Odometer (Legend): 540,089
Odometer (Ludacris’ Legend): 246,080
Trip Distance: 616 Miles
Viva Las Vegas! Or was it “Lo$t Wages”?
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has been around since 1963 and is a huge trade group centered around the automotive aftermarket industry. It’s grown to a colossal size with over 6,300 member companies. Its largest trade show, held every year at the Las Vegas Convention Center, occupies more than a half-million square feet of space.
SEMA week puts every “car geek” into a candy store. Its full week of activities bring every participant the sights, sounds, and yes – even smells, of the automotive industry. I’m talking about these scented Little Trees, and they’ve been around since 1952 when this first version on display was created. What’s your favorite scent?
This wasn’t my first SEMA rodeo. Here are write-ups from years prior:
This year’s show included some special components which I was excited to see: The Acura display booth contained the now-fully-restored 1993 Acura Legend sedan that belongs to 20-million-fan music artist Ludacris, as well as a highly modified 2016 Acura ILX in vivid Sunburst Yellow with a host of performance and cosmetic upgrades. Legends and ILXs? It’s like they structured show content around exactly the type of content that would interest me!
My friend Chris described the SEMA experience as “It’s like being at the mall on Black Friday.” It’s overwhelming to be among the crowds, with all the suppliers clamoring for your business with “Look at me!” signage and fanfare. Another friend, Nina, calculated that if you walked the entire floorplan of the 4 gigantic convention rooms plus the outside areas and the adjoining hallways, it would be the equivalent of completing a marathon. I’ll have to throw on a GPS watch someday and validate that claim. My legs believe it.
I arrived in Las Vegas on Monday night after an uneventful 4.5 hour drive from the Phoenix area in my Legend. I met up with long-time friend Tommy who’d made a similar distance from LA that same afternoon. Later in the the evening, famed HondaPro Jason (pictured with me above) made his arrival into the McCarran Airport from a Chicago flight. Jason has made a name for himself as “THE” Honda guy over the past few years since his YouTube channel launched in 2012. Today, he has 32,000 subscribers and 27,000 followers on his Facebook page. Jason’s flight arrived around midnight, so I played Shuttle Driver for him as well as for Jeff of Temple of VTEC.
Tuesday’s two key events for me were two Honda press conferences: The first was at 9:30 a.m. to showcase Honda’s latest news in off-road / Baja racing with an all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, scheduled for its first race in less than two weeks. The second was a 20-minute presentation at 1:00 p.m. by Acura Senior Vice President Jon Ikeda as well as Creative Director Dave Marek. Jon and Dave introduced two exciting vehicles to the crowd of media and industry personnel who were assembled there.
The first car was Ludacris‘ 1993 Legend, newly reborn since a June 2015 accident left it damaged on the right rear quarter panel. I had some Q&A time with Dave after the conference and received some insights into the specifics of the build. His intent was to bring the car back to its former glory as well as add a few touches to make it even better. He succeeded in every aspect.
Among improvements to the Legend are the following:
- H&R Springs
- Eibach Camber Kit
- 18 Inch Rays Wheels on Bridgestone Potenza Tires
- Wilwood 6-Piston Front / 4-Caliper Rear Brakes
- Fresh Paint and Leather
- Pioneer AVIC 8 / ONEX Head Unit with Apple CarPlay
- Alpine Subwoofer
The second car was a vivid orange 2016 ILX, outfitted with a body kit, an aggressively modified suspension and custom wheels – as one would expect at SEMA. The details extended to the interior where the stitching on the seats and steering wheel was matched in the same orange color. The ILX, which was customized by Galpin Auto Sports, will be given away as part of a charity event for the Ludacris Foundation which since 2001 has provided tens of thousands of hours into service projects and youth development activities.
I had to stop and catch my breath for about 20 minutes while I charged my phone and scarfed down a $13 piece of pepperoni pizza in the food court. Then it was back to battle where I wandered around to see a few more sights and meet up with friends. By 4:30, Jason and I departed from the hustle and bustle to prepare for an exclusive evening activity with the Honda and Acura executives. We were able to participate at an intimate dinner at MGM Grand’s “Hakkasan” Nightclub with a dozen or more of the company’s highest-ranking leaders. They were incredibly approachable and I enjoyed the dialogue and the food! Honda threw a big “soiree” later that evening out on the dance floor, and hundreds of people came out to party.
On Day 2, I woke up to rare rain in Las Vegas and made my way to the AAPEX Show, similar to SEMA and containing a lot of the same content, but located at the Sands Convention Center several blocks away. The main reason I needed to drop in was that I’d learned Irv Gordon was in attendance. Irv achieved fame by logging over 3,000,000 miles on his red 1966 Volvo P1800. That feat was enough to put him in the Guinness Book of World Records. In fact, he’s been the world record holder since 1998 when his car had only 1.69 million miles on it. I wish I’d met Irv, but sadly the Castrol booth only featured his car.
My last stop before skipping out of town was next door to Castrol at the Car-Freshner display where I got a whiff of the new 2016 scents. The product specialist on duty invited me into a phone booth of sorts, where I pressed a button and the smells activated. My favorite was definitely “Copper Canyon.” Now, if only they invited “scratch & sniff” computer monitors so you could all be smelling it with me!
My Legend rolled 540,000 miles on the way home to Phoenix. Fitting, since it was also November 4th of exactly 4 years ago when the car rolled 500,000 at Acura’s red-carpet party. Thanks for joining for this year’s SEMA trip. Enjoy my photos and a short video below!
Here’s a pit stop on Highway 93 where I stopped between Kingman, AZ and Hoover Dam. Irv’s picture on top, mine on bottom!
With Acura Public Relations Manager, Jessica Fini
Having a seat in Ludacris’ Legend!
Creative Director Dave Marek, myself, and Public Relations’ Allie Mayer
Dave explains the ins & outs of the Legend build with some Legend fans
I presented this note to the Acura team and asked them to leave it inside the car somewhere for Ludacris.
Close-up on those beefy front brakes
Galpin ILX rear 3/4 view. I dig that spoiler!
The 2017 NSX in “Nouvelle Blue Pearl.” Stunning!
Other sights from SEMA: This “Car Capsule.” Who else desperately wants one of these as much as I do?
Very clean Toyota Supra
Monster truck outside
Meeting up with my buddy Joey from the Atlanta area
Acura VP Jon Ikeda
RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham, and my friend (fellow Legend owner) Tommy
This was my first time seeing the newly-launched 10th-generation Honda Civic sedan. Nice!
Pretty wild custom Honda HRV
Cruising down the Vegas Strip. 4.1 miles long, with 62,000 hotel rooms!
Walking over to the nighttime event at MGM Grand
Romeo and Lou, fellow Legend fans
Rainy morning at my motel on Wednesday in Las Vegas
Getting up close & personal with Irv Gordon’s 3-million-mile Volvo
And lastly, that awesome Car-Freshner booth!