It was quite a week, really just 3 and a bit days but it felt like a month. There's no getting around the fact that the AAPEX (Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo) and SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) are huge. The two shows cover well over 4 million square feet. Both shows are "trade shows", meaning that they are reserved for people from the automotive trades. Admission is restricted to just those people.

SEMA is the larger of the two and is the best known. SEMA has about 100,000 attendees, draws over 60,000 buyers, and about 2,000 exhibitors. It fills to overflowing the Las Vegas Convention Center's 3.2 million square feet of display area. It is controlled chaos.

AAPEX on the other hand is at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, a smaller venue. The day I went to AAPEX the crowds were smaller but I saw more one-on-one activity between exhibitors and buyers. Buyers had more time, and more calm, to sit and talk with exhibitors.

My general impressions, and consider that this was my second year at SEMA and my first to AAPEX, is that SEMA is a carnival, full of awe and wonderment where people go to see flash. You pick up info brochures at SEMA and if you're lucky or determined you talk to a exhibitor representative. There is so much to see, so much to do, that if you do not have a clear game plan you become dazed and confused in a flash.

Last year I tried to ignore the cars (and make no mistake there are as many if not more cars at SEMA than at most car shows) to concentrate on the exhibitors. It's been a long time since my time in the trade and I was amazed at how far technology and equipment had come.

This year I received a fair number of invites to "press conferences" so I attended a few. I also stopped and looked at cars and some of the exhibitors, the ones that caught my fancy.

I'm a people watcher so I kept looking at peoples credentials. There were exhibitors, buyers, SEMA members, media, and a few others I can't remember. I couldn't believe the number of people with buyers and exhibitors badges that seemed to be neither buying or exhibiting.

I also noticed people from all over the globe; Canada, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, China, Japan, Korea to name a few. It is truly a global village. But sometimes the ignorance of my fellow citizens is appalling. While waiting for a press conference to begin this man behind me kept asking a young lady what we were waiting for. I could hear her try to respond but it was obvious she didn't understand him, so of course he kept asking in a louder voice. Finally I turned to him and said, "We're all waiting for the f**king bus." I looked quickly at the young lady and saw that she was a media representative from St. Petersburg, Russia. Realizing she probably did not speak English (she didn't), I explained to the oaf that she had no idea what he was asking.

You have to eat and SEMA is no exception. There is a food court in the main lobby area but there is a very good deli in the Center Hall area. I got one of the best pastrami on rye sandwiches there I've ever had. At first I thought the price was a little steep, about $14.00, but then remembered that I'd paid about $17.00 for a similar sandwich at Carnegie Deli. Yes the Carnegie pastrami had more meat but it wasn't as favor-full or juicy. For my $14 I got a pickle and slaw.

The downside to eating at SEMA is that there are not that many places to sit and everyone wants to eat at the same time. I would guess there is about one seat for every hundred diners. There has to be a better way.

As I said earlier I attended some press conferences. Outside of a couple that were held off-site these are more like scrums than press conferences. They are open to everyone. And with everyone having a nice digital camera, half the audience think they are photographers. I can't tell you how many times I was shouldered aside by "buyers" with cameras, ballcaps turned backward, acting like big time photographers. Sorry kids but some of us were actually working.

Now onto things I saw and did. I've already written about the Chevrolet and Kia press conferences so I'm listing the companies alphabetically that caught my eye.

AHWOOGA Automotive Marketplace - An Internet marketplace dedicated to just automotive things. I'm placing an ad to see how it goes. It's not an auction site, just list automotive stuff at the price you want. ahwooga.com

BIZOL Motor Oils - Their display caught my eye at AAPEX because of its green claim. How can engine oil be green? In a nutshell and put very simply their premise is that if you make the absolute best synthetic motor oil you do not need to change it as often. That is a good idea and one that goes against most oil companies who depend on convincing you to change your engine's oil every 3,000 miles. The more often you change the oil, the more oil that has to be disposed of and the more that must be pumped out of this earth. Bizol does not suggest you exceed the recommended change frequency, just that you follow it. They claim that their oil is optimal for stop and go driving, one of the harshest on your engine's lubricant. www.bizol.com

Cipher Auto - They make car seats. I guess their seats caught my eye. It's not like I have anything currently that I'd want to spend money on for seats. But they are good looking - and so are the models they feature on their web site. www.cipherauto.com

Comp Cams - I guess it's the hot rodder in me, there's no other reason for picking up a catalog from a cam company. I'm not really in the market to buy a camshaft or associated gear but what the heck, I can dream. www.compcams.com/

Craftsman Club - I have a fair number of Craftsman tools, mostly from my time away from the trade (when you're in the trade the tool guys come to you). I've never had any trouble or problems with Craftsman tools and you can either buy them online or go to a local Sears store. www.craftsman.com/

Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts - What caught my eye was the stunning 1940 Ford coupe body. '39 & '40 Ford coupes were great looking. Dennis Carpenter has all kinds of other Ford restoration parts. www.dennis-carpenter.com/

Drake Automotive Group - What caught my eye on the Drake display was a direct fit, 6-gauge instrument cluster that looks factory made for a '65/'66 Mustang. Very nice. Drake makes all kinds of parts for off-road and muscle cars too. www.drakeautomotivegroup.com/

Engine Quest - The list themselves as "The engine builder's solution." and "The parts you need, when you need them, fast!" They are located here Las Vegas and in Chicago. www.aamidwest.com/enginequest/

Evapo-Rust - Rick Dale of Rick's Restoration and seen on American Restoration was at the booth so why not stop? Evapo-Rust claims to be a super safe rust remover. We all have a project somewhere that needs cleaning up so I picked up a sample bottle. www.evapo-rust.com/

Flaming River - The name tells you nothing about the products - steering gear of all ilks. But if you're building or modifying a steering system they might just have what you need. www.flamingriver.com/

Fortec - I'm not really an off-roader but this booth snagged me. If you've got a Jeep they've got you covered. www.fortec4x4.com/home.php

Holman Moody Performance - I wasn't even aware that the Holman Moody, such a large part of my Ford youth, was still alive. From the web site, "Holman Moody is currently designing/building performance parts for the new modern Ford cars." On top of that they introduced the TdF (Tour de France) Mustang at SEMA, their first Mustang in almost 50 years. www.hmperf.com/

Hurst GTO - Who can forget the Hurst Oldsmobiles? In that tradition there was the Hurst GTO - A SEMA 2012 Project. It looked good. www.facebook.com/CarTransformations

Kelsey Tire: Classic Tires - Kelsey Tire is the marketer of classic Goodyear Tires, just what you need for your muscle car. www.kelseytire.com/home.html

Text2Car - Text2Car provided lunch one day to get some of us writers to listen to their pitch. I was a little confused by the name. Why would anyone want to text their car? Turns out there are some good reasons. What started out as a way for the company owner to start his car and let it warm up while he was collecting his luggage at the Saskatoon airport in mid-winter. Now it allows a car owner to perform a variety of tasks by texting his/her car's computer. Pretty ingenious actually. Not my cup of tea but I can see the use. www.text2car.com/

Top Street Performance - I'm always building a car in my mind so when I see neat stuff I'd like to put on it I file it into the "yeah, I'd like that" section. Check it out, some good stuff. www.topstreetperformance.com/

VPG Autos - When I first walked by their booth I thought their were hawking a new taxi; the vehicle reminded me of a London cab. But no the MV-1 is specifically for disabled people. Great idea and I still think it would make a great cab. I hope they prosper. www.vpgautos.com/

That's my short list of booths that caught my attention. AAPEX & SEMA have a wide variety of exhibitors; there is something for everybody. If you have any kind of automotive related business you need to be there next year.


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