On the very first day on the floor, I met Tony Ortiz, the owner of a 1973 De Tomaso Pantera. It is just one example of some of the beautiful builds that were in attendance at SEMA 2022. The car has been highly modified. The front and rear end was made to simulate a 2005 or 2006 Ford GT (one of my favorite cars). The parts were made out of metal so that they could be welded to the car. It has full air ride suspension, a 454 cubic inch clevor engine, which is a 351 Bosch windsor block with cleveland head. It has a CF transaxle, 180 degree headers, and the seats are practically on the ground. They also relocated the water pump so that they could put a clear plastic lense on the engine bay and the cabin to the car. The rear tires are 345s on 18×13 wheels and the front is 275s on 17×11 wheels. It took a period of three years for them to complete the main resto mod on this car. But the project, like all of them, is still being worked on. Little things here and there are always being improved upon or modified.
Tony wanted it black with a wide body. So they fabricated the wide body as well. His love lies in the european styling with an american V8. The rumble of the V8 is just irresistible, and draws a lot of attention. Even being a 1973, the sound and look of these cars will always turn heads. We talked about how just hearing the sound of a V8 makes you turn to look to see where its coming from. The other thing about these engines is that not only do you hear it, but you feel it. The deep growl that resonates through your chest is another reason why we love our classic engines. Tony said there is no radio in the car, as you wouldn’t be able to hear it anyways. You spend all of your time listening to the engine.
Tony’s plate, “BLKPNTR,” stands for Black Pantera. He’s from Arizona, so he hunted for a black and blue plate so that it would keep with the black and blue theme as to not draw attention away from the car itself. The rear lights are also painted black. There is a heat shield on the trunk where the engine is, engraved with the logo for De Tomaso. For those unfamiliar, De Tomaso is the manufacturer of the Panteras and has a very unique and notable design.
The painter of Tony’s car was in the Marines, and the stickers on the inside of his trunk symbolize his group number. Tony wanted to make sure that his friend, along with other fellow Marines, were honored. Tony said that it keeps us grounded and humble. Without the men and women who serve our country, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the cars we love so dearly. Other small touches on this 73 is the shifter, which is also made to look like the De Tomaso logo. The logo is also incorporated on the dash and on the seat belt harnesses. JMD, the booth that Tony’s Pantera was in at SEMA 2022, supplied part of the exhaust system that was used in the build.
We had a great time talking with Tony, and learning about his one of a kind build. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you and take some awesome photographs of your car!
I am back from my week in Las Vegas, Nevada for SEMA 2022. All I can say is, wow. Being across the country for the first time, and for such a big event, was an incredible experience. I met so many great people and made new friends.
The week started with the flight from Logan Airport to Harry Reid International Airport. We landed in Las Vegas Nevada at about 7:30PST. We met up with some friends, Dave and Lorenz, at Polo Towers. We dropped our bags, wasted no time and hit the strip. We walked down to Encore for a little bit and hung around. Jet lag soon set it, so we headed back to Polo Towers, our home away from home for the week to get some rest.
The next morning, we got up and headed over to the Las Vegas Convention center to grab our badges.
It was this moment when it finally started to set in for me. I was here, in Las Vegas, at SEMA, one of the most sought after car events in the world. A good friend of mine pushed me to apply for credentials, and I am so glad that I listened to them. With two days left til show time, there was a lot of hustling around the convention center grounds to get it prepared for the event. A few cars were set up and ready to show off.
The bare inside of the convention center left much to the imagination, so we headed back down the strip. We walked over to the Bellagio and took a look in the flower room. It was quite beautiful.
We then made our way over to The Cosmopolitan where we had some much needed breakfast at District Donuts. Sliders. Brews. Once we were back at Polo Towers, we dropped our gear and then headed back out for the day to walk the strip. The first stop I had on my agenda was the Hello Kitty Cafe. It was just as adorable as I thought it would be. I had to hand it to my bunk mates for the week, Dave, Lorenz and Josh, who all put up with my silliness on day one.
From there, we made our way back through to The Cosmopolitan for Secret Pizza. This place is unmarked, except for a hallway of albums lining the walls, and the lingering smell of cheese wafting through the corridor. It made for some great lunch. If you are a foodie, like pizza, and small incognito spots, this should be on your list. We then made our way over to Planet Hollywood and walked around in there for a little bit. All in all, there was a lot of walking to be had that day so we headed back to Polo Towers to rest.
I was still itching to go out, so Dave and Lorenz accompanied me over to the Bellagio where we watched the fountain show, found some cool street art, listened to some performers and I got to take some night shots of the city.
What I anticipated to just be an hour hanging around, turned into several. The lights and sounds of the city were intoxicating for me. Everywhere you look, there is something new, different, exciting. I have not been anyplace like this before, and I wonder if I will ever find someplace like it again.
Since I knew I was going to be getting up early the next day, we finally headed back. It was good to spend some time with some new people and get to know them. I knew it was going to be a great week.
5AM came quickly, and a little easier than anticipated. With the time difference, it was 8AM back home. We headed back over to the convention center where exhibitors were still busy getting set up. There was only one day until show time. Several more cars and booths were set up. It was cool to see the convention hall pre show, and pre people. It was quiet except for the beeping of forklifts and ripping open of boxes for setup.
After some wandering around the convention center, I headed back to the hotel for the day. It was a long morning, and I wanted to relax from the 15 mile walk the night before. I spent some time in the room with Dave and Lorenz editing photos and talking. Later at night, we went out to Old Vegas. It was Halloween afterall, so might as well have a little bit of fun. Old Vegas had a completely different feel. The canopy covering Freemont St made you feel like you were inside, but still able to enjoy the outside air. There was a mini truck show going on as well, so we went to check it out.
We ate out at Nacho Daddy. They had great Quesadillas and Nachos. A delicious end to the night. Tomorrow marked the first day of SEMA, and I was ready.
5AM came quickly again, and off to the convention center we went. We tackled South Hall since there weren’t too many cars set up in there. But there were some awesome paint jobs.
At 7:30, we made our way over to Westgate for the Kick Off Breakfast and New Product awards presentation. Breakfast and coffee was served, and we were able to network with some great people. The highlight of the breakfast was watching Ken Block’s Hoonitron take on the streets of Vegas. For those unfamiliar, Hoonitron is the first all-electric Gymkhana car. Audi dedicated their entire design team into creating this car. If you haven’t seen the video of Ken Block enjoying the Las Vegas playground, here is a link.
Having not seen the video beforehand, but familiar with what it was, it was quite a treat to see it for the first time to kick off SEMA 2022. When Breakfast concluded, we made our way over to North Hall which was a showcase of artists, stereo systems and the Battle of the Builders stage. Some of the stereo builds in this hall were absolutely incredible. When I tell you I have not seen any systems like these before, it is the absolute truth.
As 930am rolled around, we made our way over to the Hoonigan Burn Box. We walked around and saw some of the crazy drifters that would be out in the box in just a couple hours. It was the calm before the week long storm of burnt rubber and smoke.
I didn’t know what to expect that morning. I had never been to a drift event before. I had the privilege of being directly behind just the concrete that separate drifting cars from myself. When they sent that first car out a little after 11AM, I was hooked. The adrenaline rush that took over me as I watched these cars drift around was intoxicating. The smell of burnt rubber, and smoke filled the air. The sounds of the engines revving at their redline and tires screeching is something I will be hearing in my sleep for a while. Photos don’t do an event like this much justice, but here are a few of my favorites from the morning.
The crowd cheers, the cars burn it up faster. The energy in the air is electric. I could’ve, and wanted to, spend my whole day there in the Burn Box. So I did. we made our way back to the hotel for a few hours to do a photos dump, and then made our way back for the 3PM show where they did it all again.
At the end of the day, we were covered in rubber bits from all the tires. The burnt tire smell lingered in our clothing and hair as we made our way to the Tesla Tunnel to take us to the West Hall and Lot. The Tesla Tunnel is an underground system that allows you to take a Tesla from the Central Hall lot over to the West Hall. It saves time, and saves your feet a little bit of walking. Once we were there, I got to see one of the coolest Classic Mini builds I had ever seen.
Seeing this little Ghostbusters MINI was the best way to end the day, and was the only classic mini on the entire show floor. Represent! We made our way back over to Polo Towers for some much needed rest. SEMA day two would be where I tackle the halls and see who I can meet.
Central Hall was on deck for the day. It was great to have the opportunity to walk around the show floor with no one around, because I probably looked like a lost puppy wandering around wide eyed for several hours. So here are some my favorites from Central Hall.
With so many fantastic companies and builds on the show floor, it is hard to pick just one car out of them all. But one stood out to me.
The attention to detail, airbrush, and lace metalwork was stunning, and unlike any custom car I had ever seen. I did not get a chance to talk to the builder of this beautiful piece, but I am sure they know that they did a wonderful job. Bravo Hoppos!
With there being over 1 million square feet of ground at the Las Vegas Convention Center, it is hard to know if I was able to see it all. But I certainly got to cover a lot of it. Here is some more of what was hanging around outside.
With the end of day three, it was back to Polo Towers for a couple hours before hitting the strip for another night of adventures and exploring. We headed out a little late, and local Police were closing off part of the strip. After just seeing the video of Ken Block in the Honitron earlier that week, that was my first thought of what could be going on. In the distance, we heard it, the roar of a Formula 1 engine. Definitely not Hoonitron. We walked down the strip a little bit to the fount in front of the Bellagio, and there we saw where the magic was happening.
The Oracle Redbull racing team was here, filming a promo, likely for the F1 Race coming to the Las Vegas strip next year. It was one of the most incredible things to witness, I still have chills thinking about it. What are the odds that we were in the right place at the right time to witness this incredible moment. The rest of the night was quiet and the roaring of the engine was now a distant memory. It’s unexpected moments like this that make traveling into the unknown so exciting. You just never know what will happen and what you will stumble upon.
Thursday at SEMA was an open day to roam around. I had captured a lot of what I wanted to and spoke to a ton of a great people. Stay tuned for their individual posts later this month. I tackled South Hall, Toyo Pass and then a quick run through back Central Hall to get some more specific details of stuff I might have missed. I chatted with Greenlight Collectibles who were giving out Limited Edition 2021 Mach 1 Mustang models with a special livery for the SEMA Show. After chatting with them some, I spotted a Classic Mini model on their shelf. Having just told them about my own Classic Mini, they let me get the one on display. Thanks Greenlight Collectibles! This is a great addition to my Classic Mini collections. More to come on this great new company.
I then made my way over to the Traxxas booth, an RC car booth. They had a great interactive setup where peoeple could test out their RC Broncos.
The display of vehicles out in the Toyo Pss were unmatched by most others on display. Here are a few from the spread.
Toyo Pass also spent the week handing out limited edition pins. I was lucky enough to get my hands on most of them. Another blog post will be up on those that you can read about.
Later in the day, I got to try my hand at some Airbrush with iwata. It was very fun! Yet another hobby I’d love to take up!
Thursday night we went out for some fun at Hakkasan Nightclub in MGM, Dave, Lorenz, Tony and I spent the night out on the strop and had a great time. Friday brought on a full day of rest before SEMA Ignited that night. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love watching cars roll into a show, and I love taking photos of them even more. For the grand finale of the week, here are some of the best cars rolling in.
My first experience on the West Coast was incredible. I couldn’t have dreamed of what I would see, who I would meet and the adventure I would have. It was truly humbling to be around so many incredible minds and talented builders. As I boarded the plane and took off to head back home, I already started planning my next trip out to Las Vegas. The intoxicating energy, the lights, the food, the people and most of all, the unexpected is what make the city so interesting. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to go to SEMA and all the people I met this week. More stories to come, stay tuned!