We were getting nostalgic about SEMA so we dug into the archives to come up with some cool photos of the very first SEMA Show, back in 1967. This was when muscle cars were just coming into their own. It’s a big change from ’67 to the two million square foot event you see today. And here are some images of the show’s humble beginnings.
The first SEMA Show was held in the basement of Dodger Stadium. In this photo of the Hellwig Spring booth, you can see the Dodger World Champion banner from 1955 hanging from the rafters.
That first year, the show brought out 98 manufacturers, mostly sellers of hot rod and drag racing parts and services. About 3,000 industry insiders attended.
In ’67, SEMA itself was still a novelty. Even its name was different. Up until 1970, SEMA stood for “Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association,” but with all the “Speed Kills” press around, the organization changed its name to “Specialty Equipment Market Association.”
That first year, the show had just two cars on display.
The first car was “Wild” Bill Shrewsberry’s L.A. Dart, a nutty wheelstander powered by a supercharged 426 Hemi mounted at the rear. Shrewsberry was also recognized for his work with the Barracuda-based “Hemi Under Glass,” and the drag racing version of the Batmobile.
The second was Shelby American’s awesome 1967 Ford GT40.
Booth space at the first SEMA Show was a breathtaking $375, so companies like Shelby American could take up two spots without blowing its entire marketing budget for a year.
It also meant that small time operators like Valley Head Service – still in business in Northridge, California, by the way – were able to generate business alongside the big boys.
As it is today, the SEMA Show isn’t just a place for parts manufacturers to sell products to dealers. It’s a place where publishers can generate some much needed ad dollars. Petersen Publishing attended with its entire fleet of publications including Hot Rod, Car Craft, Rod & Custom, Sports Car Graphic, and something called Wheels Afield, which was an RV and travel trailer publication.
Within a year, the SEMA Show would move over to the Anaheim Convention Center. It would remain there until 1977, when it moved to Las Vegas. It’s safe to say that today’s show is a far different beast. Stick around tomorrow, when we have our full SEMA show recap.