Horse Sense: Prior to the SEMA show, the naysayers were forecasting a ghost town of empty booths and vacant attendees thanks to the morbid economy. In reality cutbacks were visible, but still a healthy flow of visitors and tons of new product were on hand. It'll take more than semi-strangled economy to kill hot-rodding.
Although a few heavy-hitters such as Holley and BFGoodrich, along with a smattering of mid-level companies, decided not to display at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association convention, the mood was business as usual. We certainly didn't feel lonely trying to beat our way through the crowds while rushing booth-to-booth to see what was new.
To put numbers to it, there were approximately 100 fewer exhibitors this year at 1,900, and about 17,000 fewer attendees, at 100,000. As there have been far too many tire kickers and sticker-grabbers in recent years, fewer people in the aisles didn't bother us a bit.
So what was new? A fair number of Ford or Mustang items, it turns out. We didn't expect another Mustang parts orgy; it was an in-between year for Mustang gear, after all. The rush to service the red hot S197 market has cooled now that the industry has had four years to fill that parts pipeline, and anticipating the '10 Mustang later this year means a few companies are waiting until the new car hits.
The New Edge Mustangs are in the meaty years of performance modifications, so we saw some new hardcore hot rod parts for them, while Foxes have definitely turned the corner into collector-restorer status while maintaining their evergreen performance credentials. There were a few new Fox restoration parts at SEMA, and at the same time, it's amazing how many companies report the Fox cars remain A-list parts sellers.
Specific highlights were Trick Flow's Two-Valve modular head-finally a serious casting for this affordable engine with unrealized potential. Vortech's new TVS blower was a surprise, and Edelbrock's similar supercharger shows how mainstream forced induction has become. Likewise the introduction of Vortech's new screw blower shows just how big a demand there is for all flavors of boost.
As for Ford itself, their booth was pleasantly basic; we get uneasy whenever viewing lavish displays. And while much of what Ford was pushing at SEMA was bling rather than zing, some was cool nonetheless. Having Ford Racing chief Brian Wolfe rumble out in one of the new Cobra Jet Mustangs was an inspired introduction (even if it did sound like it had a flat lifter or something), and having a factory-built, 10-second Mustang in the stable is obviously great stuff.
Read on to find out what you'll want to buy next year.
SEMA first-timers, as a company anyway, were the crew from Abaco Performance [(877)693.9269; www.abacoperformance.com], who were thrilled with the outpouring of interest in their company's new digital mass air meter, the DBX. Available in three versions ranging from 85 to 97mm in diameter, the Abaco meter can not only car a number of onboard, upgradeable calibrations, but its design also reduces noise in difficult applications, like blow-through supercharger applications, resulting in vastly improved driveability. You can check out our story on the DBX in the March '09 issue (p. 90)
It was the year of the coil-on-plug coil, and ACCEL [(216) 688-8300; www.accel-ignition.com] was on target with Two-, Three- and Four-Valve coils. These feature 10-15 percent more energy than stock coils and help on blower motors, although ACCEL says many go on near stock cars as they are an inexpensive and easy, direct plug-in upgrade. The Two- and Four-Valve coils are $24.99 apiece; the Three-Valves are $34.99 a shot. There are eight-packs at a small discount. Coming this spring are Three-Valve sparkplugs. Competitively priced in the $10 to $12 range, they are silver tipped, with no stirrup (use a conventional ground electrode) so they are adjustable. ACCEL has also added EDIS coil packs for the V6 fans. Besides a higher ignition output, these are available with either horizontal or vertical harness connections, the better to clear blowers or other accessories.