SEMA 2016: 100 Hot Engines From Show Floor

With SEMA being the EKG taking the pulse of the performance industry, this year’s graph of the engine heartbeat on the show floor resulted in healthy rhythm in both innovation and respect for traditional aesthetics.

There are still few blips that can’t be explained, like the continued infatuation some engine builders have with massive covers. Engines should be exploited and exposed, not hidden under some plastic eyesore painted to match the body. If your car’s not proud of its engine, then keep it in the garage. Oh yeah, that brings up another point. Try opening up your hoods. Far too many lids were closed or barely open that we couldn’t even peek inside let along take pic. Show off those engines, people!

Otherwise, walking around the estimated 1,500 vehicles on display at this year’s show revealed an eclectic mix of colors, finishes and configurations that can be used to inspire even more ideas for future engine builders. We also saw diesel engines where spark engines are supposed to be along with homemade hybrids and V12s.

One trend that certainly doesn’t seem to be fading is the use of black. So many cars with their hoods up looked like openings of a dark cave. In the late ’80’s, early ’90s there was a push for monochromatic color themes throughout show cars. For a while it was refreshing, then it seemed like a significant portion of the industry forgot how to use masking tape. The trend of black engines is heading in that direction. Sooner or later the value of chrome trim and a color wheel will be appreciated when engine bays start looking more like dark matter in space than expressions of torque and power. On the bright side, we also noticed more copper and bronze hues dominating many engine bays.

Motorcycles continue show imagination when detailing the engine. And the single boat we found offered an impressive powerplant. There were excellent examples of mechanical symmetry, especially with more turbos and the accompanying air ducts and hardware.

Another trend that is almost cliche to mention is the dominating presence of LS engines. Gen I small-blocks, 426 Hemis, FE big-blocks, Flatheads and Rat motors are still aesthetically pleasing and often quite eye-catching. LS, and now the LT family, will certainly never stop taking over the industry, but there seems to be fewer options for personalizing those platforms, especially those with factory superchargers.

One trend we really like is the growth of 8-stack injection. They’re available for just about any V8 engine, and can adapted to straight-sixes and other configurations.

The following gallery is only a sampling of what we found on the show floor. Some truly great engines were likely missed — we didn’t get to every hall and some cars were covered up when we walked by during off hours. But you’ll get a good idea of what’s going on with engine detailing and hopefully find some ideas of your own.

Click on any image to view a full-size version.

About the author

Mike Magda

Mike Magda is a veteran automotive writer with credits in publications such as Racecar Engineering, Hot Rod, Engine Technology International, Motor Trend, Automobile, Automotive Testing Technology and Professional Motorsport World.
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