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Things we do to our cars

The annual SEMA show displays parts and equipment to customize appearance, performance

November 13, 2002

It began life as the Speed Equipment show in 1967, and in the years since has grown to become a gargantuan annual display of what the automotive aftermarket is up to. That market, which specializes in things we get for and do to our cars and trucks after we buy them, is loosely divided into appearance -- or look-good -- and performance -- or go-fast -- parts and equipment.

The trade group that puts it together is SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Assn., and this year its show, open to the trade only, drew more than 85,000 auto industry people. They ranged from big-name auto executives such as Chrysler Group's Dieter Zetsche and car designers such as Ford Motor Co.'s J Mays to guys such as Billy Andrews, sales manager for Bazo Wheels, a City of Industry company that makes those outrageously huge custom wheels your favorite NBA player probably has installed on his shiny Cadillac Escalade or Ford Excursion.

Andrews, like many at this year's show, described it in just a few words: "unbelievable, and big, really big."

The first adjective was in reference to the huge assortment of goodies that could be found, the second and third to the size of the show, which occupied 2 million square feet of the newly enlarged Las Vegas Convention Center.

Even when it was a little thing held in L.A., the Speed ... er, the SEMA show was the place to spot automotive trends.

Unfortunately, the only people who get to spot them are the manufacturers, buyers and retailers who attend in hopes of making deals for what will be the hottest sellers in next year's market.

Until now, that is.

Times staff writer John O'Dell prowled the show for several days last week, feet aching and camera clicking, to see what he could see -- and to bring back for Highway 1 and its readers a glimpse of what's going to be hot for 2003.

Take a look ...

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