SEMA 2010 and the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational

Although there are still several weeks before 2011, in the automotive world, the SEMA trade show is the culmination of the year and this year’s show was an amazing one. From fantastic customer cars in the show to a stellar H-Team showing the following saturday at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, it was an awesome trip to Vegas. 

The 2010 SEMA show was like our whole year rolled in to a single week. We had a new booth location, right behind Ford, and it was a fantastic spot. Drew, Mark and Aaron were busy from morning until night talking with buyers, journalists, tv crews, builders and customers. 

We were delighted by the positive reception to several new Hotchkis products, including our 2011 Mustang TVS, the 1st Gen Camaro Front Clip and our new Mopar Torsion Bars. The C10 pickup Total Vehicle System also got a lot of buzz. Keep your magazine subscriptions current so you don’t miss any of the upcoming tech and feature stories about the latest Hotchkis cars and products we showed off at SEMA. 

Although we didn’t have a car in our booth, there were more Hotchkis-equipped show cars in the Las Vegas Convention Center than ever before. H-Team Members Mike Hickman, Rob Phillips, Carl Casanova and Rick Andrade all had cars in the main hall and Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational display. The SEMA Cares WD40 Mustang made a huge splash in the lobby in front of the Performance Hall, and people loved the car’s new stance thanks to a brand new TVS. It will be auctioned off for charity at Barrett Jackson this coming January to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camps. 

On the Mopar front everyone knows about our E-Max Challenger, but this SEMA was the year of the 1960’s B-body. There were at least three different ’68 and ’69 Dodge and Plymouth B-Bodies at the show sporting Hotchkis springs, sways and TVS kits. Dan Weishaar even drove out from California in his H-Team Roadrunner. We were especially impressed by Marcus Wren’s “White Lightning” in the Mopar booth. Built by Delaney Auto Design, this 1969 Dodge Coronet was flawless, and we look forward to working with Marcus again in the future. 

While we were admiring the white Dodge, we ran in to another Mopar and Hotchkis customer, blues musician Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Kenny was only at the show for a few hours before heading back out on tour. He proudly showed John his new 64 Dodge 330, built just for him by the Dodge boys in Detroit. 

The SEMA show isn’t just about vintage cars, and once again, the 5th gen Chevy Camaro was the star of the show. There were Hotchkis-equipped 2010 and 2011 Camaros in every aisle, including a beautiful green supercharged 2011 built by Hillbank Motorsports and a bad-in-black 2010 in the Dynomax display. We also found out that ZR-1 style hoods with windows in them show off our new tubular strut tower brace really well! Other Hotchkis-equipped 5th Gens included cars from Vortech and Pecca Leather – the latter actually won a SEMA Design Award. 

Friday was the end of the SEMA show, but not the end of our week. We headed out to Pahrump’s Spring Mountain Raceway to cheer on Rob Phillips and Carl Casanova in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. As always, the H-Team made us proud, as both drivers did incredibly well, with Rob’s truck beating out two thirds of the competitors, including some serious supercars, in the autocross. Carl kept us all grinning with his custom “driving suit”, and he finished the event in a tie for 11th place out of 52 cars! Considering Carl’s stunning ’68 still rides on a bolt-on Hotchkis TVS with Sport Leaf Springs and many of the competitors he put to shame had very high-dollar custom multi-link rear suspension systems, we couldn’t be happier. The results are a testament to both men’s razor sharp driving. 

As the sun set over the Nevada desert, we were happy to hear that the fastest lap time of the entire event on the road course was the StopTech C5 Z06 Corvette equipped with Hotchkis suspension. The Ruiz family dominated Time Attack events in this car in years past, and now that it’s converted into a street car it’s even more impressive to watch on the track. 

Over all, this year’s SEMA was a great change from 2009’s show. People and companies seem far more optimistic and truly interested in improving and driving their project cars. We know we are, we have some amazing new plans for 2011 that we can’t wait to get started. See you on the road!