The Los Angeles Convention Center was the site of this year's SEMA International Auto Salon (IAS). The aftermarket automotive industry is booming, with sales of more than $3 billion in 2003. IAS gives manufacturers the opportunity to show their wares and new products. Exhibitors exhibit, buyers buy, and the press, well, we just walk around and drool over the new parts.
IAS was slightly smaller this year, but there were still exciting new products and show cars. IAS also gives everyone the opportunity to meet with smaller companies and manufacturers that may have great parts, but don't have name recognition. Sometimes the most innovative gadget can come from a tiny company in Idaho. I skip the booths with the crowds surrounding the models and seek out the smallest, blink-and-you-miss-them booths.
Though it's from a big company, one new product worth mentioning is Garrett's MINI Cooper twin-charged turbo kit. The kit features a ball-bearing Garrett turbocharger that feeds directly into the factory Cooper S intercooler. The kit utilizes both the factory Cooper S supercharger as well as the bolt-on turbo kit from Garrett to twin-charge the MINI's 1.6-liter engine.
Turbo's debut this year at IAS was, of course, our project Scion tC. We're proud our Turbo-sponsored tC took second place in the Sport Compact Class. Since the tC is a new model it drew lots of looks from the IAS attendees. The tC's polished, stainless-steel turbo manifold by Turbonetics was impressive. The twisted, tied-in-a-knot pipes are an engineering feat incorporating a tubular long-runner stainless-steel manifold with a Burn's stainless-steel collector. Another highlight of our Project tC was the complete Bride interior, including matching front and rear seats, front and rear door panels and matching center armrest.
At the Scion booth was an impressive orange chop-top xB mobile DJ unit. Loaded with Pioneer products, the xB has a remote control back-hatch with a DJ stand that pops out; the doors swing open to reveal some booming speakers. The vehicle was rumored to cost $250,000, so it damn well should look buff.
Another notable presence at IAS was the number of Japanese companies that turned out. Tanabe's general manager and crew represented, bringing with them the renowned Kousuke Kida of Signal Auto. Kida's horsepower-packing GT-R and 350Z were on display, bringing back memories of riding in the monster of a beast in Japan. The purple color-changing twins were a highlight among the many cars on display.
After opening day of IAS, the real fun began on Hollywood's legendary Sunset Strip. Both Sparco and Promotion threw parties, making for a club-hopping, booze-filled evening. Dancers in cages collected dollars in their G-strings and industry folks got their swerve on. (This is when stain-resistant and wrinkle-free khakis come in handy, so you can party all night and roll back into the show the following morning without looking too beat.)
While we didn't take any incriminating photos of the evening's events, check out this month's feature of the IAS show, complete with all the hot honeys and dope cars.