SEMA pimps your rides in green

Lexus has let loose some of America's top custom car specialists to modify its hybrid models for the Las Vegas SEMA auto trade show this week.  The result is very un-Lexus - giant rims, flared wheelarches, dazzling paintwork and outrageous body kits, plus high-performance suspension and brakes.

The gambling capital of the world brings out the daring in some manufacturers who wouldn't risk showing such outrageous modifications at conventional car shows.  Even the staid Swedish manufacturer, Volvo, has used SEMA to show the street cred of its marque with pimped-up versions of its C30 in recent years.

A highlight of the unorthodox Lexus display is a mod version of the word's first compact luxury hybrid car. The flash little CT 200h F Sport debuted last month in Sydney at the Australian International Motor Show.

It's already a sporty model with its sports wheels, body performance damper and two-mode dynamics function.  The first luxury car to make a top-three ranking on the Australian Government's Green Guide will go into production in December and arrive here early next year.

But it won't quite look like the SEMA display model with 18 x 8-inch alloys with Pirelli PZero Nero 225/40R/18 tyres, adjustable suspension and shocks and a high-performance Big Brake Kit, with mighty 12.9 x 11-inch cross-drilled front discs.

The other Lexus hybrid models to get extreme makeovers included the GS 450h with a huge rear wing, RX450h and the greenest and meanest luxury saloon, the LS 600h in "Glacier Green" and riding on 20-inch wheels.

Other car manufacturers with vehicles on display include Chevrolet, Toyota, Kia and Hyundai.  SEMA is billed as the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world and is not open to the general public.

Each year it attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries displaying automotive parts, tools and components.  One Australian company displaying products at the show is Maxtrax, invented by Brisbane 4WD expert Brad McCarthy.

Maxtrax is a tough piece of orange plastic about the size of a bodyboard which is placed under the wheels of a bogged 4WD for recovery without the use of a snatch strap.  The product has been used by Dakar competitors including Australia's Bruce Garland.