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The Best (and worst!) of SEMA 2011

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Each year the Jp staff scours the Las Vegas convention center to check out the latest creations of the automotive aftermarket industry. The annual convergence is a spectacle for the eyes and punishing to our feet, as over 2,000 exhibitors fill up two million square feet of floor space with vehicular frivolities to astonish nearly 100,000 attendees. Premier car builders from across the nation face off for the annual who’s-who of automotive customization. In the months leading up to the show, limitless budgets merge with unstinted creativity to produce some of the most useless vehicles in existence. Amongst the sea of superfluous new product ideas and non-functional show cars, we always seem to find a gem or two that are worth shooting—whether it’s for target practice or magazine content. Our primary mission with SEMA coverage is to point out cool stuff that will make you smile (or drool). Typically we only report on what we feel is relative to Jeep vehicles. However, this year we decided to take a little different approach and include some of the most obscene things we found during our four-day trek and contrast them to their real-world Jeep equivalents.

Engine Swaps
The SEMA show always features vehicles stuffed with alternative engine combinations, however this was the first time we’ve ever seen such a misapplication of power. To counteract the offense, we found Bruiser Conversions, a company that specializes in turn-key engine conversions for Wrangler JKs. Utilizing a turbocharged Cummins 4BT, the company claims to double highway mpg and cruising range. Several configurations are available but in stock form, the oil-burner puts out 400 lb-ft of torque at 1,700 rpm.
Info: Bruiser Conversions

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Superior Interior
We stopped counting at nine. If there is one place were SEMA vehicles seem to have no issue with excessive abundance, it is with flat-screen displays mounted inside the vehicle. We suspect that the owner of this Chevy truck was deprived of television as a child. To combat this needless waste of interior space, ARB has a new series of modular roller drawers that installs easily in the cargo area of any Jeep. The drawer design is robust with lockable compartments to suit a wide variety of uses. Accessories such as cargo barriers and removable anchor points add versatility, while the standard UV-stable, commercial-grade carpet lines the exterior.

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Few places can compare to the SEMA show when it comes to finding wheels that are downright offensive to look at. This hideous example comes from our unapologetic friends in the lowrider industry. If your vomit splash missed the magazine, read on. You will be happy to learn that Pro Comp now offers an awesome looking cast-aluminum wheel for redemption. It’s called Series 3036 and it was designed specifically for ’07-’11 JKs. This new wheel features an extra-thick outer bead surface to help prevent rock rash and a clear-coated machine finish with black accents. It’s only available in a 17-inch diameter with 5-on-5 lug spacing and 4.75 inches of back spacing, which is perfect for lower control arm and sway bar link clearance on JKs running larger-than-stock tires.
Info: Pro Comp USA, 800/776-0767,

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Get Hitched
Amongst all the jacked-up Super Duty and Silverado pickups at SEMA, we could have built an entire Jeep from the scrap metal used to construct drop hitches. Some of these units were interesting to look at, but you wouldn’t catch us towing with them. If you tow a trailer with your Jeep or are amongst the 33 percent of Jp readers who tow a Jeep to the trail, check out the new weight-distribution hitch setup from Andersen Hitch company. The design is radically different than others available today, and it costs less too. Instead of bulky spring bars to transfer trailer weight forward, the Andersen model uses two chains in tension, which are connected to a bracket that preloads the ball shank in a double-shear arrangement. The system dampens bounce and sway thanks to a pair of polyurethane motion-arrest bushings. It also features a self-adjusting conical ball shank that is lined with brake pad material to further resist trailer sway.
Info: Andersen Hitch, 800/635-6106,

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Spare care
Savvy SEMA attendees will usually notice some vehicles with unfinished business. Take this Hummer H2 SUT in the dub magazine area, for example. We bet the owner/builder was up in arms when he couldn’t find a tire shop in Las Vegas to mount his spare rubber band tire to his 30-inch wheels at the last minute. Luckily, his lifestyle probably never requires that he venture beyond the paved confines of suburbia. A strong argument in favor of having a full-size spare tire is any trail. TeraFlex understands this and thanks to a thoughtful redesign of the factory tailgate hinges, there is now a way for JK owners to mount a 37-inch spare tire to the factory tailgate without compromise. The new system features forged steel hinge bases that replace the factory units. A stout cast-aluminum pivot assembly attaches to each of the bases and the tailgate to provide a much stronger mounting system for oversized spares. This setup allows you to run a stock or aftermarket rear bumper without the need for a swing-out tire carrier.
Info:TeraFlex, 801/288-2585

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Axle Beef
When it comes to the automotive aftermarket, chrome plating is largely reserved for curvy bumpers and original trim pieces on retro vehicles. At SEMA however, chrome plating is like a special-interest group funding a political champagne mixer. Everyone notices it, but nobody says anything about it—unless of course, you’re a member of the donk club. Donks are jacked-up lowrider cars with gigantic wheels. Affluent members of this bizarre subculture still use chrome to attract members of the opposite sex. (Note: Insert mental image of sassy diva chick squatting to see axle here) The only way to counteract the dizzying effect of all that chrome is an overabundance of beef. Nowhere else was there more beef at SEMA than in Dynatrac’s booth. This is the new ProRock 80. It brings the strength of massive 2.5-ton Rockwell axles in a package that Jeep enthusiasts can work with. We expect to see these massive differentials popping up in heavier four-door JKs with V-8s and big rubber soon.
Info: Dynatrac

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Bolt-on Intoxication
While navigating our way towards the Ford booth, we stumbled into a unique hot rod with dual supercharged V-8 engines. The engines were arranged side-by-side in the chassis, overtaking the engine bay. We had to stop to check it out. Upon closer inspection, we noticed that the owner also likes margaritas. We probably wouldn’t admit it in person, but the idea of blending ice-cold margaritas on the trail does sound good. Just think how popular you would be with the ladies. Our only fear is that such a modification could lead to trouble with law enforcement officials. Instead, we found a better way to add courage under the hood. Gail Banks Engineering offers a turbocharger system for the Jeep 4.0L found in ’00 to ’06 TJs. The bolt-on setup is said to improve performance by 45 percent over stock. The compact oil-cooled turbocharger spools quickly for low-speed crawling while a turbo-specific engine calibration handles all drivability and emissions issues. This system is currently pending CARB approval.
Info: Gail Banks Engineering

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Grille vs. Grill
We love analogies that start off with “useless as a”. Like udders on a bull, perfume on a pig, a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, and now, carbon fiber on a JK. In exchange for most of your money, this replaces the factory plastic grille for one made of real carbon fiber. This $1,199 option is high on our wish list, right next to bulletproof bed sheets. One the other hand, EWP Global showed off a trick barbeque grill that doubles as a toolbox. The combo isn’t priced out of reach, either. For just $999.95, you can own this unique 38,000 Btu, double-bank cooking grill, complete with 304 stainless steel lids and ceramic-coated, cast-iron grill inserts. Just be sure to wheel it out of the shop before firing it up at lunch time. Oh, and don’t leave any tools in the top three drawers when cooking.
Info: EWP Global, 262/925-8824,

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Plush-free Seating
You can’t help but wonder if some of the custom interiors at the SEMA show have ever seen the butt of a real person. Seriously, the only thing these ultra-plush interiors made us think about are those little padded rooms at the insane asylum. Maybe that’s how the people who own these vehicles can justify spending all that cash: It saves on psychotherapy. We see no use for such interior treatment in a Jeep vehicle. However, we did manage to find a smart interior product for JK owners that like to play in the dirt. Made from durable and waterproof Cordura material, these AEV seat covers are a great way to preserve the factory seats and prevent stains from pets, kids, and general everyday use.
Info: American Expedition Vehicles

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