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2016 SEMA Good, Bad, and The Dangerous #TENSEMA16

Posted in Sema: 2016 on November 8, 2016
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SEMA is a hotbed of innovation, but not all ideas are good ones. We love wandering the halls looking for genuine innovation and problem solving from around the word. We also love all things 4x4 and off-road so we spend time looking under all that we see. We like to try to keep it positive and look for good ideas on even the most gaudy of show rigs, but that’s not always easy. Since you couldn’t come because of work or cause you lost all your cash at the euchre tables before the show started here are some of the good ideas we found, some examples of fails, and some things that just shouldn’t be here. Our hope is not to offend anyone who worked hard to get their truck at SEMA, but to prevent dangerous vehicles from being used somewhere where someone could get hurt or killed.

Good: Everyone loves retro tires and wheels that look old school Wheel Vintiques and Coker Tire does this well for vintage cars and military rigs (with only a few vintage off-road tires). And while everyone likes vintage looks, not many want vintage construction or its side effects. We want more tire companies to make vintage off-road tires that look old but are built on strong, modern, radial carcasses and are made with modern compounds.

Bad: If the driveshaft and yoke are interfering at ride height driving the rig even on-road is going to cause damage and breakage. Chances are no one will die, but that driveshaft will swing around and cause all kinds of damage if the engine is spinning fast.

Good: Cool and simple innovation is all around at SEMA. Skyjacker Suspensions is known for many things, and this is one item they are going to make and sell that is so simple it should be obvious. This series of plates and a Teflon spring pad help support larger-than-factory tires when bolted to the spare tire holder/tailgate of a Jeep Wrangler JK. The holes are slotted for adjustability for use with different size tires. Course the idea isn’t exactly new (some military Jeeps have had something similar for decades). This is the kind of product that we love.

Bad: There are several things wrong in this image. If you don’t know how to weld, cope tube, or build nodes properly that’s fine, you can learn how if you are willing to spend time and occasionally fail. Unfortunately learning these skills is not something that you should do after building anything for the SEMA show. Shame on the artist who built this for their lack of training and quality control, and shame on SEMA for displaying it…again.

Bad: Where do we start? This is embarrassing and shouldn’t be encouraged. It shows a lack of understanding of metal work, general safety, and physics. Structural art or industrial art, what vehicles built for show are, should reflect the simplest levels of skill, precision, and attention to detail. Without that they are scrap. The Mona Lisa is not drawn in crayon by someone who never studied art but rather someone skilled in their trade who dedicated their life to studying art. We should expect the same level of attention for vehicular art that is displayed at one of the world’s largest automotive shows. Also there are many, many welders who are real artists and deserve accolades that this shouldn’t receive.

Good and Bad: Some ideas are a combination of good and bad. Here D-ring tow points are coated with a rubberized paint to help prevent rattling and clanking when on the road and trail. That is a great idea. What’s bad is how the two small button-head bolts are expected to hold this tow point to the substrate. Even though the hardware is hardened it’s too small and should be mounted in sheer (perpendicular to the direction of pull) rather than in tension (with the long axis of the hardware parallel to the direction of pull).

Good: Mechanics have used special soap to clean their hands for decades. Why is this the first time we’ve seen…or thought of a special laundry detergent for those of us who occasionally bathe in grease?

Bad: That is going to rub and damage sheetmetal or tires.

Good: Your dog’s nametag is friggen’ laser-etched in aluminum. The new Ford F-150 is aluminum. Photo etching your Ford F-150s body panels is a pretty cool idea to make it stand out from the crowd. Honoring our soldiers is also a great idea. Thanks to all who serve and have served!

Dangerous: Comical amounts of suspension lift is dumb, but not necessarily bad or dangerous. You should strive to have as little suspension lift with as large a tire as possible for the suspension to cycle as needed. Having said that, building steering for a show truck should be done properly if it’s going to be displayed with the implication that the vehicle is safe to drive on a public road. This isn’t built properly, it could easily fail and if it fails while going down the highway it could kill several people. Using the rod ends in this application is good, but the mount on the pitman arm should capture the rod end in double shear. Welding plate to the pitman arm is acceptable if done properly, the combination here is questionable at best.

Good: This steering is much better. The pitman arm is attached, to a swing set with an idler arm and these rod ends mounted in double shear with the rod ends aimed in the proper plane for the suspension to cycle. A swing set like this can be built to accommodate lots of lift. Also notice how the track bar and drag link are nearly the same angle. That helps prevent bumpsteer which can cause a truck like this to unexpectedly veer one direction or another.

Very Dangerous: This is a disaster and has already failed with more to come. For one the drag link and track bar should be parallel and equal length. These two are way off. Also the tie-rod ends on the drag link are at such severe angles that they could break and fail as the suspension cycles. What else do you see?

Very Dangerous part II: The sharp-eye’d would notice that the sway bar link is hitting the questionable track bar drop bracket in the last image. Closer inspection shows that these two parts hit so hard that the paint is damaged and the sway bar link is broken. With sway bar link broken this very tall truck could easily roll over on a sharp right turn. Combine that with the maxed out tie-rod ends and chances are the steering is going to break as the truck leans to the driver’s side. Again many people could be killed. We wish this was the only scary steering system we saw at SEMA. It’s not.

Good: A custom radiator overflow tank is an easy thing to build and add flavor to a truck. Daystar’s Bootlegger Dodge truck has a copper plated flask held to the grille with bailing wire. We love it!

Charcoal canisters are annoying on newer rigs, but they do an important job. The Bootlegger has some Jack Daniels charcoal in an inverted mason jar attached to the fuel tank vent. That allows the system to breath and cuts down on the smell of fuel.

Good: Displaying this early Bronco NORRA race truck up on a ramp allows everyone to see what a race like this does to the bottom of a car. That allows everyone to learn what hits the ground a little and a lot, and to see how different parts are beefed and built to deal with the grueling race.

Good: Lightening patina’d metal with dimple dies. Great idea!

Good and bad: A modern SUV with solid axles front and rear? What a great idea! Whats dumb is that Nissan already builds this for the overseas markets only. It’s called the Nissan Patrol. Maybe Nissan could hone in on Jeeps lock on the solid axle SUV market?

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