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Show Trucks Are Alive & Well at the Annual SEMA Show, But Why?

Posted in Events on November 9, 2018
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Photographers: Brian Sumner

While stacked lift blocks and dozens of chrome shocks seem to be a thing of the past, for some reason the show truck refuses to die. We saw more of these lifted-to-the-sky, barely drivable trucks at the SEMA Show this year than any time in the recent past. It is a clear sign of a booming economy when someone can take a brand new $70,000 truck and spend an equal amount to make it completely undrivable. It isn’t that we are opposed to modifying 4x4s. We understand that adding a suspension lift will increase drag and decrease mileage. And we know that bigger tires aren’t just more expensive—their larger diameter and increased weight tax brakes and axle components too.

These are compromises that we are willing to make to gain increased trail prowess. Our flagship event, the Ultimate Adventure, is a perfect example of how different wheelers approach these compromises. At one end of the spectrum you might have somebody show up in a brand new milder build that is comfortable on the road but sometimes has to pull cable on the trail. At the other end of the spectrum you might have a full tube buggy with zero storage space that is a handful on the pavement but makes it up every optional obstacle with ease. But neither is putting appearance over functionality. That’s the difference.

Without further ado, these are the top 10 face-palm-worthy items that we saw repeatedly at the 2018 SEMA Show. Please don’t do these things.

1. Bedliner exterior

This is actually a really cool and capable Comanche, and it makes sense to have a truck coated in Bullet Liner in the company’s booth. But in our opinion bedliner is best left to lining beds. While it can protect the exterior of your truck, it is heavy, difficult to clean, and can fade over time. Even worse are the trucks we see painted with roll-on bedliner.

2. Underglow lighting

Rock lights are a useful addition for night wheeling, but if you are driving around town with your colored underglow lights on you have more in common with a lowrider than a rockcrawler. Even more negative points if your lights strobe with your music (which no one else wants to hear anyway).

3. Powdercoated axlehousings

Unlike many of the modifications in this story, powdercoating doesn’t make your vehicle any less functional. We just don’t understand why people are so interested in drawing attention to their wheel spacers and drop brackets. On old hot rod expression is, “If it don’t go, chrome it.” This could be modified for our hobby as “If it don’t wheel, powdercoat it.”

4. Lifted dualies

Trucks with dual rear wheels are great for hauling heavy loads. You know what isn’t great for hauling heavy loads? A truck that is lifted to the sky and has rear tires that rub each other. And you know what isn’t great on the trail? Four rear tires and a truck that is 8 feet wide. Leave the dualie pickups stock and save them for towing your off-road rig.

5. Aftermarket grilles

We understand the desire to make your vehicle unique so it stands out from the crowd. Putting on an aftermarket grille is one way to accomplish this, but oftentimes the fit and finish isn’t as good as the factory grille, so what kind of statement are you really making?

6. Huge-diameter wheels

We keep thinking that the giant wheel trend is going to end, but they just get bigger each year. We like to run as small a wheel diameter as possible that will still fit over our brakes to maximize sidewall height and allow the tire to conform to the terrain. At a minimum we don’t like the wheel diameter to be more than half of the tire diameter (i.e., don’t run anything smaller than a 40-inch tire on a 20-inch rim).

7. Suspension components maxed at ride height

As you lift a vehicle, the distance between the axles and the frame increases. As a result, the steering and suspension joints are at an increased angle at ride height. What happens when the suspension droops? That rod end on the drag link becomes the limiting strap . . . until it breaks. This specific example will be even worse due to bumpsteer since the drag link and track bar are not parallel.

8. Bluetooth drivelines

We saw multiple “Bluetooth drivelines” at the SEMA Show this year. Bluetooth is a great technology that allows electronics to interface without cables. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for drivelines or steering. The only thing less functional than a giant show truck is a show truck with no drivelines.

9. Wheels that are wider than the tires

This is actually a trend that we see outside of the SEMA Show, but it still puzzles us. When the wheel is wider than the tire, the bead retainer is all that’s keeping the tire from coming off the rim. You can’t air down a tire like this, and the outer edge of the wheel is going to get destroyed the first time it encounters an obstacle without the tire to protect it.

10. Train horns

Train horns! Terrible, ear-piercing train horns! They have always been around, but there seemed to be an abundance of them at the SEMA Show this year. We see you in your neon, powdercoated, lifted-to-the-sky truck. You don’t need to blast your air horns to get attention.

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