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 |   |  SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19
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SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19

Digging through the weeds to find hidden treasures at the tradeshow

Bob Hernandez
Nov 12, 2019
Photographer: Leslie Clemens

There's the SEMA Show that lives in the Las Vegas Convention Center's three big auditoriums—the North, Central, and South Halls everyone is constantly referring to—and then there's the show that happens outside those halls, arguably less popular, less buzzworthy, but no less fertile for sick builds to hunt if that's the sort of thing you like to do at SEMA (and we do). Display cars flex in places like the "Performance Pavilion" or the "Blue Lot" for the week, or in areas that have no name at all, just waiting for whatever bit of attention they can grab—because at the end of the day, these entries often get overlooked, and many times that just isn't right.

SEMA 2019 Dahm 4 rotor AWD RX7 01 Photo 69/69   |   SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19
SEMA 2019 Dahm 4 rotor AWD Mazda RX 7 Photo 69/69   |   SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19

This year we blew through the North Hall in less than a couple hours, not finding a whole lot but surprised we hadn't seen this car in the flesh sooner: YouTube star Rob Dahm's 4-rotor, all-wheel drive 1993 Mazda RX-7. Parked in the Gorilla Grip booth, the creation wasn't too dissimilar from many of the over-the-top fabrication exercises we see dotting the show each year but still fun to gaze at and try to unpack everything the builder did. The billet mill is based on a 26B and runs on E85 to make upwards of 1,400 horsepower, which it sends through a XClutch 4-plate clutch and Holinger sequential-adapted R33 transfer case. Custom carbon shafts continue to move energy to a front BMW E36 Wavetrac diff and rear Winters 10-inch diff, and Dahm went with 19x10.5-inch wheels all around. Chromoly tube frame, billet aluminum suspension and JRi Shocks, and custom widebody are some of the broader points, but there is a lot more to the car's spec list than we have room for here.

SEMA 2019 GReddy Suzuki Photo 69/69   |   SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19

Overland everything! One of SEMA 2019's big trends was turning vehicles into "lite" off-roaders, akin to what we've done/we're doing with our GR Subaru WRX hatch and Lexus UX. We saw plenty of sweet off-roady type executions, but our fave was GReddy's Suzuki Jimny by Car Style out of Kyoto, Japan.

SEMA—a nice day for a white wheel! To go with all the A90 Supra and overland vehicles, white wheels was a thing at this year's SEMA, the achromatic motif found on dozens of examples throughout the LVCC. The color (or lack thereof) worked really well on the sets of Rays 57Xtreme we spied, and the Ferrari 348 Challenge we saw out front could do no wrong in 5-spoke Rotiform ROC rollers.

SEMA 2019 J35 swapped S2000 driftcar Photo 69/69   |   SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19
SEMA 2019 turbo B18 swapped Civic CX Photo 69/69   |   SEMA 2019 Leftovers - Off the Beaten Path #MTSEMA19

Poking around the Hot Wheels booth we discovered a couple of Honda builds we hadn't seen previously, the Apex Auto Works S2000 and Carlo Uribe's EH2 Civic. Jeff Kurtz and Jim Berg built up Jeff's old high school car to run pro-am drifting events, shoehorning a supercharged Honda J35 engine into the roadster's engine bay; as for Carlo's hatchback, it runs a turbo B18 pushed out to 2.1 liters and was painted just 30 days before SEMA—cuttin' it close!

At the back of the Central Hall is the Blue Lot, where the Throttle Thrashers "RB2586" sat from British Columbia, Canada—a Toyota 86 with a Nissan RB25 heart. We were indifferent about the purple flake paint, but the rest of the car was pretty dang amazing, considering it was tucked about as far away from the SEMA Show proper as a car possibly could be. The award-winning build picked up another at the event, a SEMA Battle of the Builders Young Guns Top 10.

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