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There are 1500 “feature vehicles” at the SEMA Show, and on the last day of the week-long aftermarket extravaganza they all have to roll out of the Las Vegas Convention Center. So four years ago, SEMA decided to turn the whole thing into a giant party. Thousands of fans line the street in front of the Convention Center’s North, Center and South Halls as 1500 cars, trucks, SUVs and even a few motorcycles parade from their show stands out into the streets in an automotive articulation known as the SEMA Cruise.

Once free of the LVCC’s confines they can go anywhere they want, but most take a lap around the Convention Center’s Gold Lot, where a couple thousand more fans pack bleachers to watch them circulate. It’s like American Graffiti with neon-lit monster trucks, intricately painted lowriders and even one Ferrari GTB4. 


Neon makes the Brodozer

Many owners then park their show cars in the Gold Lot’s massive expanse of pavement, crank their stereos and join in the party. A special coned-off area serves as a drifting lot, and competitors from the recently-completed Formula Drift season went sideways lap after lap as the fans cheered from the bleachers that lined the course. There was even an appearance from Formula 1 rising star Max Verstappen, who did donuts in the same Red Bull Racing car that had won the Mexican Grand Prix just the week before.

Then, on a big stage in the middle of the Gold Lot, SEMA’s Battle of the Builders crowned its king, hot rod hero Troy Trepanier. His 1929 Model A Ford beat out all comers to take what might be called SEMA’s Best of Show.

“There’s 12 great cars here, I think any one of ‘em’s a winner,” said the ever-humble Trepanier. “We’ve actually built 95 percent of it from scratch. It’s copied off of a ’29 Ford but we built the body, the chassis, its hidden torsion bar-suspension, it’s built to drive more than it is showy.“

He built it for Mark and Dennis Mariani, for whom he had already built two land speed-racing cars. Trepanier, who has been absent from competitions of late, will again enter a car in the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster category of the Grand National Roadster Show “not next year but the year after.”

Troy Trepanier's '29 Model A

Troy Trepanier’s ’29 Model A won SEMA’s Battle of the Builders

The partry, the drifting, Max Verstappen’s donuts, everything went on late into the night. It’s Las Vegas, after all. It’s a heckuva a way to end a heckuva a week. It’s also open to the public and a great way for the public to see most of the cars in the otherwise trade-only SEMA show. The Cruise is free and for twenty bucks anyone can get into the big SEMA Ignited party, so start planning now for next year.