Browse over 9,000 car reviews

SEMA 2014 | The biggest motorshow you've never heard about

With more than 2000 cars -- including an electric Monster Truck and a Toyota Camry drag racing machine -- SEMA 2014 is the biggest and wildest motorshow you've never heard about.

World leaders should give car enthusiasts a try at world peace. The biggest motorshow on the planet proves it's possible to have different cultures get along, even if it is car culture.

The SEMA event in Las Vegas started as an annual gathering of the weird on wheels and a technology and parts exhibition.

But it has now become so important that 15 of the world's biggest car companies have set up mini motorshows inside and out, parked right alongside hot rods, classic cars, electric-powered Monster Trucks and a Toyota Camry V8 drag racer -- complete with a bodyshell that is hinged behind the rear wheels -- and everything else in between.

Car enthusiasts are viewed by the industry as "early adopters" of technology, so it's a great way for them to plug-in (pun intended) to the latest trends.

Translated: enthusiasts will pay more for a new car if they love it, which is why the car companies want to get to know them better. They're after their wallets.

There are cars with tyres as thin as an elastic band, to wheel rims so huge you can stand inside them

And there is plenty of cash to go around. In the US, the enthusiast car market is a $33 billion-a-year business. For perspective, General Motors, one of the world's biggest car makers, turned over $150 billion last year. Globally.

Indeed, both General Motors and Ford had top level corporate brass walking the halls with the masses.

Ford's design director, Chris Svensson, awarded nine trophies to the best modified Fords on display, where enthusiasts take a standard car and then let loose on it.

At SEMA, the owners get the final say on how a car looks, not the designers.

"It's an absolute compliment to see so many talented people use our cars as a blank canvass," said Svensson.

"As manufacturers we are constrained by mass production processes. We're proud of the level of detail we can get into a car, but these guys take it to a whole new level."

Do car designers walk away with some ideas from the show?

"Not really, well nothing we haven't thought of already but dismissed because of cost," said Svensson. "One guy here spent $600,000 modifying a car. But we do get some ideas on colours and trims and what the public finds desirable."

The SEMA show has become so big that it has spilled outside the 92,000 square-metre Las Vegas Convention Centre and taken up the car parks out the front and two across the road, and another "live event" stunt area two blocks away.

It's so big you need to catch a cab or take the monorail to the show because there is no room for parking, which is kind of ironic given that a love of cars is what got you here in the first place.

Among the close to 2000 cars on display are entire halls dedicated to wheels, and another for "doof doof" sound systems. Other show halls look like a spare parts counter or a hardware store stacked with tools.

There are cars with tyres as thin as an elastic band, to wheel rims so huge you can stand inside them.

It's the most punishing show to cover because it is, quite literally, impossible to see everything.

The most cruel aspect of SEMA, though, is that it is closed to the public, reserved for industry and trade people to kick tyres and exchange business cards.

But it has reached such popularity that SEMA organisers have set aside more space outside each year. And that's the best part of all, because at least that part is free. Well, minus the cost of a cab fare or a monorail ride.