What a week in Vegas. SEMA is always chaotic, but also a good time and this year was no different. We had both unexpected setbacks and unexpected positives in the week and a half that comprised travel and the show.
As always the few days leading up to departure from the shop are always filled with last minute details. Our Diesel WK was literally wrapped at the shop where audio work was being done on the day we intended to leave. The guys had to work around each other to get it done, but finished everything with an hour or two to spare. Our contigent this year included 4 rigs total. 3 that were to be in the show and one tow only rig. That meant that the Supercharged Nitro Tundra would be doing double duty pulling a trailer with our solid axle swapped Jeep Grand Cherokee inside. The Nitro Buggy went into trailer #2 pulled by our late model dually Dodge diesel.
Our biggest challenge of the event occured about 500 miles southeast of our headquarters. Just outside of Twin Falls Idaho the Tundra started making bad noises under the hood. Limping it to a nearby Toyota dealer we confirmed our worst fears, something was coming apart in the bottom end of the motor. After some serious discussion of options we concluded that under the short timeline we would have to leave the Tundra behind along with one trailer and drive south in the Grand Cherokee along with the Dodge pulling the buggy. This wasn’t ideal for a number of reasons, but primarily because we had just completely reworked the Tundra with long travel suspension, 2015 bodywork and whole host of other changes (we’ll do a full feature blog on this rig in the future once it’s back on the road) and intended to display it at SEMA. Very disappointing for ourselves and others who helped with this project.
Moving forward meant another 600 miles of driving to get to the convention center for setup. Thankfully the Jeep is both well sorted (it did run in Ultimate Adventure afterall) and comfortable. The big Nitto’s drive well and the solid front axle is nicely controlled by the King bypass shocks. Add in a few hundred watts of tunes and it’s not the worst place to spend 12 hours headed south on the highway.
Once in Vegas we were able to get the vehicles detailed. We also had the big diesel Dodge done at the same time and decided it would take the spot vacated by the Tundra at the show. This was actually kind of cool as the Dodge is pretty well setup itself and has a killer stance to go with the 1000+lbs of torque under the hood. Cleaned and into place with the booth setup done we had about 48 hours to play and relax before the show began. A perfect way to spend more money than you intended in Vegas.
2015 proved to be our best year ever at SEMA as visitors to our booth really seemed to enjoy the Nitro buggy and we had a chance to meet so many great new people as well as say hello to many old friends. We also won 3 awards in the best new product category, winning with a gearset designed for the Russian built UAZ-469 4×4. We re-engineered these gears with a much longer tooth contact area to improve strength and reliability from the original equipment components and european journalists were impressed enough to honor us. The awards banquet proved to be a highlight of the week for us. We even ran into FarmTruck and Azn from the show Street Outlaws and they were kind enough to let us grab a photo. Pretty cool.
The next exciting news came early friday when we learned that JP Magazine had chosen our booth display vehicle their “Favorite Jeep of SEMA 2015.” Lots of hard work went into building and prepping our Jeep buggy and it was incredibly cool to get recognized for that effort. You can see their article here:
By Friday evening everyone is worn out. Tired feet, sore throats from talking so much, and probably about half broke from being in Vegas for a week straight. At 4PM the inside show came to an end. Outside though would be another story as SEMA now does a cruise and evening event for the public on and near the strip. Wanting to participate we headed to our 2 outside display vehicles and lined up with everyone else. #2015SEMATRAFFICJAM was born. Just over 3 hours later we actually left the parking lot. This sounds awful, but it wasn’t. Put a few hundred car enthusiasts into a parking lot with a few hundred show cars and you are pretty much going to have a party right there on the spot. Nobody complained, we hung out, looked at the cool rides and waited until the parking lot finally was allowed to stream out onto the strip and to the destination of the evening event.
Mustangs drifting at SEMA ignited:
Headed home. We opted to break our booth down on Saturday and skip the crowd of vendors doing it friday night. We think this plan paid off as it only took about 2 hours (with lots of waiting to be told when/where we could go) to break down the booth, fire up the buggy and load it into the trailer. Once out of the convention center we grabbed one last Vegas buffet (gotta eat as many shrimp as possible and avoid the clams) and we were on the road about 1PM headed north for home.
Buggy loading up after SEMA:
18 hours of driving and we were back in the wet Northwest. An uneventful trip home with the exception of the stunning scenery through the deserts and across the Blue mountains of Idaho into Washington state.
We can’t wait for next year and have some major plans for something much wilder for the booth in 2016. Stay tuned.