SEMA – which stands for Specialty Equipment Market Association – is one of the biggest automotive shows in the USA, occupying 1 million-plus square feet and all four halls in Las Vegas’ convention enter each year. Around 135,000 car and truck nuts show up annually to witness the latest and upcoming trends in vehicle modifications and innovations.
The energy level matches the casinos nearby, with blasting music, ceremonies, unveilings and non-stop stimulation, food, hand-shaking and selfies.
But this year, there was one presentation that had a fan frenzy more akin to the presence of a rock star than a vehicle, a challenging accomplishment at an event filled with ultra-exclusive rides.
Ten years after the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) led an award-winning all-female Ford Mustang Build, a new team of SBN women volunteers assembled to modify a Ford Bronco four-door Wildtrak provided by Ford’s Bronco brand. It was unveiled this year to deafening cheers.
“This is an incredible day,” said Kathyn Reinhardt, member of the SEMA Board of Directors, chairwoman of SEMA Cares, and 2015 SEMA Person of the Year. “All these women from around the United States had the chance to get hands-on experience modifying this vehicle from the ground up.”
150 women from wildly diverging backgrounds found themselves starting from scratch, face-to-face with the nuts and bolts of auto building and using 150,000 women-hours over a 6-week period to get ready for their SEMA close-up.
The Bronco features an extensive list of modifications including a beefed-up powertrain and suspension as well as hardier wheels and tires. The interior received alterations to its electrical and lighting systems, and its exhaust and intakes have been upgraded.
Work began in July 2022 at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California and completed at the SEMA Garage in Detroit.
“Some of them didn’t know what they were doing,” said Reinhardt. “Some of them never so much as changed a tire. And guess what? Now all of those women know how to do all of those things. They have a newfound confidence. They were totally supported to succeed in the automotive aftermarket in a field wholly dominated by men. Every year we have more and more women getting involved, and learning to build their own beauty.”
Reinhardt’s been in the automotive business for 20 years. “I love being in a male-dominated business, flexing my skill sets,” she said. “The auto business is growing and more young women are getting involved. This is a time where we say, ‘Hey, women! We support you in this.’ We all knew women could do this, but to show it and to be able to unveil it in front of the entire SEMA audience is incredible.”
Ford donated the Bronco to the project. “It’s a popular vehicle and it was really hard to find one, so props to Ford,” said Reinhardt. “But all these women now have opportunities that they didn’t have before.”