Nissan at SEMA: Years of outrageous thrill

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Nissan at SEMA: Years of outrageous thrill

A look back at outlandish horsepower, turbo-charged off-roading and more as Nissan gets ready for the premier aftermarket show


From a Kicks with hidden Bose® speakers under a pneumatic roof panel, to a drift-spec Altima with 2,000 horsepower1, Nissan has consistently brought the heat – and the noise – to the SEMA show for over two decades.

Nissan will return to the 2023 show, held Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, in Las Vegas. As the anticipation builds, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable Nissans from SEMA shows past – ongoing proof that the automaker continually dares to transform, in Las Vegas and beyond.

The 2008 show brought a merger of Nissan’s Japanese heritage with an American icon. The Z Highboy Roadster1, hand-built by Nissan North America employee Jack Taylor, looked nothing like a Z, at least until you popped the side-hinged hood. Taylor took a 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster, a model Jay Leno once called the “Mecca for hot-roddin’,” and swapped in a twin-turbo V6 drivetrain from the beloved 300ZX. Painted bright yellow with can’t-miss chrome wheels, the Z Highboy Roadster added a unique Nissan spin unlike any seen before.

GT-R Le Mans NISMO (2015)

The GT-R LM NISMO1, a racecar that competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was right at home in another city that runs 24/7. Showcasing Gentex’s then-new Full Display Mirror (FDM), the GT-R LM NISMO enabled drivers to keep tabs on competitors behind them – especially useful on the Circuit de la Sarthe, the relatively dark circuit that holds the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The FDM previewed rearview mirror technology that would eventually make its way into models like the Armada.

Kicks Sound Machine (2018)

The brainchild of Vehicle Effects, a custom shop in Hollywood, Calif., the Kicks Sound Machine1 built off the then-new Kicks and its Bose® Personal® Plus sound system with even more sound. A pneumatic roof panel opened to reveal hidden speakers up top, with even more speakers – also pneumatically controlled – underneath the Kicks. Topping off this rolling party was an articulating liftgate drawer that popped up to reveal DJ controls from Pioneer.

Frontier Desert Runner (2019)

If the Kicks brought the decibels, the Frontier brought the dirt. An extreme interpretation of the stock Frontier’s Desert Runner package, the Frontier Desert Runner1 replaced the trusty 4.0-liter V6 with the 5.6-liter Endurance® V8 from TITAN. In case that wasn’t enough, Nissan added a Garrett GTX3584RS turbocharger and other enhancements to land at 600-plus horsepower. Other modifications included an overhauled suspension and extensive functional overhaul, inside and out. This Desert Runner looked ready to leave Vegas in any direction, no roads required.

Altimaniac (2021)

When Formula Drift multi-champion Chris Forsberg wanted to build the world’s most powerful, driftable four-seat car, craziness was bound to ensue. Less of a motorsports effort than simply a way to thrill three passengers to the max, the Altimaniac1 began as a standard 2021 Altima, stripped down and fitted with a tube chassis from engineering firm Tekk Consulting. With T1 Race Development dropping in an overhauled GT-R VR38 twin-turbo V6 that made a stupefying 2,000 horsepower, the Altimaniac was an emphatic mission accomplished.

Back for more this Halloween

Starting Oct. 31, Nissan will return to Vegas with no shortage of motorsports excitement, off-road inspiration and more. Stay tuned!

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