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Your Show of Shows: SEMA

SEMA Show 2017 Preview

By Steve Temple

Since SEMA’s annual extravaganza in Las Vegas, held this fall from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, gets bigger and bigger every year, replica fans likely wonder what will be on display, since it’s traditionally a trade-only function. Even though it’s a massive event, we’ll be walking the miles of aisles to cover all the cool cars and performance products of interest to our readers. In the meantime, we checked in with a few firms and companies that regularly display there to see what’s in the works.

Dave Smith of Factory Five Racing says he’ll have a few new vehicles to show off indoors, typically located in the Center Hall. His terse description: “Launching a pickup truck version of our ’33 hot rod,”. (So now you can haul your stuff around in the back of a slick street rod.) “Also formally launching the competition/race version of our coupe with a retooled Cobra challenge car,” he adds. 

Since the company beginnings in 1995, it has consistently refined and expanded its vehicle lines, and these two new vehicles are evidence of this ongoing product development. Stay tuned for more details.

Outside of the exhibit halls, in front of the main entrance, there’s a large paddock area where Superformance typically shows off its Cobras and GT40s, and takes attendees for a few hot laps in a drift car. It’s so much fun, the line is usually long, and participants all share big grins from the experience.

Decades before drifting became popular among tuner-car enthusiasts, it was a standard practice for racers. The fast way around the track was usually sideways, with all four tires slipping and sliding as the driver counter-steered. Of course, in the ’60s they didn’t call it drifting. Throttle steering or power sliding, as they described it back then, was a necessity because the chassis designs were too flexible for hard cornering. But those old V8 war chariots were loaded with weapons-grade torque, so it was easy to hang out the rear end on a sharp turn by abruptly lifting the throttle and trail-braking, and then gunning it to line up the car for the proper exit.

That technique was one that famed racer Bob Bondurant became well known for driving for Carroll Shelby. “When I used to race Cobras, drifting was the only way you could drive the car,” Bondurant admits. “Every Cobra driver drifted.” 

In years past, the SEMA drift car was built by Vlado Jancev of V’s Automotive, who also handles a number of other projects and drivetrain installs for Superformance. For 2017 SEMA, he’ll be building “two very exciting versions of our Superformance drift cars — plus an additional surprise,” he allows.

No more details available at this point, but judging from previous efforts, they will be impressive. On a prior drifter, he started out with a stock MkIII Cobra replica as base, but the chassis was fitted with special drift-style hydraulic E-brakes. Pulling on the hand lever is a quick way to initiate the drift, both to unweight the rear tires and then control the drift. He also put more angle in the steering system by installing custom Wilwood spindles and Detroit Speed’s rack and pinion with power assist, along with other suspension mods. For extra help in breaking loose the tire grip, under the hood was a Ford Racing Aluminator 5-liter Coyote pumping out 530 horses. 

It’ll be interesting to see how he improves on that setup!

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