SEMA Show 2003


Text and Photos by John Lee


November is SEMA Show time, and Ho and I just had to attend this year's show. Unlike past years, Ho and I went to this year's show with specific goals in mind rather than merely to look around. This year, we went with the specific intent of getting a winch account.


Mandalay Bay


For the 2001 SEMA Show and 2002 SEMA Show, we stayed at Paris Hotel. This year, we wanted to try something different and went with Mandalay Bay.


Some things, however, never change. Ho's Discovery was too tall to fit into Mandalay Bay's parking structure, so the valet was nice enough to let us park in front of the hotel.


The pictures don't do this suite justice. The suite was situated at the "tips" of the hotel and spanned the entire width of the floor. The entire hotel also has that Hawaiian Tropic sort of smell to it, which is nice.

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The suite had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each bathroom had multiple sinks, shower, Jacuzzi, etc. Everything was top notch. This was my first stay at Mandalay Bay and I really enjoyed it. Mandalay Bay is not a brand new hotel, but it is still cleaner overall than many of the newer hotels, including Bellagio and Paris.


In the morning we found that the valet had taken care of us by parking Ho's Disco away from the cab thoroughfares and possible damage.


Ho and I like to make limited runs of EE decals and keep experimenting rather than go with one design. This is our latest sticker design.


Luxor is visible from Mandalay Bay's parking lot.


It was time to take care of business, so we headed for the SEMA Show.


We will definitely return to Mandalay Bay.


BF Goodrich


BF Goodrich's booth had one of Ivan Stewart's Toyota racing trucks.


This truck had at least 10 Hella 4000 HID Motorsports lights. I was pleased to see that every 4000 HID on this truck was fitted with a Hella 4000 Clear Cover. Even the Ironman needs stone protection for his Hellas, and these functional and beautiful covers provide stone protection while permitting the lamps to be turned on with the covers still on. Nice.


XXX Wheels


The SEMA Show just wouldn't be the SEMA Show without some Big Pimpin' going on. This H2 is the lowest one I have seen yet. And, yes, those rims are spinning in the photo.


In case the wheels were not enough to catch the eyes of passersby, XXX had some scantily clad ladies around the H2.


Ho admires some very large alloys. I think the rims were 26-inchers, but I can't remember for sure. Or perhaps 26" is old hat now. I have no idea.




Nitto tires had some very thin tires on display. This tire measures 255/30 R22, and has a "Z" speed rating. If you want the polar opposite of the Michelin XZL, this is it.

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Nitto also had a McLaren F1 in its booth. If you have more than a million dollars to burn and you want to ruin a perfectly good F1, this is how to do it. Poor McLaren. At least these rims don't spin.


In case the ruined F1 is not sufficient, you can always ruin a Ferrari Enzo. There is really no end to the vehicle butchery at the SEMA Show. But check out Ho. You can tell he likes what he's seeing.


This Enzo's interior was surprisingly stock. I half expected to see a DVD monitor and 30 speakers, with pirated copies of The Matrix Revolutions playing.



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Not everything at the SEMA Show is butchered pimpery. Michelin's booth displayed one of the McLaren F1 Team's cars. Michelin is the official tire supplier to the McLaren F1 Team, and Michelin is justifiably proud of Kimi Raikkonen's second place in this year's FIA Formula 1 World Championship.


The McLaren on display was driven by Kimi Raikkonen.


The McLaren's steering wheel is very different in concept from the steering wheel on the Ferrari F1 cars.

Here is the steering wheel from the 2002 model Ferrari F1 car. This wheel is noticeably more complex than the McLaren's wheel. Different ways of approaching the same problems, I guess.


Kimi Raikkonen was to appear at the SEMA Show on the day we were there, but we had other matters to attend to.




GearWrench had on display its new half-moon ratcheting wrenches. These wrenches featured direction selectors on both sides of the wrench. The selectors were very low profile and did not seem as if they would get in the way while wrenching in tight spots. If your application permits the larger box sections of this wrench to fit, this wrench might be just the thing for your tight-spot needs. GearWrench is owned by the Danaher Tool Group, which also owns Matco Tools. Perhaps someday Matco will come out with a premium-quality version of this wrench.




Ingersoll-Rand had a nice display of its air tools. Here, Ho admires one of the Rand compressors. To the right of the compressor is a water separator that removes most of the moisture from the air from the compressor.


Rand also manufactures a large range of chemical dryers. To the left of this air hose reel is one of Rand's chemical dryers. The combination of the centrifugal water separator with the chemical dryer should ensure that the air in this air hose is as dry as practicable.




Hella had on display its new Micro DE Driving Lamp. Unlike the halogen Micro DE Fog, the Micro DE Driving Lamp is a true HID light. For those of you who require large light output but have very limited space, the Micro DE Driving Lamp may be just the ticket.




Engel displayed at this year's show and had several new models and accessories to show. Here, Ho chats with Paul Kabalin, the President of Engel USA. One of the best things about the SEMA Show is seeing in person the people with whom one has done business with for the previous year. It's a chance to renew old relationships, as well as make new ones.


This unit is the Engel 15, which will hold 21 cans of soda. Unlike the other Engel units, the Engel 15 is a DC-only unit. The size of this unit is very similar to the Engel 16, but the corners are more rounded and a carry strap is provided for those who require more portability in their fridges.


This unit looks identical to the Engel 15, but is a warmer instead of a cooler. The Engel Warmer is designed to hold and warm fluid bags for EMT and other rescue teams.


The Engel 16 was also on display.


Engel will soon offer a line of stainless freezer fridges. These units will feature integral thermometers for those who desire such a feature. Right now, we do not know if Engel will offer Transit Bags or Transit Slide Locks for these stainless models. As with most things, time will tell.


Engel USA will soon offer a Sliding Tray for the Engel 35, 45, and 65 units. The sliding tray for the 35 and 45 units is shown above.


The Sliding Tray will permit the user to pull out his Engel Freezer Fridge for access in cramped areas.


The Sliding Tray features sealed ball bearings for smooth and maintenance-free operation.


The Freezer Fridges are held securely to the Sliding Tray with mounting tabs that mount under the Freezer Fridges' handles.


All current Engel Transit Bags are precut below the handle cutouts to accommodate the Sliding Tray's hardware.




WARN displayed its new 9.5xp winch. If you want to "leave the competition in the dust", this is the winch to do it with.


Also on display was WARN's 9.5ti Thermoelectric Winch, which debuted at last year's SEMA Show. This winch features a warning signal that indicates to the user that the winch's motor is about to smoke. Kyle Van Tassel calls this winch the "Smoke Detector" winch.


The 9.5ti's remote features a red LED above the toggle switch. If this LED lights up, it means your WARN is about to smoke.


WARN also displayed the 16.5ti winch that dwarfs even the M15000. This is a big winch.


To me, the most interesting thing in the WARN booth was WARN's new synthetic winch line, which will be available only as an accessory for the WARN line of winches. Unfortunately, WARN has decided not to equip any of its winches with the synthetic line.


WARN's new line is a hybrid that attempts to resolve the debate between products like Amsteel Blue and Technora. The red rope is Technora, and spans the first 30' of the the rope's 100' length. The theory behind this hybrid design is that the Technora is more resistant to high temperatures than Amsteel Blue, and the Amsteel Blue exhibits superior handling and abrasion resistance than Technora. The two different materials are spliced together by WARN. This is a novel idea and one that may catch on with the other synthetic line manufacturers. Time will tell if this method is superior to the single-material synthetics currently in use. WARN's winches are all planetary-gear designs with the brake inside the drum, so the temperature-resistance of this synthetic line is of paramount importance to WARN.


One trend I noticed at this year's SEMA Show was that the various winch manufacturers are starting to go with safety clasps on their winch hooks. This is a good move.


Ho examines a Warn pulley block. This pulley block is very similar in design to the pulley block sold by ARB USA . Frankly, I have never cared for this pulley block design and much prefer the the more elegantly shaped 7750A Pulley Block that Superwinch sells.


Ramsey Winch


The big news at Ramsey Winch, at least for me, was that Ramsey will offer a synthetic line as a Ramsey winch accessory. Unlike the WARN synthetic line, the Ramsey line is 100% Technora. Ramsey's synthetic line also features a nylon chafe guard. Like the WARN synthetic line, Ramsey's synthetic line features a winch with a safety clasp. Note also the aluminum hawse fairlead. Ramsey will soon be offering these fairleads as well.


Ramsey Winch and TJM USA are closely associated, sort of the way ARB USA and WARN are. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before Ramsey started offering the Staun Tire Deflators and Staun Massojets for sale.


The Staun Tire Deflators are unmatched for convenience and performance. If you air down using manual methods, you don't know what you are missing.




Subaru's booth featured one of the vehicles driven by Subaru's Rally Team USA. I am not familiar with this area of Rally Racing, as I am more accustomed to watch the Subaru World Rally Team during the FIA World Rally Championship races aired on Speedvision. However, there is no doubt that this rally car is impressive.


Unfortunately, the car was surrounded by barriers, so I wasn't able to snap any close-up pics.

However, some things were obvious. Like all Subaru Rally Team cars, this one is fitted with Hella lights exclusively.


The car was fitted with wheels from O.Z Racing and featured slotted brake rotors.


The interior of the vehicle was gutted to eliminate every last bit of excess weight.


Subaru. Driven by what's inside. LOL.


Mr. Recovery


A South African company called Mr. Recovery displayed its exhaust jack.


The exhaust jack comes with the necessary fittings to convert your exhaust into a makeshift air compressor.


The exhaust jack will permit one to lift his vehicle on soft ground that would otherwise not support a standard jack like a Hi-Lift Jack. Frankly, I prefer the Hi-Lift Jack with the Off-Road Base fitted, but exhaust jacks have a place.




Brembo displayed various styles and types of brakes. Unfortunately, Brembo does not make Land Rover brakes, except for the 2003 and newer Range Rovers.


The most interesting thing at the Brembo display with this carbon fiber brake rotor used on the Ferrari F1 cars.




For me, the most interesting booth at the 2003 SEMA Show was Superwinch's booth. Ho and I went to this year's show with the specific intent to get a winch account to round out our product line, and we went to Vegas with the strong inclination toward Superwinch. Superwinch did not disappoint.


One of the strongest reasons why Ho and I prefer Superwinch is because both of us use Superwinches on our own vehicles. The Husky 10 is by far my favorite winch.

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This is why the Husky 10 Worm Drive is so smooth during hard pulls. The Husky is driven by a worm gear system rather than the more common planetary gear system. The Husky features drain and fill plugs, and this entire worm mechanism is bathed in gear oil. This worm is also why the Husky is perfectly compatible with all synthetic winch lines. The worm drive obviates the need for a drum brake and thus there is no drum to overheat and melt the synthetic winch line.


One of the biggest weaknesses of the Husky was that the old remote control was junk. Superwinch has remedied that problem with a new remote that is basically a copy of WARN's excellent remote design. The entire unit is coated with rubber for good grip and the unit is operated by moving the momentary toggle with the thumb. The Superwinch unit differs from the WARN unit in two ways: (1) there is a yellow nylon lanyard for those who want a lanyard, and (2) the toggle is covered with a rubber boot to prevent water ingress. If one does not like one or both of these features, then he can easily remove them from the remote.


Old standby's in the Superwinch line like the S9000 and X9 were also displayed. Unlike the WARN and Ramsey booths, the Superwinch display featured skeletonized samples so that users could see and appreciate the various features of the Superwinch line. In the photo above, Ho examines the brake fitted to the S9000's drum.


This brake is why most planetary-gear winches are incompatible with the synthetic winch lines. When the winch is powered out under load, the drum turns against the brake and the drum heats up. If the winch is powered out for long periods, it is quite possible to melt or otherwise damage the synthetic winch line.


Here is a close-up of the S9000 and X9's planetary gears.


Both the S9000 and X9 feature a single-stage planetary gear system.


Brand new in the Superwinch line are the EP9.0 (left) and EPi9.0 (right). The EPi9.0 featured an integrated solenoid within a bridge. I much prefer designs like the EP9.0, which provide a cleaner look and the solenoid pack can be moved and hidden elsewhere if desired. These EP winches combined with the worm-drive option on the Huskies made the Superwinch line a slam dunk for us and we decided to go with Superwinch for our product line.


The selector on the EP is very intuitive and easy to use. To disengage the winch and freespool, simply pull on the selector and turn 90 degrees.


When so pulled and turned, the tip of the selector will disengage from the drum surrounding the gears and the winch will be in freespool mode.


The EP series of winches will feature a three-stage planetary gear system. That blue cylindrical object to the right of the gears is the EP's brake.


That is not a typo. The EP's brake is not located inside the drum. Rather, the brake is situated outside the drum and opposite the winch's motor. This means that while this unit is braked when not in operation, the winch's drum will not get hot and melt synthetic winch lines. To the best of my knowledge, the Superwinch EP is the first planetary-gear winch to have such a feature and such compatibility with synthetic winch lines. With the EP, you can power in or power out with a synthetic winch line, all without fear that you are going to melt your synthetic winch line. Like Ramsey and WARN, Superwinch will soon offer a synthetic winch line as an accessory.


Another industry-leading feature on the EP winches is the fitment of Albright heavy-duty solenoids with waterproof casing. These solenoids were previously available as an upgrade, but Superwinch will soon be fitting every winch it sells with waterproof, heavy-duty solenoids. This is great news for X9 and Husky fans as well, who previously had to shell out extra money for the heavy-duty solenoids.

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The waterproof solenoids really work, as demonstrated by this aquarium display. It is difficult to tell, but the winch drum in on the right is actually turning. The winch, solenoid pack, and wireless remote receiver are all under water. (Superwinch will soon offer a wireless remote similar in concept to the wireless remote currently offered by Ramsey.)

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Superwinch has come a long way. Even the WARN people were impressed by the advances Superwinch recently made and came by the Superwinch booth to take a peep.


Superwinch's line of accessories is much smaller than WARN's, and is not as nicely stylized and marketed as the WARN products. Also, we believe Superwinch's straps need some work and pale in comparison to our own Expeditionware Recovery Straps.


However, there are some areas where the Superwinch items are the nicest ones around. For example, the Superwinch Receiver Shackle Bracket fits standard Class III receivers much better than the WARN unit. This is the unit we have always recommended to EE customers, even though we were not a Superwinch dealer and these units are often difficult to find.


Furthermore, Superwinch's chains and pulley blocks are superior to those offered by WARN and other winch manufacturers. The WARN chain is a 5/16" size while the Superwinch chain is a 3/8" size. Bloomfield Manufacturing also uses 3/8" chains for its Hi-Lift Jack accessories. Superwinch's pulley block is also more elegantly shaped than the WARN unit and features fewer sharp edges.



SEMA Show 2001
SEMA Show 2002
SEMA Show 2004
SEMA Show 2005