It’s the car show to end all car shows! It’s the Specialty Equipment Market Association (you might know it as SEMA) Show, and for 2018, it returned to Las Vegas, Nevada. For a bit of scale, laid down on its side, the Empire State Building could fit inside just one (there are seven) of the SEMA halls where 162,000 attendees come to ogle 2,400 exhibiting companies. The general public isn’t allowed in, but those in the industry are invited. We swooped in with cameras blazing to document the SEMA Show, including the many show vehicles—from the Big Three automakers to specialty fabricators—looking for the zaniest and most capable rigs we could find. Read on for a look at what was seen at SEMA this year.
The Cactus Runner
Daystar took a ’12 AWD Challenger, added a pair of Tom Wood’s driveshafts, BFGoodrich KM3 tires, a real two-speed T-case, and a 392ci Hemi engine to keep the yellow beast ripping even after the pavement ends. Can we expect this as an option in the Mopar catalog? Not likely, but we can dream.
Lurking in the Yukon Gear & Axle booth was one of the largest Roxor builds yet—rocking out on 35-inch Maxis RAZR M/T tires, Trail-Gear Rock Assault 8-inch axlehousings, JHF portal axles for increased ground clearance, and a Zip Locker for traction. The Roxor sat on 5-inch leaf springs with Radflo 2.5-inch shocks. A tuner from Diesel Freak upped the power to 120 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Look for this rig in the 2019 King of the Hammers race.
Amidst the sea of shiny show rigs, this ’19 Ford F-250 XLT Crew Cab FX4 caught our eye. Wilderness Collective, of Los Angeles, California, started by lifting the rig 2.5 inches with an ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 5 kit, adding 37-inch Toyo Open Country M/T rubbers, and upgrading to a sturdier trackbar and a Hellwig sway bar. The front of the truck sports a Warn M12 winch and pair of ARB compressors, the rear hauls an array of wilderness gear, and the paintjob, at least for the show, was muddy.
Billy Bibb caught our eye when he parked his ’73 Scout II in the Lund International booth. Among the list of upgrades were a 376ci supercharged LSA V-8 pumping out 556 hp, a 4L80 transmission, and MagnaFlow 3-inch pipes coming out the back end.
Red Cummins Panel Truck
The folks at Five R Trucks parked a red attention-grabber from 1957 in the Skyjacker booth. The 24-valve, 5.9L Cummins-powered Ford panel truck sits on a custom-fabricated frame, has a transmission and T-case from ATS Diesel, and rides high on a Skyjacker lift kit.
Chevy Short Box
Chevy Performance breathed new life into this ’78 Silverado with an L96 crate engine, 4L70E transmission, and red and black simulation leather to match the paintjob.
At first glance, you might think back to the high-performance trucks of the ’70s, but this ’19 Ford F-250 is fresh and new with 42-inch tires, a 5-inch lift, and Rancho RS5000 shocks.
Warn and Bruiser Conversions partnered up to build a JL Wrangler with two rows of seating, 42-inch BFGoodrich tires, a Corvette LS3 V-8, and plenty of Warn recovery gear.
ROAMR mixed rockcrawling with overlanding in this stretched ’73 Jeep Commando build with bits of CJ-6 in the body and 40-inch tires.
The Biggest JL
The ORI struts run clear into the cab to make sure the 49-inch Swampers have enough room to move under the Black Ops 4x4 JL Wrangler. RockJock 70 axles from Currie get power to the tires and the aFe Rock Basher 3-inch exhaust system stays clear of trail damage.
Full Metal Jacket
This ’41 Dodge Power Wagon maintained its truck feel and didn’t go overboard, but still caught our attention. The truck sits on a custom-built chassis, four-link suspension, and 37-inch tires. The 4BT is helped out by a single HX35 turbo, and it sends 300 hp to the TH350 automatic three-speed transmission.
Among the lineup of Ford Ranger builds at the show, the BDS Project Ranger X turned our heads. The Ranger was converted to a 136-inch wheelbase longbed with a BDS 6-inch IFS lift, making enough room for the BFGoodrich KM3 tires. Project Ranger X is loaded for adventure with space for a dirt bike, Dometic portable fridge, and 10,000-pound Warn Zeon winch.
While most of this rig appeared to be from the early 1900s (Ford Model TT?), the AxleTech 4000 series planetary axles with a 6.86:1 drive ratio from an MRAP vehicle certainly were not. The truck maintained its stock leaf springs, housed an AxleTech T600 T-case with a 1.93:1 low-range ratio, and had a monster PTO winch in the bed.
Mopar built a customized ’19 Ram Rebel decked out with a 2-inch lift, 18-inch beadlock wheels, 35-inch Goodyear DuraTrac tires, five 4,800-lumen off-road LED lights, and a Ram Airflow cold-air intake system to help the 5.7L Hemi V-8 breathe easier.
Rat Rod Welding Truck
It has two Cummins engines for power—a 24-valve twin-turbo for the front, and another 4BT running the generator in the back. Welder Up, of Las Vegas, Nevada, outfitted the truck with a drill press, anvil, hard hat, welding gear, a PTO winch on the front, and many other eclectic goodies.
Sitting in the Toyo Tires booth was a ’57 Volvo TP21 “Sugga.” The original engine is long gone, and in its place lives a 572ci Chevy big-block V-8 and a T475 transmission. Power moves through the SCS Gearbox T-case and into the Volvo’s 1-ton axles and 40-inch Toyo M/Ts.
Polaris and Line-X built a 14.8-foot-long UTV called the Dagor. Seems perfect for military applications, or any off-road fun.
Out with the stock engine and in with a fuel-injected 4.2L 3F to bump output to 155 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. The FJ45 is lifted 2 inches and sits on axles from a donor FJ60.
Rugged Open-Air Vehicle
Is it a Ridgeline? Is it a Pioneer? It’s a bit of both. Being the only company to produce powersports equipment and street-legal vehicles, Honda took a 3.5L V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission and stuck them in a scaled-up version of a Pioneer fitted with a Ridgeline bed and shod with 33-inch tires.
The tires are big, tubeless, and act as paddles when the driver points the machine toward the water. It is diesel-powered with the 1.5L motor banging out 44.3 hp to haul the 2,866-pound machine across the land—or water. Seating for two, and it sleeps four.
Yes, 4x4 vans are already cool, but they are exponentially cooler with 46-inch Baja Claws and custom fenders to contain flying sludge.
Originally a Burning Man vehicle, this Jeep is a 1.648:1 model of an old Willys with a Cummins engine, NP205 T-case, 6L80 transmission, and 52-inch tires. Yes, it is drivable, and the owner plans on wheeling it on all the famous 4x4 trails.