It takes endurance, an iron stomach and a will to survive if you plan on making it through any convention; just ask any of the vendors who travel in from around the country and participate in SEMA's annual Auto Salon, or the IAS, as we like to call it (yes, we know that doesn't look right).
For anyone else who visits-meaning you-it's a combined total of 16 hours that you get to spend on a show floor,scoping out anything from hot parts to hot chicks. And if you're the owner of a fine show car, it's time to break out from hibernation. IAS, much like its older sibling SEMA show in Vegas, has become atradition, though many have questioned whether a convention dedicated to the sport compact market is actually worth having. The first two in Los Angeles were successful, while last year's show in Atlantic City wasn't something we'd write home about. And when we learned that this year's festivities would be held in a small city 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia, our expectations were lowered. But it's a good thing we chose to ignore our doubts, because the '06 IAS was pretty much as good as it gets.
There Are No Stupid Questions, Only Stupid Answers
There are five specific questions people toss around at IAS, no matter who you are or who you work for-it's a subconscious, embedded function that always seems to find its way into the cerebrum once you find employment in this industry and are sent around for work at trade shows:1) When did you get in?2) Which hotel are you at?3)How long are you here for?4)What parts did you see that you like?5 How did the show treat you this year?You may have heard more and you may have heard variations, but without fail someone asks them all. It's almost a replacement for "Hi, how are you doing?" but not, and you just instinctively reply: "The same old, same old" (as if we'd never done this sort of thing before). It's comedy, really, but it does take the edge off and there are 16 hours of show time. Out of the five examples, only one concerns you: the parts. And while it seems obvious that parts should be debuted here, the bulk of the good stuff is saved for the big show instead.
GReddy, for example, focused on parts that were first shown at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January, presenting the Type-S coilover dampers with 32-way adjustability and intelligent informeter, a sort of iPod-slash-cellphone-of-the-future-looking engine monitor that not only records, saves and plays engine feedback, but can be custom designed with interchangeable panels. They also have a new turbo kit for the Scion tC as well as a new line of synthetic engine oils perfect for turbocharged applications.
GM came strong as usual with the Tuner Tour, showcasing Ecotec upgrades for the Cobalt platform and last year's Time Attack winner, driven by John Heinricy. The Mackin Industries (North American importer of such JDM gems as Volk wheels, among others) booth was a popular rest stop, not just for the girls, but because of the Jade Motorsports NSX, which had a Route KS widebody kit molded to the chassis, the new Gram Lights 57 Maximum wheels, and a new carbon fiber air duct cover for the Subaru WRX from ARC.
High caliber race, drift, show and OE cars were also on display-HKS took front row honors with NOB Taniguchi's Aristo and Evo; Mopar with Sam Hubinette's Charger SRT8 drift car; NOS Energy Drink brought its drift-prepped SC300 (check the poster in next month's issue); and we got a chance to scope the follow-up to the widely successful Scion line, Toyota's latest in the small-car segment, the Yaris 3-door, already touched up with gold Volks.
Hourly seminars were provided and allowed different tuners and manufacturers to come and show enthusiasts not only the finer intricacies of tuning in general but also what needed to be done in order to build the same cars they were seeing up close and personal.
IAS was also the first stop of the Trifecta tour, put up by Car Audio and Electronics magazine and sponsors Arc Audio, Alpine, Morel, Kicker, Kenwood, Acoustic Edge, Focal, Audison, Pontus, Crossfire Audio, A3, Icon-TV, Extreme Autofest, Lowrider, SEMA and IAS. Trifecta is an audio competition with a twist: not only does the car have to sound good, it has to look good, too. Guest judges from across the car audio world came in and gave First place to Justin Efkowtiz and his 300M packed with Focal and Audison gear. Not only did Justin take home $500 along with the trophy, but he's also being sent to the SEMA show in Vegas for the final competition and possibly an even bigger cash reward. Second place winner Dave Hary also gets a free ride to Vegas and $250 for his Audi S4, which claimed Best Sound Quality, while Third place and $125 went to Ryan Shutt's Polk Audio-equipped Civic. You can catch more info on the Trifecta show in the August issue of Car Audio and Electronics or from www.caraudiomag.com.
Surprisingly, for a show situated all the way out in the middle of nowhere, people poured through the doors even while it poured outside. Nevermind the moaning and groaning "this show will be done next year" blah, blah. Since Fort Washington plans to kill the convention hall by next year, we're just wondering, where's SEMA going to take the party next?