2019 Riyadh Car Show

When asked if I was interested in attending a SEMA-like event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I immediately said, “Yes!” Although I don’t condone their politics or social restrictions, I saw it as an opportunity to try and connect directly through the International language of car culture. Everyone seemed to be worried about safety in the area, but I personally did research about this event and found that it was part of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” in which they are trying to open up the country to more trade and tourism. The most recent positive change has been the new ability of women to drive.

It turned out we really didn’t have to worry. From the welcoming party put on by the event organizers, all the way through the several days of setup and six days of the show through to the end, we did not experience any animosity. All the local and regional people we interacted with were extremely nice and we constantly heard, “please come back and visit us again.” To set the initial mood, we were all brought to a Bedouin tent city with local musicians, camels, falconers, rows and rows of food, and dozens of individual fires to fend off the cold. We were even surprised at the end of our first week that there with a thank-you party featuring a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.

The 2019 Riyadh Car Show and Global Auto Salon was just one aspect of a three-month-long effort to showcase and increase the positive aspects of the country and its people. The SEMA-sized combination car show, automotive trade show, and auction took place for six days from November 21st through the 26th. No money was spared in the pursuit of a world-class car show/trade, show/auction/motorsports exhibition. To offset the lack of vehicles in the area, they brought in a total of 1200 high-end cars, trucks and motorcycles including many well-known customs by notable celebrity car builders Chip Foose, Dave Kindig, Richard Rawlings, Rick Dore, and L.A. local Gary L. Wales.

The show itself was a massive undertaking. Peter MacGillivray and his crew worked for months, coordinating the logistics of shipping all the vehicles to Riyadh, arranging for flights and hotels for the hundreds of guests and literally building the venue from the ground up. Although the Janadriyah area on the Northern end of Riyadh is reserved for large events, this was one of the most massive in the Kingdom’s history. 

Overall, there were millions of dollars’ worth of vehicles including hypercars, collector vehicles, off-road, classics, and customs… basically every type of vehicle available in the world today. Custom car builder Rick Dore brought his 1936 Cadillac Roadster, Shangri La, and Richard Rawlings of Gas Monkey Garage shipped a dozen cars including some in his personal collection and builds from his TV show. Dave Kindig supplied a million-dollar custom SL300 Roadster among others, and Chip Foose’s P-32 a 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster was a big fan favorite. Gary Wales brought several vehicles from his collection including the “100-year-old Batmobile”.

The Global Auto Salon aspect of the event pertained to vehicle auctions. Silverstone and Worldwide auction houses offered 60 and 140 vehicles, respectively. A built-for-the-show electric hypercar “Car 2030” inaugurated by Turki Al-Asheikh, Chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority and President of the host entity, Riyadh Season sold for $850,000. Another impressive offering was too big to bring to the show but sold for $13.2 million dollars… the 3,974-HP, 24-Cylinder THOR Semi-truck will be delivered to its new owner at Jay Leno’s Burbank facility sometime in 2020.

The Trade Show portion featured many of the aftermarket manufacturers, customizers and boutique car companies you would normally find at SEMA in Las Vegas or PRI in Indianapolis. Ring Bros, West Coast Customs and Shelby Legendary Cars had prominent displays, car care companies Meguiars and Mother’s displayed their products and Borla and Magnaflow were just a couple of the many aftermarket custom parts company’s.

Entertainment was provided for the 100,000 plus attendees in the form of local and international DJ’s, a non-stop stream of motoring activities on the huge track in between the two convention building-sized exhibition areas, a large international food court, a car & motorcycle stunt show called Police Academy and a Monster Jam truck show. Stunt driver Terry Grant provided precision team and stunt driving, and he personally completed a 360 on a 64 foot Hot Wheels Loop in an un-modified Jaguar F-Pace. Drift superstar Vaughn Gittin Jr. performed nightly for the large crowds. 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a human cannonball act… on the last night, he was shot OVER the Hot Wheels Loop for a new Guinness World Record. In addition, the Ferrari Team went close to full-speed for impressive runs around the track. Every evening ended with a first-class fireworks show.

More than all the impressive vehicles, exhibitions, and entertainment, the most amazing thing during our stay in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was to witness Mideasterners and Westerners peacefully together, celebrating the enthusiasm of all things automotive.

When asked if I was interested in attending a SEMA-like event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I immediately said, “Yes!” Although I don’t condone their politics or social restrictions, I saw it as an opportunity to try and connect directly through the International language of car culture. Everyone seemed to be worried about safety in the area, but I personally did research about this event and found that it was part of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” in which they are trying to open up the country to more trade and tourism. The most recent positive change has been the new ability of women to drive.

It turned out we really didn’t have to worry. From the welcoming party put on by the event organizers, all the way through the several days of setup and six days of the show through to the end, we did not experience any animosity. All the local and regional people we interacted with were extremely nice and we constantly heard, “please come back and visit us again.” To set the initial mood, we were all brought to a Bedouin tent city with, local musicians, camels, falconers, rows and rows of food and dozens of individual fires to fend off the cold. We were even surprised at the end of our first week there with a thank-you party featuring a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.

The Riyadh Car Show and Global Auto Salon was just one aspect of a three-month-long effort to showcase and increase the positive aspects of the country and its people. The SEMA-sized combination car show, automotive trade show, and auction took place for six days from November 21st through the 26th. No money was spared in the pursuit of a world-class car show/trade show/auction/motorsports exhibition. To offset the lack of vehicles in the area, they brought in a total of 1200 high-end cars, trucks and motorcycles including many well-known customs by notable celebrity car builders Chip Foose, Dave Kindig, Richard Rawlings, Rick Dore, and L.A. local Gary L. Wales.

The show itself was a massive undertaking. Peter MacGillivray and his crew worked for months, coordinating the logistics of shipping all the vehicles to Riyadh, arranging for flights and hotels for the hundreds of guests and literally building the venue from the ground up. Although the Janadriyah area on the Northern end of Riyadh is reserved for large events, this was one of the most massive in the Kingdom’s history. 

Overall, there were millions of dollars’ worth of vehicles including Hyper Cars, collector vehicles, off-road, classics, and customs… basically every type of vehicle available in the world today. Custom car builder Rick Dore brought his 1936 Cadillac Roadster, Shangri La, and Richard Rawlings of Gas Monkey Garage shipped a dozen cars including some in his personal collection and builds from his TV show. Dave Kindig supplied a million-dollar custom SL300 Roadster among others, and Chip Foose’s P-32 a 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster was a big fan favorite. Gary Wales brought several vehicles from his collection including the “100-year-old Batmobile”.

The Global Auto Salon aspect of the event pertained to vehicle auctions. Silverstone and Worldwide auction houses offered 60 and 140 vehicles, respectively. A built-for-the-show electric hypercar “Car 2030” inaugurated by Turki Al-Asheikh, Chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority and President of the host entity, Riyadh Season sold for $850,000. Another impressive offering was too big to bring to the show but sold for $13.2 million dollars… the 3,974-HP, 24-Cylinder THOR Semi-truck will be delivered to its new owner at Jay Leno’s Burbank facility sometime in 2020.

The Trade Show portion featured many of the aftermarket manufacturers, customizers and boutique car companies you would normally find at SEMA in Las Vegas or PRI in Indianapolis. Ring Bros, West Coast Customs and Shelby Legendary Cars had prominent displays, car care companies Meguiars and Mother’s displayed their products and Borla and Magnaflow were just a couple of the many aftermarket custom parts company’s.

Entertainment was provided for the 100,000 plus attendees in the form of local and international DJ’s, a non-stop stream of motoring activities on the huge track in between the two convention building-sized exhibition areas, a large international food court, a car & motorcycle stunt show called Police Academy and a Monster Jam truck show. Stunt driver Terry Grant provided precision team and stunt driving, and he personally completed a 360 on a 64 foot Hot Wheels Loop in an un-modified Jaguar F-Pace. Drift superstar Vaughn Gittin Jr. performed nightly for the large crowds. 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a human cannonball act… on the last night, he was shot OVER the Hot Wheels Loop for a new Guinness World Record. In addition, the Ferrari Team went close to full-speed for impressive runs around the track. Every evening ended with a first-class fireworks show.

More than all the impressive vehicles, exhibitions, and entertainment, the most amazing thing during our stay in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was to witness Mideasterners and Westerners peacefully together, celebrating the enthusiasm of all things automotive.

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