This year’s SEMA Show, the annual showcase for new aftermarket accessories held in Las Vegas, was more crowded than ever, as parts makers, buyers, sellers, and wholesalers did all they could to pump life into our uncertain economy. We let Tech Editor Fred Williams do the heavy lifting by finding the best new products at the show (see New Products, page 80); our job was to photograph the coolest project vehicles on display. This year’s assortment ran from the sublime to the just plain strange.
AEV Brute Double Cab
Jeep’s newest Wrangler was voted Hottest 4x4-SUV by SEMA this year, and the show was full of ’em. American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) had two examples in its booth. Above is the Brute Double Cab pickup conversion, a Wrangler Unlimited–based four-door pickup equipped with Dynatrac ProRock axles turning 4.56 gears, 37-inch Super Swampers cleared by a 41⁄2-inch DualSport suspension, and a 6.4L Hemi conversion under the hood. AEV says production of the Double Cab conversion kit is expected in mid 2012.
The other Wrangler in AEV’s booth was this Dozer-colored JK with a 6.4L Hemi conversion kit. It, too, rolls on 37-inch Swampers but makes due with the Rubicon’s Dana 44s. Let’s hope they’re up to the 475 lb-ft of torque coming from that elephant motor.
We couldn’t take our eyes off this sweet ’49 Jeepster in the Rugged Ridge booth. There to display Omix-ADA restoration parts, the remarkably pristine Jeepster had undergone a full restoration some 12 years ago and still had its original Lightning six.
We saw several Jeeps at SEMA that were fully dressed for outdoor adventure with tents, racks, and roof platforms. One of the better examples was the Heritage Rubicon built by X-Treme Toyz and parked in the Mickey Thompson Tires booth. The Jeep retains its stock Pentastar V-6, though a Fabtech 5-inch long-arm suspension suspends the Dana 44s, which are filled with Superior chromoly axleshafts and 5.13 gears. Gobi provided the rooftop rack, which sports an ARB tent. Those are 37-inch Dick Cepek Radial F-C II tires on 17-inch Cepek wheels.
We love the Raptor as-is, but this prerunner built by Stewart’s Raceworks got our heart thumping in a big way. What’s with the “luxury” name? Inside are leather upholstery, a premium audio system, power windows, and a 10-inch Garmin GPS monitor. But outside it’s more like a trophy truck, with a fiberglass Raptor body sitting over an A-arm/four-link suspension that offers tons of travel for the 39-inch BFG tires. Underhood is a Patton Racing 600hp V-8 mated to a Rancho Drivetrain 4L80 trans that sends power to a 10-inch Gearworks Xtrac rear diff. Yes, it’s 2WD. It’s still cool.
Matchbox Superlift Brush Truck
When we saw the Matchbox lettering on the side of this towering F-350 Super Duty in the Ford booth we figured Superlift’s Bret Lovett was pulling one of his pranks. But no, the suspension maker teamed with the toy company to produce this 1:1-scale firefighter, and then Matchbox made 1:64-scale examples and gave some away during the show. (They’ll also be for sale at a toy store near you.) A 10-inch lift clears the 41-inch Interco Irok tires; beneath the Oh So Orange PPG paint is the truck’s stock Power Stroke diesel.
Wild Boar Dual Axle Conversion
Across the aisle from AEV was this six-wheeled Jeep from Wild Boar Products. It’s a work in progress, mocked up for a Middle Eastern oil company that’s looking for ultimate sand traction. The Pentastar V-6 is still underhood; it will send power to a dual-output transfer case with driveshafts to each rear axle. A 65-gallon fuel tank in the Jeep should give it about 1,000 miles of cruising range.
Jeep may be waiting to sell a diesel-powered Wrangler in the States, but the aftermarket isn’t. Bruiser Conversions, based in Florida, is just one of several companies we saw at SEMA offering diesel swaps. Bruiser’s Jeff Garland planted a Cummins 4BT turbodiesel in the Jeep’s engine bay and tuned it to produce 140 hp and 402 lb-ft of torque. Running 4.10s and 37s the Jeep managed 33 mpg on the highway. Garland says his conversion is “49-state friendly” in terms of emissions compliance, and he has priced the conversion at about $21,500 for ’07-’10 JKs.
Red Jacket Wrangler
VWerks Vehicle Systems built this Wrangler for Will Hayden and his “Sons of Guns” at Red Jacket Firearms (made famous by the Discovery Channel TV show). Pat Muldoon, who worked at Mopar for a number of years building concept trucks, outfitted a ’12 Rubicon with a 4-inch Mopar short/long arm kit and a VWerks 1-inch body lift to clear the 40-inch BFG Krawler T/A KX tires. The rock rails, front winch bumper, and rear bumper are all VWerks products. Muldoon mounted a family-friendly T-shirt cannon in the Jeep’s bed for the SEMA Show, but he assured us that the swivel will accommodate something with more punch.
Icon BR Series
First it was the FJ, then the CJ. Now Icon has reinvented the classic Bronco as its new BR Series. Starting with vintage sheetmetal, Icon adds an Art Morrison–designed frame with Eibach coil springs and Fox racing shocks. ARB-filled Dynatrac axles at each end are powered by Ford’s new Coyote 5.0L V-8, an Aisin Warner five-speed transmission, and an Atlas II transfer case. The detail work on this Bronc is amazing, as is its price, which starts at $150,000, not including the Bronco you bring to Icon to begin the process.
Xtreme Call of Duty
Xtreme Outfitters out of Kerrville, Texas, took a Call of Duty Wrangler and dressed it like something, well, right out of a video game with a swivel-mount .50-caliber machine gun, M4 machine guns, a side-mount mini gun, and a 9mm Beretta between the front seats. Underhood is a 5.7L Hemi feeding power to Dynatrac axles fitted with ARBs and 5.13 gears. A Teraflex 4-inch long-arm kit hangs the Jeep over its Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ tires. The Xtreme guys shot their Jeep 21 times with a 9mm Glock but found the Smittybilt fenders too strong for the rounds to pass through. So those aren’t bullet holes in the metal, more like bullet dents.
Trick Toyota Trucks
Toyota parked several specially outfitted trucks in its booth at SEMA. The black and white Tacoma with the big Os on it is the Oakley Surf Tacoma, sporting a roof rack to carry surf boards and custom bed storage units for wetsuits and other gear. An ice chest and barbeque grill fit back there too. Toyota beefed the Tacoma with a TRD supercharger, Flowmaster exhaust, an Icon lift kit with new leaf springs and front coils, and billet upper A-arms.
The No. 779 race truck is a Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Series pickup modified for desert racing. Motocross rider Andy Bell will drive the truck in this year’s Baja 1000 in the Stock Mini class. The race truck is a grassroots effort by Long Beach (California) Racers, which specializes in racing Toyota trucks in Baja.
The stealthy black Tundra, covered in textured paint by Line-X, is Toyota’s Ultimate Motocross Truck and was built by Toyota, DC Shoes, and West Coast Customs with input from DC’s team of motocross riders. Think of it as a dirt bike pit crew on wheels, with onboard air compressors and a pressure washer (hidden beneath the fold-up bed walls), a winch to help load bikes, a roof rack that doubles as a viewing deck, and a hidden loading ramp. A Camburg Racing suspension lift makes room for 35-inch General tires on KMC wheels.
This Just In
• Our chief honcho, Source Interlink Executive Vice President Doug Evans, was given the 2011 Lee Iacocca Award for his service to the automotive hobby community. At the National Parts Depot All-GM Oktoberfest car show in Ocala, Florida, Evans was recognized for his work overseeing more than 46 automotive magazine titles, two TV shows, and 35 events, as well as his work with SEMA. The award was established to recognize outstanding car enthusiasts and is linked with the Iacocca Family Foundation, whose mission is to find a cure for diabetes. No word if the prize comes with a Dodge Aries K-car.
• Last month we reported that Chevrolet will sell a new Colorado compact pickup truck in the U.S. that’s based on the model going on sale overseas later this year. Now Chevy unveiled a ’13 TrailBlazer, built on the Colorado platform, at the Dubai International Motor Show. The SUV will go on sale in Thailand later this year. Will we get one? So far GM isn’t saying.
• The HDRA is back. A group that includes off-road racer Roger Norman has bought the rights to the High Desert Racing Association name and plans to promote races in Nevada, Southern California, and Arizona. Longtime desert race fans will recognize the HDRA as Walt Lott’s sanctioning body that put on the Mint 400, Firecracker 250, and other events. “Cost reduction to racers is the long-term goal of this HDRA organization while providing racers with quality events that are cost-effective, safe, and innovative,” said Norman. “We are actively soliciting major sponsorships to help offset event costs and to provide sponsors a highly visible platform to showcase their products.”
• Our friends at SEMA tell us legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek independent scientific analysis on the effects of 15-percent-blend ethanol gasoline (E15) on vehicles and engines. The review would include an evaluation of the short- and long-term environmental, safety, and performance effects of E15 on both on- and off-road vehicle engines. Last January the EPA decided to allow the use of E15 in vehicles manufactured after 2001 based solely on a limited study by the U.S. Department of Energy. SEMA opposes the introduction of E15 into the marketplace due to concerns that the additional content will harm automobiles of all ages, including special-interest collector and historic vehicles. In addition to the potential harm of E15 on engine components, the EPA has no procedure in place to ensure that misfueling does not occur or any plan for ensuring regular gasoline continues to be available for older vehicles.
• BFGoodrich Tires has honored the Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in Sanger, California, as one of the 2011 Outstanding Trails. For the first time ever, fans in the off-road community were given the power to vote for their favorite off-road trail, and Dusy-Ershim came out on top. Off-road enthusiasts and members of the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno attended as BFGoodrich Tires presented a grant of $4,000 to the club. The grant will be used to preserve the scenic trail and continue conservation efforts for one of America’s most beautiful areas for off-roading. The Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in the Sierra National Forest offers 33 miles of meadows, creeks, six natural lakes, unique granite mountains, cliffs, and panoramic views at 10,200 feet.
Wheelers for the Wounded on the Rubicon Trail
For the third year running, Dan Hiney of Chico, California’s NorCal Crawlers conducted the Super Run of the Wheelers for the Wounded (WFTW) on the Rubicon Trail. Some 23 vets, ranging from the Vietnam era to modern-day warriors, rode with volunteer drivers and experienced what the Rubicon has to offer, on the rocks and around the campfires.
The whole event took place at the Crystal Basin Mountain Resort near the Rubicon Trail. Camping and chow were provided as part of the thank-you as well. The Rubicon Rockheads, a local club, provided the food and camp cooking. Off-road businesses kicked in to thank the vets and their drivers. Gifts came from BFGoodrich Tires, MetalCloak, Axial Racing, F-O-A Shock Absorbers, and more.
Saying thank you to wounded vets can never be done enough, and we love the way Wheelers for the Wounded does it, with real rides on real trails.
Del & Stacie Albright
New Home for Whopper Jr.
Remember Whopper Jr., the replacement Ford pickup from Ultimate Adventure 2009? Clint Carter of Inner Air Locks offered to auction the famous ’98 F-250, with the proceeds going to the BlueRibbon Coalition. The bidding went on during this year’s running of the UA, and when the hammer finally fell, Josh Parrish of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, was the winner. Parrish picked the truck up from Carter and made the 566-mile trip home in about 10 hours. “He made it with no problems,” Carter told us, “but he was going a little crazy with no radio.”
TDS Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Tierra Del Sol celebrates a milestone this year. The San Diego–based 4x4 club is putting on its 50th Desert Safari March 2-4 in the Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells SVRA in Southern California. TDS, as the safari is called by local wheelers, has become a must-do event in the area, and this year’s bash will be even more special. Already the club has gathered more than $150,000 in prizes for the raffle. All proceeds from the event are used by the club to fight land closures. For more details, go to www.tds4x4.com.
• Feb. 3-5: Bluewater Resort & Casino Parker 425 desert race, Parker, AZ, by Best in the Desert. Info: www.bitd.com
• Feb. 4: Tire Repair Mini Clinic, Corona, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Feb. 10-11: 4Wheel Parts Every Man Challenge, at the King of the Hammers, Johnson Valley, CA. Info: ultra4racing.com
• Feb. 11: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Feb. 12: Advanced Beginner 4WD Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Feb. 18: Dog Party, Twisted Trails Off Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info:www.twistedtrailsoffroadpark.com
• Feb. 18: Sand Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes, Pismo, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Feb. 19: Winch & Recovery Clinic, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Feb. 22-25: Chile Challenge Trail Event, Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds (west of Las Cruces), by the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club. Info: www.chilechallenge.org
• Feb. 24-26: California Association of 4WD Clubs convention, “A Tribute to Johnson Valley,” Hesperia, CA. Info: www.cal4wheel.com
• Feb. 24-26: Battle at Primm desert race, Primm, NV, by SNORE Racing. Info: www.snoreracing.net
• Feb.25: Frost Bite at Kansas Rocks Recreation Park, near Mapleton, KS. Info: www.ksrockspark.com
• Feb. 25: Rocks Driving Skills Clinic, Johnson Valley, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email email@example.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance due to our press lead times.