car runs a 2.3-liter turbo four from the SVO Mustang of the mid-'80s. The tranny configuration is similar to Stephan Papadakis' Civic coupe.
Also of interest under Ford's banner is Ben Ma's AEBS RWD Focus, which sported American Products Company (APC) logos at the Salon. Ford withdrew its support of SC drag activities since Bill Ford took over the company. As a result, many Focus teams are scurrying for sponsors.
Other notable racecars fresh from Gainesville included the 199.93-mph Turbonetics Celica (Pro winner), Paisley Racing's Tacoma (Pro runner-up), the Paisley Racing Supra (Modified winner) and GM Racing's Cavalier.
In the spirit of the Tokyo Auto Salon, Volk Racing and Signal Auto unleashed a Top Secret-bodied Supra and a wild orange-hued Silvia. Bomex had calendar girls, just like TAS. Some new faces were on hand from Japan as well, including Best Motoring, a company that produces car enthusiast videos and Tommy Kaira, a Subaru tuner.
We spied some cool products at the Salon. Vortech had a Honda S2000 sporting a V-1 supercharger kit, Turbonetics had its Gen II wastegate that sports a flapper door-style valve and Wiseco had a number of sport compact piston designs. Wiseco is a good match for this industry, based on its experience with motorcycles and its products' inherent high-revving characteristics.
EFI Systems had its stand-alone engine management system on hand and Dart generated some commotion with its solid deck Honda race block. GM had a huge booth at the Salon and used the show to announce a number of performance parts for its lineup of sport compact cars. On the Ecotec side, four parts developed from the GM Racing drag race program were introduced at the event. For 2.4-liter twin-cam fans, a blower was released in accordance with the Salon. (For more on the General's offerings, check out "Backpressure" on page 122.) JG Edelbrock had its Honda race engine packages and coil-over shock set-ups on display. HKS had a trick grounding terminal for use in applications with a good deal of electronics; be they tuning devices or audio components.
Using the Salon to gauge the pulse of the sport compact industry, one can only say the growth trend continues. Prior to the show, SEMA updated its forecast for the market, estimating $1.92 billion in sales for 2002. Conservative guess? It's unclear. What is clear is the import juggernaut is picking up serious momentum.