The Show to match the go

Girls, on, in, and around cars is making a comeback, and eye candy is in vogue once again. At automotive shows like SEMA (Speciality Equipment Market Association) it never went out of vogue really and buxom wenches often wearing little more than a smile have been a feature since the inaugural show in 1963.

Back then SEMA was an acronym for Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association but it changed its name in the early 1970s when the Righteous Right started to take a particularly dim view of anything that might amount to fun. Fittingly, SEMA takes place in Las Vegas and each November some 100 000 industry insiders (it’s a trade show) from all around the world descend on the Nevada desert city to see some truly amazing aftermarket metal.

Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva and Tokyo all have huge motorshows too – some of them biennially – which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and give those nations (Switzerland excepted if course) an opportunity to show off their patriotic wares. You can generally be certain that when there’s a world premiere of a new Golf, or 3-series BMW, it’ll be at Frankfurt. Likewise Paris for a new Peugeot or Citroen, and Tokyo for the Nissans and Toyotas of the world.

North America’s big show is, unsurprisingly, Detroit. However, it coincides with freezing January temperatures in the USA’s North, the show made more grim by being hosted in a what was once the planet’s automotive hub but which has been in a slow and steady decline for years. Delegates and media visitors invariably end up being snowed-in, usually in some godforsaken high-rise hotel with terrible décor.

South Africa moved onto the motor show map with Auto Africa late in the 1990s, which changed its name to the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) for 2008. While normally held every two years, the 2010 event was skipped due to a combination of the Soccer World Cup and the recession, but it’ll be back – probably with a bang –this year. Certainly, manufacturers are already beavering away to secure concept cars and prototypes as well as time local model introductions to coincide with the event.

It is big budget stuff, to the extent that the wealthy German brands import their entire stand (including the artisans who actually build up and break down the displays) from their international HQ.

Thankfully, the girls are local. Securing bragging rights by upstaging the display next door is important, and having a show-stopper is the surest way to do it. Years back, Volkswagen had the ‘new’ Beetle as their centrepiece, complete with its dashboard-mounted vase and plastic flower. South Africa being South Africa, someone stole the flower.

In the meantime, we’ve had to make do with March’s Automechanika, a show aimed primarily at the component industry and the aftermarket. The corporate wear is low budget and while there weren’t any showstoppers of the exotic car variety, the girls weren’t half bad. Which, come October, bodes well for JIMS.