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Home > LATEST STORIES > The Big Stage—Known for its glitz and glamour, the 2018 SEMA Show still delivered performance

The Big Stage—Known for its glitz and glamour, the 2018 SEMA Show still delivered performance

Written by Steve Turner

Photography by Steve Turner and courtesy of the manufacturers

In a few days, 1,940,631 square feet of Las Vegas Convention Center space transformed into the Mecca of automotive modification. Booths were erected, products displayed,1,500 custom vehicles rolled into place, and thousands of feet of carpet unfurled. Bustling with people from all corners of the automotive business that descended on Sin City from over 140 countries to attend the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show.

For a week, this was the place to be and the spot to check out over 3,000 new products. As your representatives among the flash and sparkle, we prowled the aisles in search of the go-fast gear. While you might most closely associate the SEMA Show with cars that are too low and trucks that are too high, at its heart the show was born out of performance and its main floor still reflects those origins.

While the show was ongoing, you were undoubtedly besieged by photos and videos focusing on the wildest cars and parts. It can be information overload, so you might have missed some of the gear that slipped under the clickbait radar. Fortunately, we have your back. For a look at some of the performance highlights of the show, keep on reading.



For the fuel system experts at Aeromotive, the 2018 show was a big deal. The company raced away with the coveted SEMA Manufacturer of the Year honors at the event’s annual banquet. On the show floor, the company expanded its line of Phantom fuel pumps for fuel cells, saddle-bag fuel tanks, and traditional fuel tanks. However, for big-power racers, its most interesting offering is an expansion of its Brushless fuel pump line with a 5-gallon-per-minute Brushless Spur Gear Pump designed to feed naturally aspirated engines up to 3,400 horsepower and boosted engines up 2,600 horsepower.


Air Flow Research

AFR showcased several new products on the floor, including a race-ready set of 18-degree big-block Chevy cylinder heads. On the Ford side, the company offered up its Renegade small-block top-end, which included this Renegade intake manifold for small-block Fords. It is designed for 4150 carburetors and delivers a powerband from 3,000 to 7,500 rpm.

AWA Composites

As carbon fiber continues to bring high-tech weight loss to nearly every aspect of automotive performance, AWA showed off a composite bellhousing, which is said to be less than half the weight of a traditional unit. SFI approval is said to be pending, so units like these might soon end up under more race cars.

Baer Brakes

The braking experts at Baer showcased stopping upgrades for Broncos, Blazers, Chevelles, Jeeps, and Mustangs. However, it was the 1971 Ford Maverick taking center stage in its booth that stole the show. Selected by our own Mike Galimi for Playstation’s Gran Turismo awards, it took home both the Best Hot Rod and Best Overall accolades at the big award party. Powered by a Bennett Racing Engines 351 Windsor fed by two turbos, the Greening Auto Company-built Mav blasts out over 1,200 horsepower on pump gas.


If you are feeling nostalgic, the crew at Centerline Wheels brought back two classics — the Auto Drag and Convo Pro. The former is available in 15×3.5-, 15×7-, 15×8.5-, and 15×10-inch fitments, while the latter comes in 15×4-, 15×7-, 15×8-, and 15×10-inch sizes.

Chevrolet Performance

While the eCOPO and 50thAnniversary COPO grabbed most of the headlines, this 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Drag Race Car Concept showcased a host of real-world parts for racers hitting the track now. The car features the full complement of upgrades, including braking, driveline, exhaust, and transmission upgrades. These parts can be ordered all together or piecemeal to upgrade your own car just like this one.


The engineers at COMP worked overtime to bring a ton of new gear to the show. Among its onslaught of fresh gear was an expansion of the popular Thumpr series of bumpsticks known for producing a signature lopey idle. While the sound is important, the latest Thumprs maximize performance as well. The No Spring Required version are particularly popular for multi-valve applications like the Ford Coyote 5.0-liter, but HEMI and LS version are available as well. On the LS side, the company’s new BSR Shaft Rocker System delivers shaft-rocker stability to this engine in a bolt-on package. It mounts the factory rocker arms on a single shaft that wears a pressure-fed bearing. It promises far more high-rpm durability than the factory arrangement.


Fuel system specialist DeatschWerks continues to expand its drop-in fuel pump modules for modern musclecars by adding a direct-replacement setup for 2011-2017 Mustangs. These modules will mate with the factory fuel lines, but can easily be configured for aftermarket lines and return-style setups. Those systems are based on the company’s popular DW400 415-lph pumps, but in the near future DW will have brushless pumps that will support up to 1,000 horsepower with even greater durability and control.

Eagle Specialty Products

The true marvel of today’s performance vehicles is just how robust the factories build their engines. Despite many of these platforms being capable four digits for brief bursts, there are still limits to the OEM gear. If you are planning to build a Ford Coyote 5.0-liter engine, factory crankshafts have been the primary option, but Eagle developed a 4340 forged-steel stroker crank to help you ramp up the displacement. Delivering a 3.75-inch stroke, it is micropolished and nitrided and machined with 1.25-inch fillet radii designed for enhanced strength and rigidity.




Like many of the big companies at the show, Edelbrock offered up several new products for a wide variety of applications. From new Chevy big-block engine blocks and new Camaro LT1 superchargers to supercharger systems for Coyote-powered Ford F-150s and Mustangs. One of its most intriguing offerings, however, was its Pro-Flo 4 LS ECU & Harness Kit for Gen III or Gen IV LS Engine Swaps. Designed to easily facilitate junkyard engine swaps, this plug-and-play setup is tunable and supports up to up to 675 horsepower.



Everywhere we turn its seems like there is a boosted LS engine powering a car. This new FAST LSXHR 103mm Intake Manifold is designed to maximize those boosted LS combos. Featuring a tunnel-ram design, it not only has the aforementioned large throttle body opening, but FAST also offers interchangeable runners to customize its characteristics for your engine. Moreover, this thing is built for boost. The walls of the manifold are as thick as we have felt from a composite intake, and we can’t wait to see what this thing will do with big boost flowing through it.



Like we said, engine swaps are everywhere. Another company facilitating the LS craze is FiTech. The company’s Ultimate LS kits are available in 500- and 750-horsepower configurations, and they include everything you need control and feed your LS engine. From the injectors and throttle body to wiring harness and programmable controller, these kits will make that swap simple and they start at less than $1,500.



Known for its signature muffler design, Flowmaster added a new option to its repertoire — the FlowFX. It is show here in an axle-back system for the 2016-2018 Camaro. The foundation of this system is a new muffler design built from stainless steel and featuring a 3-inch-core, straight-through design that barks out through 4-inch tips. The company says these are designed to maximize performance.

Ford Performance

Ford Motor Company hauled away a lot of hardware from the show, as the company earned SEMA Car of the Year for the Mustang, SEMA Truck of the Year for the F-Series, and SEMA Sport Compact of the Year for the Ford Focus. Of course, the Ford Performance division had plenty of custom vehicles and products on display, including a crate engine version of the storied Gen 3 Coyote 5.0-liter engine. This dual-fuel V8 delivers 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque out of the crate, so it’s sure to make for a fun swap project.



If beadlocks are life, even for your street/strip machine, Forgestar has an offering that’s just for you. These D5 Beadlock Drag Racing Wheels use the same rotary-forged, flow-formed barrel technology as the company’s street-oriented wheels, but they are drag strip-ready, light, and they clear big brakes. Available in 17- and 18-inch diameters, these beadlock rear wheels can be had with matching skinny fronts to complete the look.


Holley Performance Products

Today’s modern EFI systems deliver control and data-collection capabilities that allow incredible performance levels. However, keeping tabs on so many parameters can be a challenge when you are strapped into your race car. Enter the new Holley EFI Pro Dash with a whopping 12.3-inch, high-resolution display. Not only can it monitor 238 parameters in real time, but it allows on-the-fly tuning without plugging in your laptop, which allows for those last-second tuning tweaks in the staging lanes. It even has a built-in GPS for hassle-free, accurate speedometer readings.


Kooks Headers & Exhaust

Having most of the earlier iron already in its product lineup, Kooks keeps expanding with systems for the latest machines. Case in point, the company showed off its complete exhaust system for the 2018+ Ford Mustang. It includes 1 ¾-,1 7/8-, or 2-inch-primary long-tube headers, a mid-pipe with or without Green catalytic converters, and a cat-back with polished or black quad tips.

Lingenfelter Performance

We live in amazing times. Performance is readily available, and four-digit horsepower is more attainable than ever. Making it even easier to drive a Camaro with that kind of performance is Lingenfelter, which developed this Eliminator Series ZL1 Camaro 1,000HP package. Built around Edelbrock’s vaunted TVS 2650 supercharger system, this package is rounded out by all the supporting hardware you need to create 1,000 horses and 888 lb-ft of torque — on 93-octane fuel! The company also offers direct-injection fuel system upgrades for those mapping out their own mods.


Livernois Motorsports & Engineering

Having been in the tuning game for a quite a while, Livernois wanted to expand its coverage and give its customers more features. The result is the MyCalibrator Touch handheld tuner. Featuring a color touchscreen, this device is updated via the cloud and can store multiple calibrations onboard. It clears trouble codes, allows for datalogging, and can be custom tuned using Syked ECU Tuning software. It supports Dodge, Ford, and GM applications, with more vehicles being added over time.


Magnuson Superchargers

Long ago Magnuson hitched its star to Eaton’s proven supercharger rotorpacks. The latest of those, of course, is the TVS 2650. The company showed off its COPO blower and this 1,300-horsepower-capable system for the Camaros and Corvettes with LT1 and LT4 powerplants. This kit features two air-to-water heat exchangers and a whopping 110mm throttle body, the 2.65-liter blower pushes past 1,000 horsepower thanks to a direct-injection fuel system upgrade from Xtreme DI.


McLeod Racing

As easy as it is to make power with the latest Mustangs, you‘ll need a clutch that can harness that performance. McLeod showed off a new twin-disc unit — featuring an aluminum flywheel, an HD pressure plate, two ceramic discs, a floater and an adapter ring — for the 2018+ Mustang that can corral up to 800 horsepower. The company also showed off a new single-disc unit for LS1/LS6 Chevy engines that can harness up to 600 horsepower.


When it comes to stealing the show, we could all take notes from Mopar. They shot up our list of favorite SEMA moments by unveiling the Hellephant — the first 1,000-horsepower crate engine from an OEM. Based on the all-aluminum block, from the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, it borrows its valvetrain from the Challenger SRT Demon, and it features a high-lift cam and forged pistons In all it displaces 426 cubic inches and is topped by a 3.0-liter supercharger. Mopar even has a full wiring harness and powertrain control module that allows easily swapping the Hellephant into any project you can dream up.


As popular as LS engine swaps are, some people might want to retain the some original styling. This adapter from Moroso allows running standard small-block Chevy valve covers atop your LS cylinder heads.


MSD Ignition

If you own a big- or small-block Chevy engine and have distributorless ignition envy, MSD offers a new conversion kit. It replaces all the moving ignition parts with eight individual coilpacks and more control over the ignition timing.


Performance Design

Owners of LS engines certainly have plenty of intake manifold options, but this one combines polymer runners and lower intake with a carbon fiber upper. It can be tweaked for your preferred operating range with swappable internal velocity stacks, and the upper allows for a 105mm throttle body. It even features built-in bosses that make it easy to add port nitrous.



Every so often someone tells about a product, and we wish we had thought of what they are describing. That was definitely the case with Pertronix’s new Digital HP Mobile ignition upgrade. Like its Digital HP predecessor, the new unit delivers multi-spark ignition throughout the powerband and offers adjustable start retard, shift light output, rev limiters, and more. This version lives up to its mobile moniker by allowing adjustment of the parameters via a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet. What makes it even more impressive is the app can enable a valet mode and a security mode that won’t let your car start without your approval.



ProCharger took home the show’s best Performance-Racing Product award with its new CrankDrive Supercharger Gear Drive, which is obviously right up the alley of many NMRA and NMCA racers. The company also showed off several new supercharger units atop a blower-shaped display. Among those new head units were a pair of racy snails, including the F-3X-146 and F-3D106. The former features a 146mm inducer and a billet gear case. It is designed to support up to 3,500 horsepower. The latter is a compact unit designed to deliver up to 1,400 horsepower.



Besides showing off its new, easily tuned Mod Shocks, QA1 revealed a real innovation at the show — a carbon fiber sway bar. Yeah, why didn’t we think of that? Utilizing the weight savings and strength of this high-tech construction, these new sway bars are first available for GM A-, F-, and X-bodies and Ford F-100s, but it sure looks like bars like this could find a home under drag cars in the future.

Precision Turbo & Engine

To run with the big boys, you need big boost. Precision has expanded its line of boostmakers for the top-tier racing classes with its GEN2 Pro Mod 8808 XPR Turbocharger. These Competition Engineered Aerodynamics compressors are built with 108mm turbines and air-cooled and dual ceramic bearings. In all they are said to deliver up to 12 percent more power than the standard GEN2 Pro Mod 88 turbo, which equates to performance up to 1,850 horsepower.


If you want an easy way to add datalogging to your modern racer, Racepak’s CL2 OBD-II & EFI Cloud/Mobile Data System, which took home Best Engineered New Product honors at the show. It easily allows users to tap into the OBD-II data stream on 2008 and later vehicles and combine that info with video and GPS data for review, streaming, and sharing.


ROUSH Performance

You couldn’t miss the new Roush Stage 3 Mustang along the perimeter of the massive Ford Out Front display at the show. This top-dog Roush stallion moves ahead of its siblings thanks to its R2650 TVS supercharger that helps push it to 710 horsepower. It even gets upgraded halfshafts, so it is ready to hit the drag strip right off the dealer lot.

Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center

There are LS swaps and then there are LS swaps. If you are looking for way more power than a junkyard NA engine, the experts at Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center developed turbo 6.0-liter packages that deliver between 758 and 1041 horsepower depending on whether you opt for the Precision 76/75 or 88/84 turbocharger. The SDSC Raceshop Gen IV 6.0 Turbo Engine Packages feature robust internals, custom cams, and an LS3 top end.

SPEC Clutch

It you are really planning to push big power with your manual-trans 2018+ Mustang, SPEC Clutch developed a Super Twin clutch that bolts right in and carries SFI certification for race legality. It is available in five different materials that will help it withstand from 900 to 1,525 lb-ft of torque.


Strange Engineering

If you are running a potent street/strip combo, Strange built its new S-Series nodular iron case with limited-slip differentials in mind. Whether you are running a Posi, helical, or locking diff, the S-series’ nodular iron caps, reinforced tail bearing, and radial-rib design were created to keep it where it belongs, but if you want to run a spool in the S-series, you can do that too.


Trick Flow

We are constantly amazed that Ford’s FE engines remain vibrant in the modern era. Evidence of that is Trick Flow’s new R-series Tunnel Wedge Intake Manifold for 390-428 engines. Now you won’t have to search for a used intake a pay big bucks for it, you can pick up a brand new intake from Trick Flow, bolt on a 4150/4160 carburetor, and drop the hammer. Trick Flow also previewed a new Track Heat intake for small-block Mopars that is on the way, along with the company’s new GenX Square Port HIP LS3 cylinder heads.

Vortech Superchargers

If you are looking to drop in even more power into your existing Vortech blower set up, the Vortech V-17 105A features a billet case, heavy duty guts, and it will bolt right into your existing bracket. It can be configured for clockwise and counter-clockwise operation and it will deliver enough boost for 1,000 to 2,500 horsepower.



If you are hitting the NMCA autocross in your sixth-gen Camaro, you might need some upgrade stoppers. Wilwood has your back with its new SX6R Big Brake Dynamic Front Brake Kit. Available with 14- and 15-inch rotors featuring directional, staggered vanes for improved cooling, these clampers should keep your stopping distances consistent.