For performance-industry insiders, they constitute a rite of fall as regular as the turning of the leaves and the towering compulsion to strangle Dick Vitale. The Specialty Equipment Market Association and Performance Racing Industry shows-or simply "SEMA" and "PRI," as they're known in the business-have for decades served as the launching pad for the hottest new products from the automotive aftermarket. There are diversions, to be sure-gigawatt car-audio systems, neon valve-stem caps, and implausibly proportioned spokesmodels at the all-encompassing SEMA show; gigabuck laser milling machines, 2,500-horse tractor-pull engines, and implausibly proportioned spokesmodels at the race-oriented PRI confab-but for those willing to choke down overpriced convention-hall food and suffer through the plantar misery brought on by several days of nonstop perambulating, there are untold treasures waiting to be discovered.
Here, in no particular order, are some of our most promising finds for 2006.
For late-model fans, this year's shows were defined by a cavalcade of new aftermarket head castings for the ever-popular LS-series engine family. Perhaps most notable was this canted-valve race version from ET Performance (www.etheads.com), said to flow a remarkable 402/237cfm (!) at 0.600-inch lift. ET also offers a wide selection of LS heads with conventional valve orientations, including 225, 235, 245, and 255cc; LS7; and C5-R varieties.
After months of rumor and speculation, World Products (www.worldcastings.com) finally pulled the curtain back on its "Warhawk LS7X" block, a heavy-duty Gen III-style unit capable of supporting displacements of up 454 cubic inches (4.125-inch bore/4.250-inch stroke). Noteworthy enhancements include C5-R-style billet-steel main caps, improved ring sealing, and provisions for two additional head studs per cylinder. The Warhawk even features both LS1- and conventional small-block-style motor-mount configurations, allowing it to be installed in Vettes not originally equipped with a Gen III powerplant.
Having achieved considerable success in the F-Body and truck markets with its innovative rear-mounted turbo kits, Squires Turbo Systems (www.ststurbo.com) has set its sights squarely on the power-crazed C5 crowd.
According to STS founder Rick Squires, a preproduction twin-compressor kit inflated the output of the company's otherwise-stock Z06 test car-shown here during hot laps in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot-to a heady 535 hp at only 6 psi. Look for an exclusive first test of the STS C5 system in an upcoming issue of VETTE. (Photos courtesy Squires Turbo Systems.)
Not all of the news out of SEMA and PRI pertained to late-models. This new manual steering gear from Remy Racing and Performance Products (top; www.remyracingshop.com), is built from the original GM tooling and is a direct replacement for the OEM gear in any '69 to '82 Vette. (Photo courtesy Remy Racing and Performance Products.)
Concept One's power steering gear, meanwhile, is essentially an adapted version of the recirculating-ball unit originally installed in '99-'05 GM fullsize trucks. Concept One (www.conceptonepulleys.com) claims the gear provides superior durability and a lighter, more accurate feel similar to that of a modern rack-and-pinion system. It fits all '63 to '82 Corvettes.
Speaking of LS heads, there were multiple new performance-oriented offerings from companies such as RHS (shown; www.racingheadservice.com), World Products (www.worldcastings.com), Trick Flow Specialties (www.trickflow.com), Dart (www.dartheads.com), Edelbrock (www.edelbrock.com), and possibly 80 or 90 others we missed. "You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting one," said one PRI attendee, though we declined to try. We don't have room to list the specifics of each head here, so check the manufacturers' Web sites and keep an eye on future issues of VETTE for more details.