Each and every year, the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show takes over the Las Vegas Convention center for a week of modified vehicular mayhem.
Imagine, for a second, every single performance part supplier and manufacturer in one place at the same time. Now, take all the people who work at these companies, or at the magazines and blogs that report on them, paired with owners of built-to-the-max cars, and you've got an unfathomable group of people, products and vehicles intent on celebrating automotive excellence.
As you might guess, it's difficult to cover the show in its entirety, or relay its magnitude in a few pages, so we've broken down SEMA 2013 into several categories to capture our highlights from the event.
Among the highlights were a rash of widebody kits, encouraged by the success of Rauh-Welt Begriff Porsche 911s from a few years ago. The trend for bolt-on widebodies has continued with companies like RWB and Bisimoto having fun with the Porsches, while Liberty Walk had kits on display for BMW, Lamborghini and Ferrari. So join us for a recap of SEMA week and visit europeancarmag.com for larger photo galleries, as well as links to our video walkabout and post-event drag race.
As usual, there were plenty of show-worthy BMWs, including Mickey Andrade's E93 BMW 328i, dubbed Ric Flare. It features a unique Liberty Walk widebody - the first to be fitted to a wagon, and installed by LTMotorwerks. Tying it together was a set of HRE S107 wheels and Rotora big-brakes. We love the car but it was a shame there wasn't time to add some go to the show. However, Mickey's considering a turbo-diesel swap. Stay tuned!
We also had to include some of the Liberty Walk M3s ,  in our top pick as well. Sure, there were many of them, but they were still menacing and several caught our eye, including the Bag Riders 328i , complete with M3 bodywork, Rotiform wheels and a Bag Riders air suspension. The matte red wrap didn't hurt, either...
Away from the crazy body kits was some insane bodywork on the LTMW F30 328i. The car had been through many phases, but at SEMA 2013 it featured a blend of BMW M Performance parts and LTMW custom bumpers. Discovered in the Injen booth, the engine bay was as pretty as the rest of the car, thanks to its black wrinkle finish and exposed Injen intake.
Decisions, decisions... As confessed Porscheophiles, it was next to impossible to choose a favorite, especially when older models were being revived and updated. Despite all the widebody kits, we found ourselves drawn to the classic lines of the Rotiform 964. Finished in Seafoam and displayed in the H&R booth, the 911 was like no other. It had the recently-released Fuchs-style Rotiform wheels as well as a jaw-dropping interior with details like custom upholstered Recaro A8 seats and a Ruf shift knob. This 964 was the total package.
Up next was the stunning RWB Porsche 930 in the Toyo booth. Although the car had little motor work and not many mods inside, it was executed extremely well. Somehow, after seeing so many RWB cars over the years, they don't get old since Nakai-san puts his unique style and personality into each car he builds.
There was also a completely over-the-top RWB 993 on display, and while it wasn't our cup of tea, many attendees were leaving puddles of drool nearby.
Bisimoto returned to SEMA with another 964. Starting with a naturally aspirated model, they used the car to debut a new bolt-on turbo kit. The company admitted the car's completion was rushed because of other projects, but it will have a complete makeover and should look even better in the coming months. Flat black paint with blue Fifteen52 Formula TR wheels was definitely a look we approved of!
To our surprise, Mercedes attendance was low this year. However, top dog was definitely the SLS Black Series from Weistec Engineering. Having just driven this $275000 car on the track (see the AMG driving feature in this issue), we can tell you it needs nothing more, but Weistec felt it could use a substantial power boost and new shoes. Boasting around 900hp and with looks to kill, we were uncontrollably drawn toward it.
There's no doubt the hottest, most talked about car of SEMA 2013 was the Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 Italia. We had our doubts about fitting a widebody kit to something as perfect and chiseled as the 458. It's hard to imagine anybody cutting into such a high-dollar exotic, but that's exactly what LTMW did. And while some may consider it sacrilege, we loved its hardcore stance on wide Rotiform wheels and Nitto tires. Not to mention the tri-tip titanium exhaust... The Liberty Walk 458 was gorgeous and constantly surrounded by a crowd.
We can't give all the credit to Ferrari, though, because we'd be ignoring the stealth bomber in the Mobil 1 booth. The Underground Racing Lamborghini Aventador was gorgeous in its grey coat, sitting on healthy HRE wheels, barely hiding massive yellow brakes. The Underground twin-turbo system boosted power to 1500hp at the wheels. Yes, you read that right, and it apparently gets this monster to 60mph in a mind-bending 2.2sec.
And just like that, we were looking at another Ferrari 458 Italia. We couldn't stop staring at the unique lip kit and massive rear wing on the Super Veloce Racing 458 - yet another vehicle built by LTMW for the show. We also loved its sick HRE Vintage wheels and appreciate the overall attitude of this badass Ferrari.
There wasn't an abundance of Audis at the show and our favorite was probably the AccuAir S7. Featuring the company's iPhone app-controlled air suspension, a custom BBi Autosport exhaust and purple Vossen wheels, it definitely looked the part on the show floor - and we mean that literally. Thanks to its air-ride, the front bumper was resting inches from the carpet.
Volkswagen representation at SEMA was also rather thin, but what we did find was very strong. The hottest was easily the Garrett Turbo/Forge Motorsport Mk1 GTI shipped from the UK for the show. Built for Time Attack events, the insane hatch had a Berg Cup-style body kit to provide it with sufficient downforce for the bored and stroked 2.0L engine with Garrett GTX2860 turbo. Generating 300hp and 400 lb-ft at the wheels, the Mk1 was an instant hit.
Another star of show and track was the 034Motorsport Mk4 GTI. This was the car built for our Tuner GP several years ago, boasting a mid-mounted Audi S4 V6 turbo and RWD. Although hidden upstairs away from the crowds, it managed to scoop the Best Euro nomination for the annual Sony PlayStation GT awards.
We were also proud to see the FMS Automotive Mk6 Jetta widebody, a car we helped create, and have covered its build elsewhere in this issue.
Our next choice would be the Mk7 Golf in the H&R booth. The lines of the gorgeous new car were highlighted by sexy Rotiform wheels and H&R's own suspension components. Orange Brembo brakes peeking through the spokes gave the hatch the right amount of flare, while a VW Accessories body kit and center-exit, dual exhaust gave the Golf some attitude.
Expanding its product portfolio, Vogtland is getting into the air game. Its new Electronic Lowering System provides instantaneous chassis tuning for vehicles that have factory air suspension or active suspension. The module can lower beyond the factory settings by nearly 40mm. The ELS system simply plugs into the stock factory location and all the options are accessible through the OEM factory suspension in the car's menu display. $TBD
Akrapovic 458 exhaust
While the Ferrari 458 continues to dominate the playboy supercar market, it's nice to know some people are becoming more interested in aftermarket tuning. And Akrapovic has set the bar high when it comes to high-performance exhausts, with its full titanium slip-on system looking great. It will undoubtedly sound good and is said to give 11hp and 14 lb-ft.
Bilstein iRC and Clubsport
Fine-tuning your suspension isn't for the fainthearted. In the past, you had to guess the setting for your coils and dampers, hit the track and hope you were dialed-in properly. It could take a lot of trial and error to get it right. But thanks to modern technology, the process has become more palatable with Bilstien's iRC electronic suspension monitoring system that not only lets you access suspension settings on-the-fly, it also lets you make adjustments from the comfort of your smart phone or tablet. See our feature on the Bilstein Sweepstakes 335i in this issue for more details.
Borla Cayman exhaust
Exhaust systems are important to tuning enthusiasts and Borla has been busy with several new enthusiast vehicles such as the 2014 Porsche Cayman. The cat-back, center-exit system is a bolt-on replacement for the stock pipes and is compatible with an optional Borla aluminum diffuser kit.
AccuAir Audi B8
Since our extensive test between coilovers and air suspension in the 11/13 issue, AccuAir has been assembling its air components for a complete suspension system for the B8 Audi A4 and S4 models. Its top-of-the-line self-leveling system comes with high-grade CNC aluminum sensor brackets that keep the system in constant contact with their self-adjusting modules to ensure good comfort and handling.
Designed in Germany and tested extensively on the legendary Nurburgring, Continental Tire's newest ultra high-performance tire was created for enthusiastic drivers looking to get ultimate in summer traction. It will initially only be available in ten different sizes, ranging from 225/40 ZR18 all the way up to 325/30 ZR19. The good news is that theContiForceContact is DOT-approved for street use and aggressive enough for track use.
Falken ZIEX ZE950 A/S
The ZIEX ZE950 A/S features Dynamic Range Technology (DRT), Falken's exclusive compound technology providing maximum performance in a wide range of climate conditions, along with an innovative tread design. These features have attributed to 18% better tread life and 10% better winter traction compared to the previous ZIEX ZE912 all-season tire.
Vossen Flow Form Wheels
Wheels can create a unique personality for your car and the creative minds at Vossen debuted a new line that's sure to get you some attention. These included two new Flow Form series wheels as well as a range of CVT wheels that should be available soon.
Meguiar's Ultimate Black
Getting faded black trim back to its original luster isn't easy, but the team at Meguiar's has created another user-friendly solution; pre-moistened foam sponges that enable quick and easy application of Ultimate Black - the company's best trim dressing. The durable sponges are perfectly sized and considerably easier to handle than a thin foam sponge. With Meguiar's Ultimate Black Sponges, you can dress all exterior plastic and rubber surfaces quickly and without mess.
Scorpion Ti exhaust
Created by Scorpion Exhaust, the new titanium system for the VW Golf R is completely handcrafted, only weighing 15 lb and retailing for around $3000. If you want a great sound, good weight saving and looks, it's a good option.
Billet Specialties is a premier hot rod and musclecar wheel company that's decided to expand beyond its traditional 1950s inspired wheels. The new B-Forged line rivals designs found elsewhere and bforgedwheels.com has a new online Wheel Visualizer with many late-model European cars for you to check out.
As far as European presence was concerned, H&R hit it out of the park, debuting new suspension kits as well as lowered versions of three of the most anticipated tuner cars - the BMW 435i, Mk7 VW Golf and Audi RS7.