It’s hard to believe, but, it’s been a year since the last SEMA. I couldn’t believe it, and wouldn’t believe it even when I was at this year’s show. It’s crazy. In just a year we’ve been through an incredible amount of shows, met places and done all kinds of things. It’s what we do after all, being involved in lifestyle and culture. But, there are a few shows that come along that tend to override a lot of those experiences. From the moment that we were at SEMA last year (our videographer, grip and myself went to SEMA together for the first time last year) I was already looking forward to the 2017 show. We had so much fun going to the show and visiting a lot of the companies that we couldn’t wait to go back. Checking out all of the newest products and talking with the people behind the scenes is one of the things that we enjoy most. I know I do anyways. Where else can you go and have a moment to chat with all of the big names in the industry, and in a place where everyone has the same mindset? It’s at SEMA where the world wants to be, and it’s at SEMA where I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.
The story for this year’s SEMA started a few days earlier when we were covering the LA Comic-Con. Going to cover the show was last minute, and while we expected it to be awesome, we were blown away by the guests that we met that weekend and the Black Eyed Peas concert that followed. Holy moly, that concert and how we got in is a story in and of itself. But, the truth is, that from that weekend going in to SEMA we were pretty pumped. As much as I loved the show, I kind of knew what we would be expecting there. If it was anything like last year (tons of interviews, a lot of picture taking and writing coverage of it), then it would be just as awesome if not a little moreso. The only thing that could possibly change it was something that we had received an email about. A surprise that we didn’t expect, and something that totally threw us for a loop.
About a month prior to the SEMA show we received an email invitation to go off-roading at the VORE track in Vegas. It sounded pretty awesome, and something that we hadn’t really covered very much before (having been to just a handful of off-roading shows in the past). We take part in a lot of different events and this one sounded pretty awesome. We didn’t have to hesitate very much to want to check this out and just like that, we were in like Flynn. To make the whole event sound even better, we found out that Turtle Wax would be out at the track as well, and they would be showing off some of their new products. I was pretty excited about meeting up with Turtle Wax actually. I use a lot of their products regularly (especially their interior protectant) and it would be an added bonus for us to get to chat it up with them. While it sounded like a fun little (press) event, I didn’t think we would be doing much in the way of off-roading. I figured that it would be a quick ride-along and we would watch the pros drive around and do their thing. It sounded exciting either way, and getting a chance to go off the SEMA showfloor and see something new was getting us even more excited. Little did we expect it to be far, far more than what we were sold.
The day of the event started out better than the previous day. The day before we had to drive in early morning from our homes to make it for day one of SEMA. That first night after the show we stayed overnight (and had a great Halloween night, a story in and of itself) we were pretty well rested and ready to take on day two. Knowing that we would be going to the VORE track (which stands for Vegas-Off-Road-Experience) and we would be getting a ride out to the track, we were already less stressed than the day before. Personally, I was gitty as a school child, ready to take on another day of SEMA. Besides, not knowing what to expect really made it a little more of a mystery that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. It didn’t hurt that the weather was absolutely beautiful that day and would be the same for the rest of the week. We were sent a driver to pick us up from our hotel and in about half an hour we had made the journey to a part of Vegas that I had never actually seen before. Usually when I go out towards Vegas, I tend to stay near the metropolitan areas and never really venture too far from the strip and main areas. But, this time around we were going in the opposite direction towards the eastern outer limits and that would bring out a lot of questions that we would have for the driver. The driver might I add, was one of the coolest guys that we could have ever hoped to meet. With a string of stories (about some famous passengers and incidents) and advice on things to do, it was a fun drive out to the track. Even though it was about a half hour, that nice chat we had in the car made it seem as though it was only a few minutes. One of the most unexpected and interesting parts of our day for sure. It was the same going back as well.
When we finally made it to the area where the track was I was amazed at just how far out from Vegas we had gone. Making those few turns off of the freeway, it was hard to imagine what was out there in the space that we were going. It was pretty barren, and the entrance was under construction so, it did seem a little funny to me to be driving in such a nice vehicle on the half-built road. The one thing that caught my eye though was the fork in the road when you get to the entrance. If you were to make a right, then you would be heading to VORE. Making a left however showed off a few armored tanks and crunched up taxis. One of those taxis had a sign on it that read, “BLOW ME UP”. Yup, I didn’t even know what that meant, but, if it meant being able to blow something up, then I was totally down for that. haha. It was Vegas after all, and anything and everything goes out here. But, alas, we would be making a right-hand turn and head over to the VORE main entrance. As soon as we made our first step out of the car we were greeted by a few of the off-road trucks that we had seen online (prior to coming out). They looked awesome, and seeing the mud and grime on them really got me pretty worked up. I could already imagine in my head what it was going to be like. Even though I had never been off-roading (a sad fact indeed), I figured that it must be pretty fun. I had just come back from a show back home (in Orange County, CA) called the Sands Off-Road Expo, and seeing all of the fanfare there really has sparked our interest in covering more off-road events for the magazine. But, knowing that we would finally be able to experience it firsthand was something that the little kid in me couldn’t wait for.
After a briefing on how to drive the cars as well as all of the safety procedures and waivers, we were told something that I was a little surprised to hear. If we were to somehow tip over the vehicle we were riding, then we would be on the hook for $3k to cover damages. Wait, what!? You mean to tell me that we would be driving these trucks? You mean to say that we would be driving actual, real-life off-road racing trucks? As in the kind that they use in the Baja 500 and 1000? You mean to tell me that we aren’t going for a ride-along, but, that we would be driving the VORE trucks by ourselves? To my complete and utter surprise, we weren’t going to be on a ride-along, instead we would be driving those sweet, sweet racing trucks around a track all by our lonesome. Oh yes!! Even as I write this you’ll have to imagine it, but, I am pumping my fist in the air with a smile on my face and a sparkle in my eye. I don’t know if I didn’t read the original invitation, or perhaps it was meant to be a surprise to us, but, it was one of the coolest things that I could have hoped for. Considering the day and night before were epic, Day 2 of SEMA was turning out to be even better than that first day. Holy moly, if I wasn’t excited before, I was already peeing my pants now. That may not be professional, but, for a person that had just had the craziest few days, this was already turning out to be something else. Something bigger. And it was only the morning.
Taking the two-minute walk over to the track prompted us to look at each other and contemplate what we were just about to get ourselves into. Here we were ready to do something that none of us had done before, and not only that, but, we would be experiencing it together. The scariest thing wasn’t really driving the trucks (although, considering we hadn’t done that, it was definitely on our minds), it was tipping them over and having to pay the crazy fee associated with it. Needless to say, we weren’t crazy enough, and we had nothing to worry about once we actually got to driving. It was kind of awesome though and every moment that went by I had to count my blessings and thank the heavens above that I actually woke up that morning. How much would that have sucked if I snoozed through the whole thing? Considering the partying we did the night before it definitely could have happened. Or could it? Maybe I’ve said to much. Maybe I should just forget about it. Either way, we were nervous. But, then again, we weren’t the only ones there, so, how bad could it be?
As nervous as I was, I was shaking with excitement. It’s not every day you get the honor of doing what we were about to do, and doing it alongside our fellow Spektrum homeboys made that even better. Well, I thought it would at least. Sadly, when we finally did take to the track, one of our videographers suffered from motion sickness and we had to cut our ride short. A bit of a damper on an otherwise very enjoyable ride. Actually, I’m underselling it really. The truth is, that for myself at least, it was one of the coolest (and weirdest) experiences that I’ve ever had. Driving that car felt like something out of a video game, but, only ten million times better. Sitting strapped in that crazy offroad truck and hearing the wail of the motor over your right ear is unlike anything I could have imagined. I didn’t expect it to rock side-to-side as much as it did, and slide all over the place as much, but, it was so awesome. Feeling the rush of the track passing by, the constant mud being kicked up and caked onto my arms, and hearing the chatter over the radio is something you have to try for yourself. It felt a bit like controlled chaos. You are definitely driving, but, with the engine being behind you, there is a lot of odd movement and unpredictability that goes on as you make sudden stops or turn the wheel hard enough in either direction. The entire time I was driving, I felt a new appreciation for the drivers that take these chariots down to Baja and put them through their paces. With the water that they poured on the track (no doubt to make the dust more manageable), the driving conditions seemed to change with every lap that we took. The funny thing was, that even though it was sunny and dusty out there, the weather was just perfect for driving that day. I could only imagine what it would be like driving in the sweltering heat and with the elements fighting you at every turn. It’s definitely something that would keep a person on their toes. Alas, before I knew it though, the drive was over after only a few laps. While I did switch places with our videographer, that experience would not last as long and wouldn’t be as exciting as actually piloting the trucks myself. Either way though, just having the opportunity to fulfill a little bit of my rally fantasy life made my life that much more complete that day.
When we got out of the vehicle and walked over to put our helmets away I noticed that Turtle Wax had a booth set up right alongside the track. I was intrigued. You know, considering I have used (and continue to use their stuff) it’s always a treat to see what they have going on. It’s a force of habit, but, ever since I used to work at Autozone, I’ve always made it a point to check out what new cleaning products there are on the shelves. It will never happen, but, I still yearn for the day that Turtle Wax or some other car cleaning product company will come out with a dirt blasting laser that seals and protects cars for their lifespan. Sure it sounds crazy, but, considering we’ve sent satellites to the ends of our solar system, it’s well worth dreaming about. Back here on earth though, I love seeing and subsequently, trying out new cleaning products. I used to try them all, and believe me, there are some that do work, and of course others that don’t. One thing that I always enjoyed though, was coming across a new detailer spray, or wax, or engine degreaser that worked well for me. It’s not as easy to find something that works. There have been a ton of sprays that I have used that have left parts of my car worse off than if I would have never used them. One time for example, I used an all-purpose cleaner that I was recommended to use on my leather seats. I was a little skeptical, but, considering the person that recommended it to me really knew their stuff, I took the plunge. Within a week of spraying that cleaner onto my leather seats it began to crack and dry out. I stopped using that stuff all together for that. But, that’s just it. If one doesn’t know, then they’ll jump in and try anything. It’s a scary thing to think about, but, when it comes to taking care of something that you love (whether it’s your car or something that you cherish), then you would want to take care of that stuff with products you know will work.
With cars and their components, there are a ton of different materials that come together. As much as I would like to think that there is a one-size fits all type of cleaner, the truth is there isn’t. From my days in working on aircraft, it was really important that we used only cleaners that were approved to work on our jets. Using something that isn’t for that application can totally jack stuff up. Would you use Pine Sol to brush your teeth? Or take a shower with chocolate syrup? I wouldn’t. Unless there was some lovin’ to be made (and that’s another story for a different time). That’s why I was surprised when we stopped to chat with one of the designers/product development specialists from Turtle Wax and the approach they take to developing their products. I’m sure there is a lot of science and product testing that happens behind the scenes (as I am sure that any product that comes to market has some type of testing done), and while we may not think too much about it, we do hope that the smart people behind them make that product work for us. The way that they looked at the properties of dirt and how it interacts with the world, and how to remove it is something that I had never really thought of. Instead of trying to fight a losing battle, the engineers try to understand what the enemy is that they’re trying to defeat. It’s pretty ingenious actually.
So, when I checked out the Turtle Wax booth and the extremely(!) dirty Mustang that they had on display, I was wondering what kind of demo we would see. Seeing all of that caked on dirt and grime made me think that they took the car out on the track where all of the VORE trucks were. It sure looked the part, so, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch. I was curious what they would be using to clean it up. Waterless detailers are something that I really enjoy using. Not having to water the car down just to clean it up is always nice, especially when you don’t have a water source nearby. For a car guy like myself, this is especially nice if you want to detail your car at an event or for photoshoots. But, there was always a limit as to how much crud that you can take off a car without having to pre-wash it first. So, while it didn’t look impossible, I was curious as to how the new detailing spray would work. I didn’t have to wait very long as a few of us had an opportunity to not just watch but participate in trying it out for ourselves. I was pretty impressed when the caked on mud cleaned right up pretty quick and that was even moreso knowing that we were doing it in direct sunlight. I liked it. I kind of wished that I was able to take some of that with me to be honest. haha. I definitely have a car that I could use that on.
All in all it though, it was a fun day. Well, it was a fun start to our day actually. Not long after we went to this event we turned around and went right back into the SEMA crucible. That there kicked off another crazy day full of excitement. But, even though the day and the entire week was full of things that were awesome, nothing compared to those few hours we spent at the VORE track. Hell, the more I think about it, the more I want to change careers. Sure it may be crazy to do it, but, then again, that’s what I am, crazy. I sometimes wonder how it is I get to the places I am at, and am thankful for all of the opportunities. Driving a Baja truck would have never been something that I would have imagined doing, but, I can honestly tell you that I am happy it did. Hell, driving one of those trucks for a living sounds like a pretty sexy idea to me. Maybe the next time you hear from me I just might be doing that. That, and using some of that sweet detailing spray (it goes by the name Exterior 1, in case you were wondering) to keep my chariot looking good. And, even if I don’t decide to do it, I will always have the memory of the people and things I learned that day. Not a bad way to spend a morning.
Our quick walkthrough at the Turtle Wax Booth at the VORE Track. Check out all those new cleaning products. As a car cleaning nut I can’t wait to try some of them out!
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
Video by Gee Grimes
For more information on Turtle Wax and all of their current and upcoming products, check them out on their website at https://www.turtlewax.com/
For more information on the VORE Track and how you can get up and running there, check out their website at https://www.vore.com/
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.
I just wanted to give a very special thank you to the staff over at the VORE track for being really great to my crew and I that day. Throughout the entire experience they were true professionals and very friendly. I also want to thank Turtle Wax and their staff as well. I definitely enjoyed learning about the new products and some of the science behind them. Last but not least, if you are reading this David, I really want to thank you for the awesome conversations we had on our way to and from the VORE track. If every driver we had were just as awesome, we would definitely be heading more places. Thanks a bunch buddy. Without all of the people there to make that day what it was we wouldn’t have had a collections of moments to remember as we do now. Thank you everyone.