Each year, we head to Las Vegas to attend the Specialty Equipment Market Association's event, also known to most as the SEMA Show. SEMA is a special event to those of us who modify vehicles, because it gives us a chance to see what's new and happening in the world of custom automotive aftermarket equipment.

We notice the trends that will affect the custom automotive aftermarket each year. At the 2004 SEMA Show, we'd have to say that the Chrysler 300C and the Dodge Magnum were the hottest rides. Everywhere we looked, either one or the other had been changed dramatically to give some product new life. We weren't there, however, to check out the 300C and Magnum. We had to find the mini-trucks that had infiltrated the SEMA Show and put their best foot forward to demonstrate that most of the custom tastes shown anywhere are applicable and favorable on mini-trucks.

While you're not likely to find hundreds of minis at SEMA, you'll find some of the hottest rides to be seen at any highly anticipated show all year long. Although there aren't show classes at SEMA, many vehicles vie for a nod from the OEMs, which give away awards for the best interior, exterior, and overall treatment of a new car, truck, or SUV they're looking to promote. Every manufacturer known to man is at the SEMA Show, with booths full of its products either being displayed or appearing as part of a vehicle parked in the venue. Some of the most amazing vehicles were seen at the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2004. More than 100,000 industry players coming from more than 100 countries assembled to show off their products, goods, and services as more than 50,000 attendees filed through the halls and concourses.

We're also interested in seeing what new products will be coming to market each year, as they make their debut at the SEMA Show. Since the custom automotive aftermarket is an industry that rakes in $29 billion annually, there's a whole lot of money at stake -- and plenty of companies out to see that figure rise. Now, with 40 years of history behind it, the SEMA Show is unlike any other. SEMA works to not only keep people in touch, but help them stay informed and work together for the common good of the custom automotive aftermarket. At the same time, it keeping the OEMs involved with the enthusiasts who buy their vehicles and continue to modify them decade after decade. The organization has a ton of pull with legislators and others, since more than 5,000 companies call themselves members of the association.

Before the show each year, companies and enthusiasts alike work feverishly to complete the testing of products and installation of goodies on vehicles bound for Sin City. A week or two before the event, we here at Mini Truckin' always hear of rides that may just barely make it, and even some that won't. A few of those rides are delivered, driven, or caravanned to the show with only minutes to spare, but most somehow make it in one piece. Once there, the show must go on. A lot of the real fun, though, begins after the show closes down each night and all the attendees are out and about on the town. If you ever have the opportunity or credentials to visit the SEMA Show, we highly recommend it. Just know that if you're a mini-trucker, we have a meeting location. It's not a secret, and we take the place over every single year. Wander into the Hard Rock's Circle Bar any time after 10 p.m., and you'll find yourself in the company of friends. For more information on the SEMA Show, visit www.sema.org. For more fun, visit your buddies in Vegas; you'll be glad you did.