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AutoMatters & More: Hot Wheels at the SEMA Show – Greater than the Sum of its Parts

(Jan Wagner)

For decades vendors, customers and automotive enthusiasts alike have been attending the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas – “the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world, segmented into 12 sections with over 2,400 exhibitors and a New Product Showcase featuring nearly 3,000 newly introduced parts, tools and components.”

People need reliable parts to maintain and repair their rides, but the underlying reason for the continued growth and popularity of the SEMA Show is much more than just the sum of a multitude of parts and services.

A vast cross-section of the population thrives on what their cars, trucks and other vehicles can do to improve the quality of their lives. The ability to creatively modify, improve and personalize the basic forms and functions of their vehicles makes them more fun to drive, more useful, more practical and – well, just better. No doubt that is a big part of the reason why motorsports activities are held during and in close proximity to the SEMA Show.

A crowded SEMA Show exhibit hall
(Jan Wagner)

The customized vehicles at the SEMA Show are the best of the best. For instance, consider the Hot Wheels Legends Tour finalists exhibit at the SEMA Show, where the finalists from Hot Wheels Legends Tour car shows that were held in cities around the country during the 2019 Legends Tour were gathered, to choose the one finalist to be inducted into the Hot Wheels Garage of Legends™ and to become immortalized as a 1:64 scale Hot Wheels die-cast car sold nationwide in stores.

The 2019 winner was the radical, 1957 Nash Metropolitan presented by Greg Salzillo and Dave Ford. Not just any cool Nash Metropolitan, this ‘rat rod’ version – nicknamed the “Nashole” – was powered by a 300HP small block Chevy 305 – in a car that came stock with around 40hp!

Watch for the resumption of the 2020 Legends Tour, interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, as it hopefully returns later this year to the parking lot of a Walmart near you. For more information, visit

300HP 1957 Nash Metropolitan
(Jan Wagner)

A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed taking a look back at the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational (OUSCI), held on the weekend following the SEMA Show. At that two-day motorsports event, highly modified, customized cars and trucks that had just been on display at the SEMA Show were pushed to their limits in various motorsports events, but those were only a few of the amazing vehicles that had been on display.

Those, and many more, were driven in a wonderful parade as they left the SEMA Show floor after the show ended on Friday. That cavalcade, which is called the “SEMA Cruise,” signals the beginning of “SEMA Ignited” – the SEMA Show’s official after-party. It is a public celebration of the automotive aftermarket, automotive enthusiasts and motorsports.


SEMA Ignited is the one exception to who may attend the SEMA Show, which is otherwise a trade-only event. First, the general public is invited to sit in bleachers where, for several hours, they will be able to enjoy watching hundreds of customized SEMA Show vehicles as they stream out of the Las Vegas Convention Center. From there the public may purchase tickets to join the vehicles as they enter SEMA Ignited. Here they will enjoy an evening full of exciting, entertaining, automotive-related activities.

In 2019 that included Formula Drift, “cackle cars” (fire breathing dragsters), live music, announcement of the winner of the “Battle of the Builders,” the high-flying motorcycle stunt spectacular that is “Nitro Circus,” professional stunt driver Mike Ryan’s 2,400 HP Transtec/Corteco triple turbo Freightliner drift truck, food, shopping and more.

SEMA Show Ignited – hot wheels!
(Jan Wagner)

In one final, newsworthy moment, the evening came to a sudden, dramatic conclusion when the engine of one of the Formula Drift cars hand grenaded in a cloud of smoke, flames, engine parts and hot fluids.

The 2020 SEMA Show, SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited, along with the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational and more, are scheduled to take place in Las Vegas during the week of Nov. 3, if all goes well and the coronavirus pandemic is under control. I hope to be there to cover it, as I do every year.

For more information and updates, visit and

To see additional photos, visit, click on the magnifying glass, select “POSTS” and enter “AutoMatters & More #642” in their search bar. Please send your comments to

Copyright © 2020 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #642r1

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