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Trends that make sense and those that dont at SEMA 2015

Posted in Events on November 10, 2015
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They say, “To each his own” and, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Those are nice sentiments, and it sure does seem to be true. We are OK with all kinds of art, from realism to abstract art. They all have their merits and intrinsic beauty.

We also know that cars and trucks can be art, but when all is said and done, cars and 4x4 trucks are tools that are made to be used and enjoyed. There is nothing sadder than an awesome car or truck that no one can enjoy because it’s too rare or the paint job is too expensive to risk scratching. Like toys that are never taken out of the box, the very reason these things exist is for them to be used and enjoyed. To that end, we like vehicles that are all about function. Sure, form is important, but not at the cost of usability. Building a flashy yet undrivable truck, with components that are not safe on-road and don’t work off-road, is a waste of time and money.

As always, SEMA 2015 was full of cool functional vehicles, but it’s also a hotbed for cars and trucks that are useless, so flashy they are ugly, unsafe, and in general just a waste. Here are some trends we saw that we liked at SEMA 2015, and some trends that need to go away.

Vintage sheetmetal is always cool. Keep the patina, and either leave it stock or make subtle upgrades that make it more usable, safe, and functional.

We’re done with the multiple light bar thing. You don’t need them. Your eyes have evolved over millions of years and work pretty well in low light if you let them adjust. One light bar is usually enough. Either way, $10,000 in light bars only makes you look like a tool both day and night. Please don’t get us started on train horns. Please leave them for trains.

Low-profile off-road tires on huge wide rims, and way more lift than needed, seemed to be everywhere. We wish this was a joke but it’s not. Trucks like this don’t work off-road, and these trends reduce on-road drivability, horsepower, and braking efficiency. Another disappointing new trend is wheels with extremely negative offset. The idea might be that the wider stance is good for comically tall trucks (and it is), but this is the wrong way to add width. Extremely negative offset does many things, including throwing off the scrub radius (the pivot point the front tire follows when steering, as indicated by the arrow here) of the truck and reducing the life of wheel bearings. This makes the steering twitchy and dangerous and puts stress on all of your steering components. This is just not safe for the road. Please, for the children, make it stop. And if you are the “designer” of one of these, know that your high school physics teacher would be very disappointed in you.

For reasons that we find hard to understand, we kind of like this lowered JK. It looks like it might even work off-road until you meet a break-over. Plus, the patina and rat-roddy look is well executed. Maybe a two-door would work even better.

As a rule, if the top of your tire is level with the bottom of your wheelwell at ride height, you’re doing it wrong. A lower stance and high belly clearance are way better both on- and off-road. That is, unless you’re driving a swamp buggy.

Real (and well-done fake) patina is cool. Rust is hot too, as long as it’s just surface rust. We also like rat rods. Many that we saw at SEMA 2015 would work better off-road than some of the “show” trucks.

Bad fake patina and rust. No thanks. And you can keep the pointy bolts and lug nuts.

OK, the lizard-skin paint treatment here is pretty good, but putting bedliner on the exterior of your 4x4 has always been a bad idea (much like diamond-plate vehicle body armor). It’s a traction adder. When you drag the body past a rock or branch it pulls the branch or rock into the body. That means more damage and less moving forward. That’s bad. Really! Stop. Thanks.

Diesels were hot at SEMA 2015, and just about anywhere you need a good tow rig or raw torque. It’s not a trend. It’s a fact, and we like it.

Trucks love dirt. A pickup that never gets driven down a dirt road because the paint job cost more than a small ranch suffers through a horrible existence of obscured identity and repression. We’re not going to tell you not to paint your truck, but for the love of all things 4x4, get it dirty!

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