LAS VEGAS Nevada is a Mecca for tourists who travel there to gamble and play in any of the hundreds of hotels and casinos Sin City is famous for. With tens of thousands of hotel rooms available, the city is also home to some of the biggest conferences and exhibitions in the USA, but there’s one time each year when Vegas is overtaken by petrol-heads from around the globe.
The SEMA Show brings gear manufacturers, custom-car builders, off-roaders, drag racers, hot-rodders and street-machiners to the Las Vegas Convention Centre for four days of automotive mayhem. It’s a trade-only show, so you need to be in the business to gain entry, but once within the massive halls you’ll be awed by what a huge industry we’re a part of.
With the NHRA running drags at The Strip the weekend before the show, and qualifying for the Baja 1000 taking place in the surrounding desert during the week, there are plenty of racers and celebrities also in town and working their sponsors’ show booths. It wall to wall cars, people and products, and after five days of walking the show I still didn’t see all of it.
There are custom cars, trucks and 4x4s, with every taste – from mild to wild – catered for. When we arrived on the day before the show opened many of them were rolling into the Convention Center straight off the street, regardless of how wild they were.
One of the first cars I saw was the Lamborghini LM002 from Italian Design and Style, and I was amazed that anyone would modify one of them; and that was before I saw what engine was under the hood. It’s no surprise that it heads our Favourite Five 4x4s from SEMA 2018…
The bold and the beautiful at the 2018 SEMA Motor Show
1 - Rambo Lambo
Lamborghini’s LM002 was a utilitarian rig developed for the military in the 1980s, and less than 400 were produced. Any classic Lambo is rare and the LM is no exception, so it was a surprise to see one at SEMA on the Nexen Tyres stand.
What was more amazing was that, beneath the flip-forward hood, the highly strung Lamborghini V12 engine has been swapped out for an inline six cylinder Cummins diesel engine. Sacrilege, yes, but cool? Hell yeah! Credit to Italian Design and Racing of Arizona for having the balls to do it.
2 - Outlaw Ranger
Ford’s T6 Ranger has only just hit the USA, and FoMoCo had five tricked-up examples of the US version on its stand. The one we liked most was outside and built by California’s Dirt Cinema as a commission for Dana Drivelines.
Needless to say the right-hook Ranger features Dana axles front and rear, and you can read all the details about it on page 34 of this issue. Could these be the start of SAS conversions for the PX Ranger here in Australia?
3 - Cactus Runner
It’s not everyone’s first choice when thinking about a 4x4 desert racer, but this late model Challenger from Daystar is one hell of a muscle car. Daystar always comes up with some of the best rigs at SEMA Show, and its Cactus Runner didn’t disappoint.
A supercharged 392 Hemi V8 drives through a dual range transfer case to all four of those 35-inch KM3 BFGs. This Challenger would be a demon in the dunes.
4 - Trophy FJ
We’d been following the build of this FJ40 Land Cruiser from Vegas’s Nefarious Kustoms for the last couple of years, and it was only completed days before the 2018 show. Being based in the desert city, Nafarious’s main work is on off-road racing and pre-runner vehicles, so it’s no surprise that business owner Cameron would follow that style for his own Cruiser.
Rolling on a chassis derived from a Toyota Tundra pick-up and retaining the Tundra’s 4.7-litre V8 and auto transmission, the Trophy FJ stands staunch on long travel suspension and BFGs on Raceline wheels. Keep an eye on 4X4 Australia magazine for a full feature coming soon.
5 - International Rescue
The International Scout is one of those classic American off-road vehicles that are drop-dead gorgeous, even in stock trim. That didn’t stop Colorado customiser Billy Bibb from taking to this 1973 International Scout II and transforming it into an all-terrain hot rod.
The glowing gold open-top Scout is powered by a 550hp supercharged LSA V8, driven through an auto transmission. Dana 60 axles are stuffed full with ARB Air Lockers, which are hung from the custom chassis on links and coil-overs. The Scout was indoors on the Lund International booth, but it shone when it hit the Strip for the SEMA Cruise.