Time for a fresh think about modifying?

In early November, Las Vegas will be home to one of the world's most interesting motor shows, SEMA. Not a display of the latest cars, but a gathering of more than 2,000 global tuning companies and 60,000 delegates checking in to see what's hot in the world of modified cars.

So why should you care about the SEMA Show? Well, for one, it's a reminder of how big the modified scene is, but it's also a source of inspiration for car manufacturers. Within the 3.2 million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the grass roots of car enthusiasm will be on show. From classics and hot rods to jacked-up off-roaders and supercars, this is a one-hit demonstration of how broad a community is behind this constantly evolving scene. Carmakers are taking note.

Of course, it's not just the United States where this has taken off. If anything, the UK is the home of the modified car. We've been finding ways to improve on the factory design for, well, almost as long as the factories have been producing the cars. And from the garages of the oily-fingered enthusiast, big names in tuning -- MG, Abarth, and AMG, to name a few -- have become global tuning brands now tied in closely with the manufacturers themselves.

If proof of its influence was needed, look at the legacy it's had on the way we buy cars. You can now walk into your nearest dealership and order a box-fresh model shod with larger wheels, lowered suspension, bolt-on body modifications, and uprated audio gear, all without affecting the warranty. We lap it up, too. Some 40 percent of all Audi A3s sold this year will be in the entirely cosmetic S line trim. Let it never be said that modifying cars is just a fad.

At the enthusiast level, it may have ducked out of the Hollywood limelight, and the magazines that once outsold all other motoring titles have mostly died out, but there's still a lot going on. It's regressed back to being a niche hobby, but admittedly a global one. And the focus these days is on quality, fit and finish, and on speed. It's actually never been better.

So relevant is its influence, that we think it's a community well worth watching. It's home to cutting-edge innovations, some of which drip-feed into the mass-market of motoring. We'll be keeping a close eye on what's new and fresh, and offering a little insight into why it's still an influential hobby. It won't all be to your taste, but it's one fascinating place to be.

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