These are strange times indeed. While there will be no in-person SEMA aftermarket trade show this year due to the pandemic, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (which is what "SEMA" stands for) is holding a virtual event called SEMA360 that, like its live event, is only open to the industry. Furthermore, we know from several reps that parts news and new car builds that normally would've debuted at the annual Las Vegas trade show are being rerouted to social media in some capacity—like GReddy Performance for example, which is putting on its GPP Live on October 29th to reveal its new product and project cars. SEMA, the event that used to deliver lots of news in a single space within less than a week's time, has now been replaced by multiple sources making separate announcements spread out over weeks.
We'd say we miss the old days but that's not entirely true; we don't miss how wrecked we got most nights of SEMA week (the parties!) and we in no way miss walking miles to hit every corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center (the blisters!) Still, looking back at some of our old stories documenting the show over the years, we can see just how far the "tuner crowd" has come. Going back to the 2010 SEMA Show, let's say, it's pretty clear OEMs were speaking to fans of customizing Japanese cars and compacts in general in a completely different way from today. Honda was trying to get people pumped on its new CR-Z FWD hybrid, and Scion—still a couple years out from the RWD FR-S and six years away from going bust—was trying to hype up its newly-released second gen. tC FWD. But did enthusiasts really want all that?
Both automakers tried to make a compelling case at the 2010 SEMA Show. For defunct Toyota youth brand Scion, the tC was the featured platform of its annual Tuner Challenge build competition, and the winner of the program—the late Shawn Baker and his slammed, RM Nimbus Onyx Pearl tC—was revealed at the show. As for Honda, they brought an army of modified CR-Z, tapping everyone from Honda Performance Development (HPD) and Bisimoto to our own Honda Tuning magazine to create them. If we're being honest, though, we have a hard time believing any of those display vehicles are etched in anyone's memory as standouts from SEMA 2010 (FYI, neither model exists anymore).
Skim through this story's photo gallery and you'll be transported to a time before widebody kits and exaggerated aero became the norm—a time when fender gap still could be found on lowered cars (however slight) and just before everyone's wheel game improved vastly. By those metrics, legendary builder/racer/team owner Steph Papadakis was ahead of the curve; the 1986 Corolla GT-S he built for Motegi Racing may have not had people crowded around it for any stretch of time like the Honda and Scion booths, but it was low-key one of the nicest cars at the event. As you can read in the feature story we produced about it, highlights include a custom After Hours Composite Works widebody and a BEAMS 3S-GE swap with individual throttle bodies.
Another car we dug and may have glossed over in our coverage a decade ago was Joy Carino's Top Secret-kitted JZA80 Supra, a Ferrari nosed-looking widebody that has only found its way to Super Street twice, on Smokey Nagata's original V-12-swapped Mk4 in Japan and Carino's SEMA car (and actually, we featured it the year before it went to SEMA). It's a wild nip-tuck for the face of the beloved Supra but, like those zany Veilside kits for the NSX and FD RX-7, it sticks in your brain because it's so unusual.
As we prep for the scattershot news and cars coming from the aftermarket industry in the weeks ahead in the absence of the SEMA Show, we pine a little for how it used to be and what it used to look like. We're also kinda crossing our fingers that this time next year we'll be live in Las Vegas instead hunkered down in SoCal scrolling through our social feeds.