The Ford Explorer XXVI from Galpin Auto Sports

The Ford Explorer XXVI from Galpin Auto Sports

Flashy concept cars and scores of exciting model debuts aside, the real highlight of the Los Angeles Auto Show for lots of dedicated gearheads is the rows upon rows of aftermarket exhibits in Kentia Hall — a haven for serious custom tuners or anyone who loves to gawk at diamond-encrusted spinners and extreme tuner projects. 

Celebrating the world capital of car culture, the L.A. Auto Show features the biggest selection of aftermarket accessories anywhere. Not only are the coolest rims and tuner packages on display — along with performance-enhancing add-ons and high-tech electronics — it all comes together in several showcases featuring the ultimate tricked-out rides. 

It’s all about hooking up better sound, more power, a flashier look — and the tuner trend is more popular than ever, said Brendan Flynn, director of communications for the L.A. Auto Show.

“Kentia Hall is just a lot of fun, a favorite especially with the younger crowd,” he said. “People love to see extreme examples of what they can do to their cars and look at exhibits like the Dub Magazine Celebrity Car Showcase.”

And it’s not just for auto aficionados. Even the most casual car dilettante couldn’t possibly resist checking out the extreme customization showcased by legendary Galpin Auto Sports. We’re talking more than 20 vehicles — many never before seen in public — all packed with megawatt audiophile systems, the sickest chrome and paint, and more horsepower than a day at Santa Anita. 

“Our motto is ‘Having no reason to do something is the best reason to do something,’” said Beau Boeckmann, Galpin’s owner.  

GAS is dedicated to testing the limits of tuner culture — and leaving them in the dust. Check out the 2012 Ford Explorer XXVI, with an earth-shaking 2,000-watt sound system and custom built-in iPad that controls all the electronic functions. It was a star at the recent SEMA show in Las Vegas, epitomizing custom SUV possibilities on the new tuner-friendly Explorer.

“The all-new Ford Explorer lends itself to a lot of customization trends because there are so many directions you can go in. Whether it’s amping-up the style, performance or capability, they all work seamlessly with Explorer,” said Melvin Betancourt, Ford SEMA design manager. “Additionally, the F-Series trucks are the perfect canvas for customers to personalize. They offer a great ‘wow factor’ and can easily be taken to the extreme in terms of performance.”

Galpin also gave its MTV “Pimp My Ride” treatment to the highly modified 540-horsepower 2012 Ford F-150 Thunder, a mad experiment in pickup customization that honors Ford’s original Lightning model. And there’s the mega-muscle 2012 Shelby Super Snake, packing 1,000 horsepower into a Ford Racing package that brought Mustang performance to an entirely new level. 

Tuning in  

High-end tuners and performance experts such as Specialty Car Craft, RTW Motoring and Platinum Motorsports also will be on hand to showcase the ultimate accessories and modified exotic, luxury and sports cars from around the world. 

And longtime Kentia Hall fixture Al & Ed’s Autosound is back to push the limits of mobile technology — from hands-free communication and iPod integration to the most advanced navigation systems — with a big display of its wildly customized rides.

“Every year we put together a vehicle lineup at the Los Angeles Auto Show that shows our singular commitment to unlimited vehicle modification, from the seemingly modest to the extreme,” said Gabi Mashal, president of Al & Ed’s Autosound. “We know no boundaries when it comes to vehicle modifications.” 

People’s choice

For the first time, the Kentia Hall spotlight shines on its tuner-loving public. — the  largest social networking site for auto buffs, with 2 million registered users — is showcasing 10 rides representing the most extreme awesomeness on the road, culled from entries submitted online. CarDomain users submitted all manner of flashy four-wheeled beasts, from beloved classics, lowriders and trucks to tricked-out everyday imports and domestics. 

Madness Autoworks — formerly Smart Madness — is back with an expanded inventory of Smart and Fiat parts and accessories, showing off the vast custom possibilities offered by the tiny and green Smart Fortwo and stylish little Fiat 500. Signal Hill-based Madness Autoworks has complete body kits, suicide doors and spoilers from scores of tuning icons including Lorinser, Brabus and Giovanna, along with premium audio from Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio and more. 

For those who want to tweak their ride, regardless of make or model, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways is with a flashy new set of wheels. Anaheim-based Wheel Warehouse is on hand showing off a massive display of designs from high-end manufacturers including DUB Wheels, Volk Racing Wheels and Hipnotic.  

New kids on the block

One of the most exciting newcomers to Kentia Hall, the DOK-iNG XD all-electric car came all the way from Croatia to make its North American debut after creating a sensation at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. 

Billed as a concept that was recently upgraded to prototype, the XD aims to set itself apart as a premium urban EV, adding high-end class to the electric-car market. We’re talking scissor doors, McLaren-style seating and X-shaped tail lights. 

It’s no wonder the XD is rolling out in Kentia Hall — it’s a tuner’s dream that can be pre-ordered according to exacting custom specifications. Premium materials and even precious metals are available options, as well as a completely personalized instrument cluster. 

Of course, this is just a handful of highlights. Kentia Hall has more to offer — much more. 

“Every year we have a lot of longtime favorites along with some really exciting newcomers,” Flynn said. “Kentia Hall is the place to go to see the latest custom trends and cutting-edge innovations.”

 Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer