Founded in 1963, SEMA was the first alliance between equipment manufacturers, dealers, wholesalers and salesmen in the speed equipment field. “SEMA” at that time stood for “Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association. Prior to this time, there were no unified efforts to unite these companies and sellers toward common goals.
Back in the early days of the SEMA organization, this was the logo they used, complete with “speed equipment” as part of the name, to be changed later to “specialty” in 1968.
Ed Iskenderian was the first president of SEMA and he’s credited with being the one who guided the new organization through its formative stages. “Isky” cams were well-known at the time and lending his face to the group meant instant credibility to speed shop owners and warehouse distributors across the country.
At that very first SEMA Show event held at Dodger Stadium in 1967, Valvoline chose to display the “Wild Bill Shrewsberry L.A. Dart” wheelstander Dart in all its glory!
Valvoline Oil’s booth at the first SEMA Show in 1967 (staged at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles) was pretty basic, a card table and a couple 55-gallon barrels holding up the wheelstander 1966 Dodge Dart belonging to Bill Shrewsberry. The candy-striped car was an exhibition machine that pulled wheelies from the starting line past the 1320-mark and had its injected HEMI
® engine located in the backseat area for ideal weight distribution for its intended show-stopping purposes. It was called the “L.A Dart” because he was sponsored by the Los Angeles/Orange County Area Dodge Dealers.
Growing as a result of the expanding focus of the industry, SEMA again revised their name for the 1980s with the new “market” name added to the association to best describe the scope of the scene.
The word “Speed” was updated to “Specialty” starting in 1968 to better represent to the government that the organization was representing “responsible” companies. The organization provided a united front to stand against what they were seeing at the time in the form of unfair legislative measures that could very much potentially kill the industry. By now, the SEMA Show took place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County.
For the 1977 SEMA Show now in Las Vegas, it had a lot more exhibit and the event was well on its way to being a world-class event. The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas added a great deal of overall excitement to the automotive aftermarket industry to be sure!
“Hot Rod” parts and pieces were the main products promoted at the SEMA Show from the very start. And thanks to efforts by SEMA (during the “K-Car” era) in getting participation from the Chrysler Corporation, visitors could now see first-hand all the latest performance parts (“P”-prefix part numbers) that had been developed for drag racing and related street performance.
The Dodge Dakota Sidewinder was a concept vehicle debuted at the 1996 SEMA Show, a radical 2-seat convertible pickup packed with a Viper GTS-R 8.0L V10 engine. 21-inch front and 22-rear wheels were used and the machine was conceived as a sportier take of the 2nd-generation production Dakota truck.
In time, Chrysler also began to display “concept vehicles” and show new releases of production cars and trucks at SEMA.
At the Innovations Day Luncheon, Robert A. Lutz, Chrysler Corporation’s President and Chief Operating Officer, said this about the ’99 show: “It’s an honor for me to be here, I’ve heard a lot about how it’s grown since the last time I was here, several years ago, but this is really mind-boggling! It’s also a pleasure to be here, nice to be at a show where one of your vehicles is named ‘Vehicle of the Show!’ And, of course, that’s why our all-new Dodge Dakota pickup is here at SEMA.”
Here’s a selection of Mopar
® vehicles displayed in the Direct Connection booth (and later “Mopar Performance”) as seen through my camera lenses, with the opening shot of the “LA Dart” at that very first show provided by SEMA.
Author: James Maxwell
The Mopar Performance display area for 1989 featured front and center the Wayne County Dodge Daytona Pro Stock car, driven by Darrell Alderman. Power was from a “B1” wedge engine developed in part by Dave Koffel. It was the only Dodge vehicle running in Pro Stock at the time. The Mopar Performance display area for 1989 featured front and center the Wayne County Dodge Daytona Pro Stock car, driven by Darrell Alderman. Power was from a “B1” wedge engine developed in part by Dave Koffel. It was the only Dodge vehicle running in Pro Stock at the time. Amazing detail on this supercharged early Chrysler HEMI engine-powered drag race engine, seen at the 1991 running of the SEMA Show. It took nine months to build; fantastic work done by engine artist Jim Schuman. The Carlsbad, CA, Dragmaster organization was an important part of Dodge’s drag racing promotion in the early 1960s. Here’s the restored “Dragmaster Dart” that had been fully restored for the 1991 show. It featured a fuel-injected and supercharged 413 Wedge. Jim Nelson and Dode Martin were the founders of the famous Dragmaster chassis shop, a place where a young Roland Leong swept the floors! The new 1995 Wayne County Dodge Avenger Pro Stock was the focal point of the Mopar Performance display. This was the Darrell Alderman car, proudly wearing the #1 Pro Stock number. There was a two-car Dodge assault, with a twin car driven by Scott Geoffrion. They both featured a Jerry Haas chassis, 498-cid Wedge powerplants with B1 TS aluminum heads. The Wayne County Racing Team consisted of Dave Hutchens, Mike Sullivan, Jim Musgrave, Jr., Mike Molt and Mike Shaw. The restoration market was a growing part of Mopar Performance sales for 1995, shown here is a display at that year’s event, including 340, 383 and 440 air cleaner engine identification plates, re-issued oil filters, correct color engine paints and torsion bars. Viper racecars were there as well, here’s a fully modified GTSR coupe, complete with rear ground effects bellypan. Mopar Performance was onboard with full factory assistance for maximum power output from the V10 engine, circa 1996. Dodge decided to enter cars into the North American Touring Car Championship Series, and here’s one of the Dodge Stratus cars powered by a 2L 4-cylinder engine and the rules mandated an 8,500-rpm governor, premium unleaded gasoline and even a catalytic converter. British racing experts at Reynard Motorsports were called in for its construction. The Dodge Dakota Sidewinder was a concept vehicle that debuted at the 1996 SEMA Show, a radical 2-seat convertible pickup packed with a Viper GTS-R 8.0L V10 engine. 21-inch front and 22-rear wheels were used and the machine was conceived as a sportier take of the 2nd-generation production Dakota truck. An early ’70s Dodge Charger from Richard Petty was one of the display cars, and the STP Day Glo Red with Petty Blue still stood out as much as it did back in the day on the NASCAR superspeedways. The hood markings show that it still ran the famed 426-cid HEMI engine. Off-road great Walker Evans was one of the early pioneers of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and here’s his “Barbary Coast” entry from 1995. Chrysler’s tried and true “L.A.” small block V8 was produced from 1964 until 1992 for production vehicles; and for 1993, the design was revised to the 5.9L “Magnum” version. Here’s a fully equipped all-aluminum “Mopar Performance Parts” race engine complete with dry sump oiling and injectors, as shown at the 1999 show inside the Mopar Performance booth. These pushrod engines were offered in crate in this era. Introduced in 1998, the NHRA Pro Truck class was reserved for carbureted small block V8-powered trucks and pictured is the Patterson Racing Dodge Dakota from 1999, a Mopar Parts-backed, Jerry Bickel Race Cars-built entry. Rather than incorporating an air scoop on the hood, NHRA rules specified air intake coming from openings in the lower front valance panel. 10,000-rpm engine revs were common place! The new 1995 Wayne County Dodge Avenger Pro Stock was the focal point of the Mopar Performance display, this was the Darrell Alderman car, proudly wearing the #1 Pro Stock number. There was a two-car Dodge assault, with a twin car driven by Scott Geoffrion. They both featured a Jerry Haas chassis, 498-cid Wedge powerplants with B1 TS aluminum heads. The Wayne County Racing Team consisted of Dave Hutchens, Mike Sullivan, Jim Musgrave, Jr., Mike Molt and Mike Shaw. From the 2001 show, this ’68 Charger packed a Viper V10 powerplant. Shown at the 1998 show, the Ray Barton-powered HEMI Dodge Dakota SS/TA truck. From the “Mopar Alley” at the 2003 show, this beautifully detailed 440 Six Pac display engine. Mopar Performance’s booth featured an unusual rear-engined dragster that had Neon 4-cylinder power. The narrow, lightweight (915 pounds with driver) machine ran in the “F/Dragster” class and was driven by Danny Rhoades. Best time from the 122-cid “Neon Power” dragster was 8.42 seconds at 154 mph. Mopar Performance’s booth featured an unusual rear-engined dragster that had Neon 4-cylinder power. The narrow, lightweight (915 pounds with driver) machine ran in the “F/Dragster” class and was driven by Danny Rhoades. Best time from the 122-cid “Neon Power” dragster was 8.42 seconds at 154 mph. Mopar Performance’s booth featured an unusual rear-engined dragster that had Neon 4-cylinder power. The narrow, lightweight (915 pounds with driver) machine ran in the “F/Dragster” class and was driven by Danny Rhoades. Best time from the 122-cid “Neon Power” dragster was 8.42 seconds at 154 mph. Shown in the Mopar booth at the 2004 show, this 300-hp turbocharged “PT Super Cruiser” with conversion to a 2-door platform. 2000 Flamed PT Cruiser done up as a custom cruiser, complete with suicide doors. Don Schumacher Racing “Mopar” Nitro Funny Car, piloted by Gary Scelzi, displayed at 2003 SEMA. The Shaun Carlson FWD Neon dragger, a serious drag car seen at the 2003 Mopar display. Pro Truck Dakota from South Oak Motorsports displayed at the 1999 show. A race 426 HEMI ’64 Belvedere from the 1999 event, owned by John Balow. A “retro” Dodge Ram that Walker Evans Racing put together as a throw-back to the old days, seen at the 1999 show. 1997’s event featured this Mopar-backed NASCAR truck. In the 1960s, the wheelstander exhibition vehicles were very popular at drag strips all across America and in the 1990s Bob Riggle was able to build a replica of the original “Hurst Hemi Under Glass” 1966 Plymouth Barracuda with the help of Mopar Performance. Shown here at the ’92 show, the car is fully equipped, including an injected 426 HEMI engine under the rear glass, hence the “Hemi Under Glass” name. “W8” aluminum heads on this small block “L.A.” engine also from the ’97 show. Leslie Rabb, 1991 “Miss Mopar Performance” signing posters at the booth! A restored 1970 Plymouth Superbird shown at the 2002 SEMA Show. Part of the excitement of the annual trek to the Las Vegas Convention Center was in seeing the all-new Mopar Performance catalog, here’s the 1995 edition that was released at the ’94 show. The ’96 MP “Get Real, Get Mopar” catalog was handed out at the 1995 show. Speed shops, jobbers, warehouse distributors and racers were all anxious to see the latest factory parts! The new 1997 Mopar Performance “Factory Engineered Performance Parts” catalog was released at the 1996 SEMA Show. A modified Plymouth Prowler at the 2000 SEMA Show. Chrysler was always anxious to show to the performance world an example of one of their competition GTS-R Vipers, this one a 1999 24-hours of Daytona winner. This particular V10-powered Dodge Viper also was the overall winner, a first GT class car to ever do so. Sox & Martin’s ’68 HEMI Barracuda out front of the Convention Center at the 2005 SEMA Show. Ryan Newman 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Dodge Charger as seen at the 2005 show. From 2004, there’s just something very cool about those Viper V10 powerplants… This “Motor Head” Dodge Daytona from the 2005 show, a serious Bonneville car with Ray Barton HEMI power. Inside the lobby of the 2006 running of the SEMA Show was the real, authentic 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that was owned by Nord Krauskop and driven by Bobby Isaac. Mopar restoration expert Roger Gibson performed the full restoration. Inside the lobby of the 2006 running of the SEMA Show was the real, authentic 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that was owned by Nord Krauskop and driven by Bobby Isaac. Mopar restoration expert Roger Gibson performed the full restoration. 1964 Dodge 426 Race HEMI Super Stock, shown at the 2003 show. As seen at the 2005 show, the 1970 Dodge Challenger SCCA Trans-Am car of Sam Posey, the original racer built by Autodynamics. Crate engines galore for 2007! This 2004 assortment of Mopar goodies show the vast variety of items available to the industry. An exciting part of the 2005 SEMA experience was the Overhaulin’ build-up of this 1972 Dodge Challenger! Crate engines galore for 2007! Crate engines galore for 2007! The Mopar-backed Kasey Kahne Dodge Charger from the 2004 SEMA display. Also shown at the outside of the SEMA Show in 2005 was the 1971 Dick Landy “Pepsi-Cola” Pro Stock Challenger. This 1970 Sox & Martin Pro Stock HEMI ‘Cuda was featured outside the front entrance at the 2006 event. A fun scale model display of a tralered 1970 ragtop Road Runner at the 2004 show! A good start on building a 1970 Dodge Challenger right there! 2004 hood, front fenders and rolling stock display. Debuted at the 2007 SEMA show, Don Garlits’ “Swamp Rat XII” was part of the fun at the Mopar Performance display. It was a nitro-burning, 392 crate engine that featured a vintage 6-71 blower along with “zoomie” upswept headers, a throw-back to the glory days! From the air: Viva Las Vegas 2004! 1969 1/2 440+6 “A12” Road Runner at the 2007 SEMA Show. 1971 “Billboard” HEMI ‘Cuda with wing, Mopar booth, 2007. 426 HEMI, wedge, aluminum cylinder heads, circa 2007 SEMA Show. “Authentic Performance Mopar 440 siamesed-bore cross-bolted block, aluminum heads, 4bbl intake, circa 2007 SEMA Show. 2008 SEMA Mopar Alley saw the display of the “Super Challenger” Classic F/C Dodge Challenger.