Parents, they just don’t understand.
And it’s likely that they never will understand about fast and flashy cars, or leather and tattoos. Even if they were, during their own righteous glory days, bad to bone with a tube of Bryl-cream and a muscle car in the garage. It’s different now, of course, which makes today’s annual automotive wonderland called SEMA a rather large shop of horrors for those striving to protect little Millie of Milton from the ravages of a wasted youth. Walk down any aisle at the Las Vegas Convention Center and you’ll find troublemakers and carnival barkers, hawking their wares and selling the next best and greatest thing in Auto Land. There, at a booth in the tires and wheels section, a guy is getting a tattoo of a Dunlop on his bicep. Outside, Internet search portal Yahoo! is celebrating the debut of their custom car section with a two-story party tent, complete with booming music and scantily-clad models dancing on the top floor.
Decadence, to be sure. But even the most aghast Mom and Dad would have to agree: this year’s SEMA Automotive Trade Show is something special to behold. It’s a rare thing to see a 6.0-liter, 400-horsepower engine bolted into a 2006 Pontiac Solstice roadster, courtesy of Mallet Cars, Ltd., and rarer still to witness Ashley Force, daughter of the famed funny car legend John Force, miss fourth gear and ruin an indoor quarter mile run in front of trade veterans, journalists and Ford executives.
She got the third attempt right, running her quarter-mile in a little more than 14 seconds – a time that got gear heads up and down the halls muttering slightly and standing in line to see if they could beat the famous -- now infamous -- car girl’s time. Such fun, and more, goes on during the first week of November in Sin City, from exhaust vendors hiring tall blonde models to make exhaust sexy to custom cars so incredible in form and function that it’s amazing why anyone could ever live through the stiltifiying boredom of driving a straight production machine.
Tragically, millions of us live through that exact boring existence. Which is why SEMA matters to us normal folk who buy cars. This yearly pilgrimage of chrome, paint and power serves to inspire us, to nudge us toward the personalization of our ride. It’s here so we can make our car our own – and given the fact that many of us now spend more time behind the wheel than behind the remote, perhaps a little inspiration is in order. Whether you choose the Chrysler 300C, or have your eye on the new 2007 Hyundai Accent three-door commuter car, to personalize is to make it your own, to apply the self-titled stamp and take out that old leather jacket -- give it a good shake -- and go for a cruise.