Few automakers bring the same level of game to SEMA as Ford, which for 2013 occupies a substantial amount of Las Vegas Convention Center real estate by way of its absolutely massive vehicle display. Close to 60 models are parked underneath the bright blue glow that haunts the Ford booth – or should I say, block – and they range from understated to truly over-the-top.
Starting with more streetable fare, it’s worth pointing out that Ford isn’t afraid to accentuate the already sleek lines of the Ford Fusion mid-size sedan by way of a number of aftermarket treatments. Despite not falling into the high performance category – nor being a frequent candidate for customization – the Fusion’s potential as a platform for high end aesthetics was on display in the form of special models from Full Race Motorsports and DSO Eyewear. The Full Race Motorsports Ford Fusion SE was the most interesting of the group, as its tuning team was able to turn the boost on the car’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine all the way up to 11 and extract 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged block.
Moving on to a model that’s a little more familiar in the aftermarket world – the Ford Focus ST hatchback – shows that the attention lavished last year on the ST edition at its debut has yet to subside. PM Lifestyle and DRAGG (Drag Racing Against Gangs & Graffiti) hit the Focus ST platform with lowered suspensions, race-ready interiors, and eye-catching paint and body work, but it was the effort from the Universal Technical Institute that stole the show. Reviving the famous Gulf racing livery – powder blue highlighted by orange – that was a fixture on vintage Ford racing efforts, the UTI entry bolts on sizable fender flares, swaps out the car’s stock turbocharger for a supercharger, and adds a side-exit exhaust to back up the strong fashion statement made by its iconic color scheme. Green Filter USA also dips into the retro well with its take on the Focus ST, which wears green-and-yellow paint in the style of the Ford-powered Lotus that won the Indy 500 in 1965. The look is not quite as fetching on a hatchback as it is on an open-wheel race car - thinking 'The Masked Bandit' - but it certainly draws its share of eyeballs.
If the Focus ST is still coasting on last year’s good vibes and critical acclaim, then the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST is the new hotness – at least judging by the five models that accompanied Ford to Las Vegas. 3DCarbon and Bojix Design took more traditional customization routes with the Fiesta ST, but MRT chose a different path with its Forza Motorsport 5 edition of the car, which echoes the ‘digital’ styling cues found in the popular racing video game. The Ice Nine Ford Focus ST was also intriguing, with its rally-inspired vinyl wrap struggling to overcome the eye’s ability to make sense of its unusual curving colors and flat-out-weird shapes. COBB Tuning – long a force in the Subaru world but increasingly playing an important role in churning out extra power from Ford’s EcoBoost engines – teamed up with Tanner Foust Racing to present the fifth and final Fiesta ST, a camo-covered grey-and-black affair that will tour military bases across the country in 2014.
It wouldn’t be SEMA without a gaggle of Ford Mustangs at the official Ford display, and with 2014 representing the final year for the current generation of the car several aftermarket customizers took a crack at turning some heads with the performance icon. By far the most eye-catching was the Hollywood Hot Rods Mustang Convertible, a term that at first appears to be a misnomer given the vehicle’s fastback aluminum roof. Closer inspection reveals that the covering is completely retractable, and the unique rear end of the car (designed by Hollywood Hot Rods themselves) and its numerous metal accents come together to produce what will surely be a show favorite. A supercharged, 750 horsepower edition of the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Also supercharged was the Project Yellowjacket Mustang, which was put together by Vortech to feature the brand’s blower prowess. 605 horses and 473 lb-ft of torque are put down by the bright yellow coupe, which also comes with bigger brakes to add some ‘woah’ to balance out all of that ‘go.’ Rounding out the custom Mustang corral is a car from Nitto Tire that looked almost out of place due to its conservative styling and near-stock performance specs.
Of course, it just wouldn’t be SEMA if Ford didn’t bring something a little weird and whimsical to its booth, and the Hot Wheels Ford Transit Connect cargo van is certainly both of those things. Wearing the familiar blue and orange colors that have become indelibly associated with tiny metal cars – and also sporting a snarling front end that seems to have been lifted from the Focus ST – the Hot Wheels Ford Transit Connect was designed as a support vehicle for a racing team that wants to attract attention in the pits as well as the track. Wider and lower than a stock Transit Connect, and featuring gullwing doors, a 55-inch LCD screen, and a pair of built-in tablets, the Hot Wheels model is impossible to ignore. Ford in fact brought 10 Transit Connects to SEMA 2013, but we aren’t going to enumerate through them all, as the Hot Wheels model has the most universal appeal.
From small vans to big trucks, Ford made sure not to ignore its pickup fans at this year’s SEMA event with two stunning F-350s as well as an F-250. These Super Duty trucks range from extreme luxury (the Cars by Kris F-350), to all-out adventure (the EcoTrek F-350, which can run on algae-based bio-diesel), to street-friendly (the Hulst Customs F-250). Three F-150 models were also on the scene, with JR Consulting putting together another backwoods-ready rig similar to the larger EcoTrek truck, Skyjacker Suspensions boosting the ride height of the pickup to appeal to the hunting crowd, and Fatal Clothing slamming the F-150 to the ground and supercharging it to produce 650 horsepower for drag fans.
The biggest round of applause, however, was reserved for a 1956 Ford F-100 pickup built with the goal of raising funds to build a children’s hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The connect between Ford, Saskatoon, and SEMA? Shannon Tweed, the wife of KISS frontman Gene Simmons, was born there, and the pair were part of the unveiling of the pickup at the show. The F-100 has been given an almost aeronautical feel, with styling that is intended to evoke early Shelby designs. The truck also features a 550 horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter engine, and will be auctioned off in order to benefit Wheels of Dreams, an organization backed by the Saskatchewan Ford dealers who had the truck built in order to raise funds for the hospital project.