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OEMs let loose at SEMA 2021

The aftermarket industry’s biggest event gets wild

4 Nov 2021

AFTER cancelling last year’s show due to the COVID-19 pandemic and replacing it with a virtual event subbed ‘SEMA 360’, the Speciality Equipment Market Association has returned to the Las Vegas Convention Centre with vigour, once again opening the doors to the world’s largest automotive trade show.


Only open to manufacturers, buyers, distributors, industry professionals and the media, the SEMA show covers the full spectrum of the automotive aftermarket. While the spotlight is often on creations by smaller workshops and aftermarket manufacturers, the world’s carmakers also use SEMA to announce some of their more ‘enthusiast-oriented’ products and vehicles, while also using the event to gauge public reaction to some of their more outlandish concepts.


The 2021 SEMA show was not short on OEM presence. Being the largest American auto show Detroit’s big three and their subsidiaries each had substantial displays, and while European OEMs were entirely absent, Lexus, Toyota and Nissan were there to fly the Japanese flag. 


Chevrolet Beast


Don’t expect this one to show up at your local GMSV showroom anytime soon, but do expect it to occupy the daydreams of those looking for an ultra-capable, ultra-rugged, and ultra-spartan off-roader. 


Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Warthog assault vehicle from the Halo video game franchise, “The Beast” is based on Silverado underpinnings and features a juiced-up LT4 6.2-litre V8 with 485kW. Like the Silverado, a 10-speed auto takes that power to all four wheels, which feature 20-inch bead-locked alloys with 37-inch all-terrain tyres and, coupled with the custom suspension, give 337.5mm of ground clearance.


Deleting all of the Silverado’s bodywork delivers outstanding approach, departure and ramp-over angles, and The Beast wears plenty of under-body armour on the off chance terrain dares make contact. 


The cabin, meanwhile, is almost entirely open to the elements, with just a token windshield to deflect insects from your face and a set of safari doors to keep passengers (mostly) inside the cabin. There’s not much of a cargo bed compared to a regular Silverado, but what space there is within The Beast is almost entirely occupied by a pair of spare wheels. No space savers here.


Want something more… attainable? The Silverado ZR2 shares Chevy’s SEMA booth with the Beast, and offers “race-proven off-road performance” via 40mm dampers, off-road-specific bumpers, 33-inch mud terrain tyres and more. 


Ford Shelby Mustang Mach-E GT


Cynical minds would suggest that Ford’s Mustang Mach-E only wears the storied name of Ford’s pony car purely for marketing convenience, but Ford wants to set the record straight with the Shelby Mach-E GT concept.


However unlike Shelby’s more traditional products, like the mad Mustang-based 566kW Shelby GT500, the Shelby Mach-E GT is more focused on aesthetic upgrades than power-ups for its all-electric mechanicals. That said, with the GT Performance flagship able to sprint to 100km/h in just 3.5 seconds it’s already a swift unit, and Shelby’s upgraded MagneRide dampers, carbon-fibre springs, 20-inch forged alloys, Recaro seats and grippy Michelin Pilot Sport rubber would only add to its sporting appeal.


Among the 40(!) cars, off-roaders and pickups Ford brought to SEMA was another pure EV, this one showcasing not a car but rather a powertrain. The Ford Eluminator show car looks like just another tastefully-modified classic F-100 pickup, but under its skin lies Ford’s electric crate motor – two of them, in fact.


The motors are the same as those used in the Mustang Mach- E GT Performance, delivering a combined 358kW and 860Nm, and are fed power from a Mach-E’s battery pack. The Eluminator crate motors will be available to project car builders, both business and private, at a retail price in the USA of just $3900, with each motor capable of supplying 210kW/430Nm.


Nissan Project Overland Pathfinder 


Nissan’s box-fresh Z car naturally made it to the company’s SEMA stand ahead of its showroom debut in 2022 (expect it to be almost everywhere at next year’s show), but Nissan also tore the covers off an adventure-seeking rendition of its Pathfinder SUV.


The Pathfinder, due in Australia next year,  ben treated to a Nismo 2-inch lift kit with Bilstein shock absorbers, 18-inch Nismo off-road alloys, and a swath of other outdoorsy Nismo accessories like a roof rack, cargo box, driving lights and custom rock sliders.


Expect Australia-bound Pathfinders to look far more pedestrian.


Jeep Wrangler Overlook and Grand Cherokee L Breckenridge


Jeep has a long history of wheeling out intriguing SEMA concepts, and that track record continues in 2021 with the unveiling of the Wrangler Overlook and Grand Cherokee Breckenridge.


The Wrangler overlook grafts a classic Land Rover style stepped roof with additional corner windows onto an extended Wrangler Unlimited body. Why? Because there’s three rows of seats, that’s why. 


Looking like it would be very much at home on a safari, the Wrangler Overlook appears to be packaged well (overall, it’s 12 inches longer than the standard Wrangler four-door), and with that extra cabin space coupled to the Wrangler’s legendary go-anywhere ability, it could be a family-bound off-roader’s dream. Remember how we said SEMA was a favourite for OEMs looking to test the waters in a non-committal way? 


Staying closer to the blacktop is the Grand Cherokee L Breckenridge concept. The new Grand Cherokee (due here next year) is already understood to represent an upmarket push by Jeep, but the Breckenridge takes that a step further with higher-finish paints, materials and wheels. 


The blue Palermo leather seats and quilted upholstery are an especially high-end touch, contrasted by bronze accents and satin walnut wood trim, and Jeep pitches this concept more at the alpine chalet demographic than its usual core of off-road adventurers.


Toyota Supra Sport Top 


Next to the Tundras and Tacomas on Toyota’s stand were a pair of Supra concepts, both tasteful remixes of the company’s two-door coupe. One was already revealed back in 2019 – the GR Supra Heritage Edition - but its companion is fresh metal.


The Supra Sport Top is an attention-getter, reviving the targa top configuration that was available in the previous A80-generation Supra that debuted in the 1990s. Boasting a removable roof panel that sits behind the windscreen top rail and the B-pillar hoop, significant structural reinforcements had to be applied to restore the rigidity lost during the Supra’s roof-ectomy.


The removable roof panel was 3D printed by Toyota’s North American R&D facility, and made from composite material.


At the rear, a classic ‘basket handle’ wing is another throwback to Supras of old, while aero improvements underneath help suck the Supra Sport Top to the ground. It also carries the same performance improvements enjoyed by the Heritage Edition, meaning a slight power boost to 372kW from a modified turbocharger, enhanced engine bay ventilation, bigger brakes and a pushrod rear suspension.

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