The annual SEMA automotive accessories trade show in Las Vegas traditionally has scant European car representation. So you can imagine how proud we felt when the Fiat 500 won the SEMA award for hottest sport compact this year. The Italian supermini was up against the best of the domestic and Japanese imports, but managed to take the top spot by virtue of its overall popularity at the event.
If your unfamiliar with SEMA, it is an annual show that brings the automotive industry together in fabulous Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it’s closed to the public, but gives tuner shops and suppliers the chance to meet face-to-face.
Although it’s one of the biggest aftermarket shows in the world, SEMA is dominated by the Big Three domestic manufacturers, with musclecars, pickups and SUVs breeding throughout the show space.
As a result, it took us close to an hour to find our first tuned Euro. However, the influence of Euro-style was evident throughout the massive halls.
From Mustangs sitting on air, to Fiestas on HREs and Kia’s on Rotiforms, our Euro presence could be felt. The best example was probably the Kia Rio with plaid interior and trunk featuring an arcade video game that could have easily been in the hatch of a GTI.
That aside, the biggest buzz in 2011 was the arrival of Japanese Porsche tuner Akira Nakai, the genius behind Rauh-Welt Begriff. He’d travelled to the US to present the first two handbuilt RWB Porsche 911 Turbos in North America.
The RWB 911s have caused a sensation around the world for their nostalgic racecar appearance, and now the company has opened a shop on the West Coast. One of the cars belonged to Ken Block’s new Hoonigan brand and we’ll hopefully have a full feature on it next month.
Fortunately, these 911s were the tip of the iceberg, and a little searching revealed plenty of Euros on display. Walking the halls for miles, we discovered diamonds in the rough like a E30 BMW M3 with a Chevy LS3 V8 engine swap.
We even got a glimpse of a rare British Mk1 VW Golf with a TDI conversion hidden among the cars outside – sadly, it was one of only five tuned Volkswagens we located in the entire show. This is a poor reflection after VW dominated the SEMA headlines a few years ago with its in-house tuning concepts such as the Jetta R GT and R GTI.
Anyway, we’ve collated the best Euro cars and new parts to bring you our best of SEMA coverage, so read on…