An industry sneak show for souped-up specialties

Chicago Tribune

What if Chevrolet produced a high-performance Malibu Maxx hatchback?

Or Cadillac a souped-up SRX sport utility vehicle?

And what if Hummer focused on high fashion with an H2 Black Ops sport-utility?

The Specialty Equipment Market Assn., or SEMA, show held last week in Las Vegas, is a trade show for aftermarket parts suppliers. It has become the venue where automakers drop hints of vehicles it could produce quickly.


If those in the trade like what they see at SEMA, automakers prepare the vehicle for the auto-show circuit, which lets them elicit public comment.

“There [were] a lot of good things to watch at SEMA this year,” said Mark Reuss, executive director of GM’s Performance Division, formed two years ago to create limited-edition, performance versions of GM vehicles to spark a buzz.

Though Ford was the featured make at this year’s show, it focused on higher-performance versions of the 2005 Mustang. GM, however, displayed many performance variations on current themes.

For example, the Malibu Maxx Cross Country concept substitutes a 3.9-liter, 240-horsepower V-6 for the 3.5-liter, 200-horsepower V-6 in the car and adds ground effects and 19-inch wheels.


The Cadillac SRX Sport boosts horsepower to 330 from 320 in the 4.6-liter V-8. A five-speed automatic also allows manual shifting in a version being considered for ’07.

The “black tie” Hummer would feature black-painted chrome accents inside and out, including the grille, for a patent-leather-like look.

And to keep it clean regardless of the weather, the window washer/wiper system could produce hot solvent to remove ice, frost or road grime.

Here are other GM concepts seen at SEMA:


* A mid-size Chevy Colorado SS pickup is rumored to be under strong consideration and is a candidate for next year’s auto show circuit. The Colorado SS substitutes its 3.5-liter, 200-horsepower inline five-cylinder with the 6-liter, 400-horsepower V-8 from the 2005 Corvette.

The V-8 is teamed with a four-speed floor-mounted automatic transmission that offers manual mode.

* Chevy will offer a supercharged 2-liter, four-cylinder, rated at 205 horsepower, in the Cobalt SS coupe that’s due out in a couple of weeks. But the show car has been modified to deliver 272 horsepower and hints at a more potent offering soon.

* Pontiac showed a GTO with a new 6.4-liter, 575-horsepower V-8 with Ram Air induction, which suggests that the rumors are true that Pontiac is developing an even higher-output GTO. It’s supposed to be dubbed the Judge, the name used on the highest output GTO in the ‘60s and ‘70s.