Another year wrapped up at SEMA and I have a lot of mixed feelings about what I saw this year. I know some of you will most likely get upset about what I have to say, and I apologize for your hurt feelings, but someone has to say it. Quoting Fast and Furious so some of you will understand better… “Just because you think you can box, doesn’t mean you can jump in the ring with Ali”.

The amount of cars I saw there that had no business being at an event like this was beyond belief. I have attended local car shows that wouldn’t even accept some of these cars. I realize anyone with money can get their car into SEMA and apparently SEMA has no minimum criteria to meet, but what I saw this year was just a sad sight.

Every year you hear people say they couldn’t even get through the whole show because 4 days isn’t enough time. I agree, it isn’t enough time. How can it be when you have to weed through the rubbish to get to the good stuff? I hustled for the duration of the show and STILL missed some good builds and vendors. The show consists of having to decipher through all the nonsense just to see quality parts and cars.

Let’s talk about the Datsuns I saw. I’m not going to specify which cars these flaws are associated with because I’m not trying to make it sound like I’m singling them out, nor am I trying to make anyone feel bad about their rides. However, ALL The cars I’m about to mention have been circulating on social media with praises and I was personally looking forward seeing them. Here is a “SUMMARIZED” list of what I saw.

Paint jobs that were old, weathered, chipped and scratched. Paint drips on new paint that could have easily been color sanded and remedied. Actual RUST bubbles showing through the paint on one. Cracked and deteriorated weather strips. One car actually had VINYL TAPE covering the 1/4 panel gap made by cutting the zg flares. It’s supposed to be welded and sealed if you were wondering. Another NEW build had flaws ALL OVER the finish, improper coilover adjustment giving it more wheel gap on one side over the other. Improper “wide body” flare fit and finish that would easily pop the flare off should you hit a pothole. The fuel line coming out of the gas tank ZIP TIED right next to the exhaust on one popular “build”. Accident damage that wasn’t repaired properly and the word is that it took a “team of builders” to get them to this point on some of these cars.

Gas monkey even produced a weak 280Z which sheds a light on how little respect these cars command in the”SEMA World”. I know they’re on a TV show and don’t always have the final say, but they DO know how to build cars. I’ve seen their work in person and it’s good. This Z started out as a 13K original mile Z! Not hard to make it look nice for MOST weekend hobbyists. They didn’t even do a color change and some of the interior looked untouched and stock. ALL the parts used were OFF THE SHELF and the ONLY fabrication done was the 1/4 panels being cut for the flares, camber plates welded in and rear bumper holes shaved. They even PURCHASED a front cross member that had the motor mounts already removed so that they wouldn’t have to grind off the ones on the stock piece since it was no longer needed on the SR20 they installed. No stitch welding, or proper bracing was incorporated which is critical on an old Z with tight suspension.

I know our community is very confused as to what the difference is between a “build” and a “mod”. That’s no excuse in my opinion. If you don’t have at LEAST 1000 hours of serious heavy line work, (and that’s a very low number) or some significant new idea that took a ton of hours to design and engineer, you should NOT expect to get the respect of the serious builders. If you want to run with the serious fabricators and expect ANY respect, you should put in a significant effort, ignorance is no excuse.

There are guys like myself that do this for a living and actually DO quality work. I have personally spent my OWN time on client’s cars just to make things right that their budget didn’t allow for. I’ve done this because I have pride in my shop and reputation.

We’re trying to establish our place in this industry and It seems like a lost cause when the general mindset by the LEGIT builders is that the “import cars” are not serious contenders. We’re trying to bring our import culture into the “build scene” but that’s not going to happen if we’re not actually delivering.

I’m not bashing cars that can’t afford to be on a SEMA level. Heck my Z wasn’t a SEMA car for years, and in some ways it still falls short, but it’s still a serious contender and years ahead of what I saw in the import scene this year. Some of you guys walk around with your “squad” acting like you da shit when you actually have a LOT to learn.

I know some of you are going to be ready to say this is just my opinion but you’re WRONG. EVERY knowledgeable fabricator or builder I spoke to is equally frustrated with the lack of pride in these cars. People YOU look up to and ask for sponsorships from agree with me. They agree that our scene lacks the heart and dedication that is required to be at an event like this. Some are actually far less compassionate about these cars then I am.

I come from a poor upbringing and started on the grass roots level. I had to go to the junk yard to find parts I can reuse to build my track car. I Did all this on a shoe string budget at times, but I never, not once thought i belong at sema because I put in a “good effort”.

This isn’t grade school. You either have what it takes or you don’t. There aren’t any handicap points given.

The car shown in the pic is a 1968 Dodge Charger. It had the following modifications and is the DEFINITION of a build. There is so much going on with this car. These listed points are ONLY a handful of the things actually done to it…

1/4 panels and fenders cut and widened.

Roof line chopped, windshield angled back, drip rails shaved.

Paint job ALONE had more hours into it then 90% of the imports did for the whole “build”.

Suspension stretched (without even being noticeable).

Modern Corvette suspension grafted in requiring the COMPLETE redesign of floor board and interior.

The interior was TOP NOTCH including the leather wrapped roll cage.

The size of the wheels stuffed under it while retaining that incredibly low ride height was a build on its own.

There’s so much more to that BUILD that you will see once the video we shot with DPAN GT gets released. It’s one of those cars that just NEEDS to be seen in person, and has honestly inspired me to step up my game.

I hope you all watch the “DPAN GT: SEMA Special” to be released and try to understand what I’m talking about and what it takes to have a build at SEMA that will be a serious contender.

This Charger was built by 3 guys from Sweden. They built her, shipped her all the way out here and flew out be in Battle of the Builders. That takes Heart, a whole lot of it. I just wish our community would TRY to understand where their “build” stands compared to cars like this. This car was SO amazing, that if I we’re in a competition with it, I would have to withdraw because I’m unable to produce something on THIS level on my personal budget.

I know there are people that feel the same, but will never say anything because they don’t want the drama associated by upsetting the mob. But this needs to be said. I hope you guys that understand what I’m saying, and share your frustrations with me (behind closed doors) would have a louder voice on this matter so that AS A COMMUNITY we can propel to a higher standard.

I wasn’t raised in a time period where everyone in school gets awards for effort to not feel left out so excuse my directness. I was raised in a time when you would not get respect unless your work was on point. No one gave a damn about your feelings or your limited budget.

To summarize, If you expected to jump in the ring with Ali, you better know what you’re doing or you get your ass kicked. This year, imports got their ass kicked because of a handful of “street cars” that had no business at SEMA.

I was there this year with DPAN GT doing a video segment on the awesome builds at SEMA but unfortunately most of the footage is of other makes. There weren’t enough Datsuns to cover that were more then just hobbyist level modifications. There were a few EXPENSIVE imports, but being expensive doesn’t necessarily equal a “build” either.

For you guys that think it’s your car I’m referring to, I know you’re going to be tempted to have a rebuttal. Rest assured, we took PLENTY of pics to back everything said, but we don’t plan to post them unless it becomes necessary.

For those of you that are still in disagreement, I have just one thing to ask. Please wait until DPAN GT video segment of this show is finished and watch it. If you STILL think our import community is on par with the legit builders at SEMA then I would love to hear your opinion.

Signing off,
Craig Simonian
Simtec Motorsports