by Ray Alexander
SEMA news releases prior to the event advised that the number of paid spaces was up 10% over last year. I refrained from calling them exhibitors, because some had nothing to exhibit but their name. My impression was that there were fewer vehicles displayed outside vendors’ booths; vendors have consumed inside space that had been populated with vehicles and some outside space that had been used for vehicles was left empty.
Still, there was more nuances than could be comprehended, for instance an old military Jeep, nothing in the appearance draws attention; a look inside revealed a line lock switch. Then I checked the rear tires, they were drag radials. Okay, it still lacks aerodynamics and could those fenders cause front end lift?
A word about pictures, the crowd allows only a small window to snap a shot. I took over 200 photos and still didn’t get everything I wanted because some were blurred.
The Mopar press conference starts at 4:26, a couple of people asked me if that was a typo [this was obviously to correlate with the 426 Hemi]. I saw a policeman with a dog in South Hall at 4:20, coincidence?
On my first pass through the Mopar area I was greeted by an array of Dodge hoods. I had noted that Chrysler guys changed the grille while Dodge guys changed the hood.
The CEO of Mopar, Pietro Gorlier, took the stage. In the agreement with Magneti Marelli, this was what I heard: if your vehicle was serviced under warranty and a specific part was required, if Magneti Marelli supplied that part, it becomes an integrated part as if the car were built with it. Typically an aftermarket part has a 30 to 90 day warranty.
An advanced driving school was being set up for young people ages 15-19 that had a minimum of 30 hours of driving experience. Statistics have shown the percentage of teenagers acquiring a driver’s license to be declining. Not being able to drive could have dire consequences. I live in a mountainous area that can have high winds. If a fire started, the best chance for survival in windy conditions would be vacating the area. Traffic into a fire area is quickly blocked. There have been forest fire deaths within a mile of my house. People have survived by getting in their swimming pools. In the future, municipal areas will run out of water then a fire would be a major disaster. In my opinion this is a great forward looking plan.
Jeep has the image of a scorpion on an aluminum hood. Personally, I liked the Fiat Abarth Scorpion better. Jeep also has a hood with a topographical map on it. Now can I get a particular area that I want? [Yes.] Jeep is trying to provide a vehicle with true off road abilities. I have heard people talk of needing a lift kit and larger tires and wheels. Both of those affect safety and durability.
What came next was a total surprise. After talking about the Charger Hellcat, Pietro said, “Let there be no mistake, Dodge is in the horsepower business to stay.” The aero work done on the Charger was leveraged in designing a new funny car for 2015. NHRA officials were close at hand making sure no rules were bent. It has 10,000 horsepower and goes 0 to 340 in about 4 seconds.
He directed our attention to the mobile shop version of the Sprinter van, one side of the cargo/work area dropped away to reveal people serving beer. Pietro stayed in the area and chatted with people in the audience. I can’t remember him doing that in previous years.
Earlier in the day I had commented to Ralph Gilles about all the good press the Hellcat was getting. He replied the only bad thing they find to say is it has too much horsepower and look at this people are crowded around a stock vehicle.
I had read about Mercedes developing a six wheel drive vehicle to compete in the Dakar Rally. Outside of South Hall I saw a four wheel drive Mercedes that appears aimed at the Jeep market, it is about the size of an H2.
I was aimlessly wandering through the off road area when I found Jessi Combs signing autographs in the Warn booth. Early this year I went to “King of the Hammers” to cover All Js’ inaugural race in Every Mans Challenge, held the day before King of the Hammers. I had been alerted that the Ultra 4 Specification Class used Mopar 5.7L crate motors. I found them and Jessi was driving one of the vehicles.
In this article she is shown passing by taking a more difficult route, she is driving the sea green vehicle to the left of someone standing on their tailgate. Farther into the article, she can be seen in the vehicle prior to starting. She won that race and went on to become the Ultra 4 Spec Class Champion. She also holds the land speed record for women at 392 mph, one of her runs was 440 mph.
The odds for winning the lottery with a single ticket are better than for finding a place to sit. A small percentage of the places serving food have seating, but most are carry out. This is Las Vegas, we don’t want you to know what time it is and we don’t want you to sit down. I have found the best seats at SEMA. They are in the media center, it is so nice to sit there and feel the fire in your feet slowly die.
A short segment of motordrome track was on display complete with a pair of circa 1900 Harleys. Motordrome racing enjoyed a very brief period in history generally from 1910 to 1920. These tracks could be up to two miles in length and generate average lap speeds of 100 mph. When a rider laid it down, which worried him more while sliding to a stop, how many splinters will I get or will friction start a fire?
Even at SEMA, expectation can exceed reality, I was disappointed with the PPG display. In the past it had been disguised as a different business. I particularly liked Rocko’s Garage. Attention to detail was demonstrated by having a mechanical “junkyard dog” that took a mechanical crap near his food dish. This year I could read PPG from half way across the hall.
Earlier this year, I attempted to qualify for Optima Battery’s Ultimate Street Car Challenge in my 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8. The first qualifier was at Laguna Seca. I believe I could qualify as a Silver State contestant, but that would be in my 2008 Corvette. It is not the ultimate street car. After paperwork and tech inspection, the first driving was a 60 mile road rally to demonstrate street worthiness. The Monterey Peninsula has some bad roads, and street signs that do not exist. In a short time there were a plethora of lost race cars. The people that found the turn used their cell phones, and I contend that is cheating. During the pounding on these back roads my car developed a clunk in the left front suspension. I love to catch air in this car but, when I come off the top of the Corkscrew in a hard right turn, the left front will see a heavy load. I wasn’t comfortable so I pulled off the track. There was a 1974 Pinto at this qualifier. It might very well be the best Pinto ever built, but it was out of place at this level of competition.
There was another qualifying event in Fontana that I was going to enter, but my wife wrecked the Charger just prior to the date. I was told that the Pinto went to every qualifying event and got in on points. The Pinto license plate reads KABOOM. The Charger is up and running with an awesome Viper style hood.
In this disappointment, I am not going to name a car. It is obvious that the words “hottest new vehicle” produces a different image in people with different stations in life. A vehicle currently being delivered has the highest horsepower ever produced in a mass-produced car in the U.S. Per NHRA rules, it will run deep into roll cage territory as delivered. It is the fastest sedan on the planet at 204 mph. It will haul more dead bodies than the other two competitors combined and from experience cleans up easily with Dawn dish soap and water. Knock the plug out of the bottom of the trunk so it can drain. These attributes did not earn it a win. The vehicle winning this award must be awesome.
Chem Spec has a silver paint that completely out classes any other silver paint. The photo does not truly represent the appearance. This paint seems to create its own light. I have seen paint with crushed glass added, it will get attention, but I don’t care for it.
Traffic in the Chrysler area was heavy at all times. There was no popcorn to draw extra people. Ford always seems to have a crowded area, but GM appeared to be down on the number of visitors.
SEMA is a must for a car person. That is all.
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