Chasing SEMA – Following PCHRods to Vegas

The road to SEMA – a dream many enthusiasts chase so they can show off their hard work at the biggest specialty show for automotive performance and its related aftermarket. I decided to follow PCHRods from their shop up to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Last Minute Plans

Photo: Brandy Phillips

The idea was last minute, honestly. I didn’t ask if I could follow until last week, a week before the SEMA Show. Fortunately, I’ve known Matt Briggs from my previous freelance gigs and he introduced me to Brandy and Rob Phillips. He’s my usual contact for people in the Pro Touring world when I don’t know someone because he usually does. Brandy will probably sound familiar to you for their C10R Pro Touring C10 build that regularly runs in the Ultimate Street Car Association and NMCA West Autocross rounds while Rob runs the shop.

Photo: Brandy Phillips

So, they gave me the go ahead to follow them down from their new shop in Riverside, CA. They loaded up Matt’s 1971 Sunday night, I loaded Project 3323 with my gear, and we left on Monday morning at around 7:00am. I wasn’t the only one driving as a “chaser,” though, as Mike Cuthbertson and his 1968 Chevrolet Camaro would be joining us while Greg Nelson would join us at our first and only planned stop.


We drove up starting with the 215 North and joined up with the 15 towards Vegas. Once daylight began to shine, I started shooting photos on the road. Rob and Matt were getting a kick out of my “trick photography” as we convoyed towards the land of big casinos, flashy lights and empty wallets.

Baker, CA

After about 140-miles, we made it to Baker. This was our planned fuel stop, good thing, too, as Project 3323 and Mike’s Camaro were both ready for gas. Ironically, Mike and I were getting about the same fuel mileage, even though he’s got two more cylinders than me. It’s certainly making me rethink my grand scheme of keeping the Pathfinder a 3.3-liter V6, though I do have to take it into consideration that I’m not running a front bumper at the moment.

About ten-minutes later, Greg and his partner showed up. Just like Mike, Greg was driving his car to Vegas and his Camaro would be in the Spectre Performance booth right beside Matt. While we were waiting, we got to see this Duce show up towing a real Airstream right behind it. It’s amazing to see what shows up while on the road for SEMA.

On The Road Again

After saying our good mornings and looking over each car, we took back off for Las Vegas. Once there, we all had to split up. I went to find free parking and ride the monorail into the convention center so I could get my media pass and “worker pass” for Monday. Meanwhile, Matt and Greg would go to their staging area. My worker pass allowed me into the Central Hall, where the Spectre booth was located, so I could get some photos while the cars were making their way there.

Well, it would have except that I couldn’t make it in on time due to the limitation of the worker pass. It only allowed me to be in there from 12pm to 5pm. So, while I didn’t get them lining up, I did get some behind the scenes photos.

Last Day Insanity

I don’t think many people get to see the somewhat coordinated chaos of the last setup day for the SEMA Show. Forklifts are carrying crates in and out of the show floor, Freeman staff people are riding around to make sure everything is going as smooth as possible, and vehicles are constantly coming in and parking for their final time before the show starts.

It’s as mystical and as frenzied as a Vegas con job. You know the one – it’s done with the cups and cards. So, not only did I have to keep an eye in the viewfinder, I had to keep one in front, behind, and to my sides the entire time. Otherwise, I’d be run over or block someone trying to load something in.

The last time I did this, I was working for Mackin Industries and helping set up their booths during the SEMA Show. In a strange way, I sort of miss that.

In other ways, I don’t.


The other is to subscribe. Other than offering my expertise in writing, photos, and videos, subscriptions are how I currently fund going out to events like these under the Carbage brand. If you subscribe as an Annual or Biannual Subscriber (even paying per month), you get great content two weeks earlier than free viewers and you get exclusive galleries, videos, and soon exclusive merchandise that only subscribers have a chance to buy.

SEMA Show Exclusive: a Biannual Subscription for only $10!

In celebration of the 2018 SEMA Show, I’m offering everyone a chance to get a two-year subscription to Carbage for only $10. Normally, this is $24 for monthly payers and $22 for those who pay fully upfront. From now until the end of November, you can get this Premium Subscription for over half-off. When select one of the Biannual Subscriptions, you’ll enter discount code SEMA2018 and enjoy two years of Premium Carbage Content at over 50-percent off.

Justin Banner

Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.