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11/03/03 THE AFTERMARKET LIFE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Dec 12, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE AFTERMARKET LIFE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

It seems that I traveled this road many times before. 300 miles of nothingness. But in this case it's not the journey that matters as much as the destination. As the last of the warm Santa Ana's have long since died out, thoughts of Las Vegas become more pronounced. The mind contemplates the vast expanses of desert, blackjack, late nights and the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show.

As this show is so large and hard to swallow, I decided to take a smaller, easier to digest serving. I could have most certainly stretched this out to several days if not a week or two. But even if the show was there for an entire month I still know that I would have somehow managed to miss something. So reflecting back to some great wisdom I picked up at the smorgasbord restaurant while growing up, take what you want, but eat what you take. So by limiting myself to just a couple of days in the desert I figured I could handle that. As it turns out I was correct, but just barely. I arrived late in the afternoon to a stunning view of the sunset and the entire neon encrusted Las Vegas Strip from my room high atop the Hard Rock Hotel. With all this energy in the air how can anybody relax? Just a few short hours later I found myself at what must have been one of the premier events of the week. CEC wheels chose to present its 2004 lineup at the Bali Hi Country Club next to Mandalay Bay Hotel. Bali Hi is one of those tucked away treasures that you can pass by dozens of times and never notice it. This golf course is an oasis in the desert. Although access is right off of the strip itself, it remains largely unnoticed. This presentation turned out to be nearly flawless as both location and the vehicles prepared by CEC were amazing.

Before they introduced the products, CEC treated guests to an extended cocktail reception. The dozen plus cars however were the real treat. Predominantly high line European models were shown that evening. Tommy Kendall, race car driver turned commentator extraordinaire, handled MC duties as each model passed the throngs of invited guests. As if the cars, lights, and music were not enough, each car was paired up with a stunning model. The packages created by CEC didn't need any additional garnish, but it didn't hurt either. For those who are not familiar with their products, CEC is a full-service aftermarket company specializing in European models. If your Porsche needs new wheels, or your BMW deserves a body kit, or perhaps an engine upgrade for your Audi, you name it and they can do it. With some 400 attendees being wined and dined, it's hard not to think of CEC wheels as a big-time player.

So much for the schmoozing. The next morning was the real deal, the SEMA show itself. As mentioned by anyone who's been there, this sucker is big! Yes, we can go on and on about the total square footage and the hundreds of incredible show cars in attendance, but that would be like beating a dead horse. I was looking to find the essence of the show rather than some redundant facts and figures.

As it turns out the essence of the show was right there for all to see. Where many a media insider were trying to turn over every last known rock and journey into every nook and cranny of the Las Vegas Convention Center to find some unseen product, all they had to do was look right in front of themselves.

She was exciting, curvaceous, sexy and dangerous. I'm speaking both literally and metaphorically about the show of course. The endless stream of hot models was the flesh and blood embodiment of what this industry is all about. Every single product and part inside the cavernous center is developed specifically to get the heart pumping faster. And what better place to hold this sort of Convention then Las Vegas (a.k.a. sin city)?

Doesn't matter which direction you traveled through those halls, the end result was still the same. Be it the carbon fiber parts or red hot interior pieces on the all new Ford F150 truck as prepared by Wings West, or mondo giant spoke rims from Dayton Wire Wheels, or even the complete vehicles being distributed Zini America, the results are still the same. More cool stuff to make your dull life more exciting. Well even if your life isn't dull, the hundreds of companies in attendance are apt to show you how much more fun you could be having.

As is usually the case at L.A. Car, we need to give credit where credit is due. As some manufacturers wanted to double down on the wow factor, they stacked the deck in their favor by employing some rather hard to miss models. Pirelli Tires of North America, which makes some of, the finest tires on the market nevertheless wanted to make sure they wouldn't just blend in with the crowd. The tires were not the only things in their booth with a racy flair!

As the SEMA show continues to grow, the complexities of scale and numbers seemed to increase at a geometric rate. One such example designed to eliminate confusion, creating sections of similar products, only made matters worse. Companies that offered various products were left with a difficult decision as to where to place their booth. Show goers also found it difficult to locate these companies for the same reasons. Next year I'm looking forward to using a GPS system and a Segue Human Transport to make my way around.

While effortlessly knocking off the miles on the way home the following day in the 2004 Lexus LS 430, I had plenty of time to reflect. Was there a deeper meaning to this affair? With all these diverse and creative companies and thousands of products, was there a commonality? As it turns out there was. They all were saying the same thing. In life, you only go around once! Oh yes, and don't forget... enjoy the drive!

More excitement can be found at: www.cecwheels.com www.daytonwirewheels.com www.enjoythedrive.com www.us.pirelli.com www.wingswest.com www.ziniamerica.com

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