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Top 10 Jeeps: SEMA 2019

The best of the Jeeps 2019 SEMA had to offer

Rick PéwéAuthorStuart A. BourdonPhotographyTraci ClarkPhotography

Every year the off-road and automotive performance industry gathers for the biggest trade show on earth—the SEMA Show. Held annually in Las Vegas, the show brings out the best, and the worst, fabrication and vehicle builds, including trucks, cars, and bikes. Jeeps of every style, from mall-crawlers to rockcrawlers, were everywhere. We've scoured the parking lots, tents, and massive display halls to bring you the best of the best—the top 10 Jeeps of the 2019 SEMA Show.

While not the newest and certainly not the oldest, the 1988 Grand Wagoneer built by Max-Bilt was without a doubt the crowd-pleaser of the show. It's a beautiful resto job with a 4-inch Skyjacker lift and 33-inch Yokohamas, topped off with an incredible canoe. What other Jeep could sport that?
A plethora of Gladiators greeted as at the show, but only a few stood out as well as this red beauty from X-Treme Toyz and Duval Offroad Designs. It wasn't the craziest over-the-top creation, which is why we liked it. A Fabtec lift and 40-inch Mickeys make this look like it would work rather than cruise the malls. With aFe power parts and a Front Runner tent, we really like the look and feel.
We about dropped our eggs when we stumbled across this classic CJ-5 in the Pakmule display. Tucked away in the far corner, it took some searching to find it at the show, but it was well worth it. Bone stock since 1980, this Jeep lived on a ranch and was rescued recently and polished up for the show. With low miles that give great smiles, the 258ci six-cylinder (yes that's a non-liter motor) and T-176 tranny push the 3.07-geared axles around. A fave for sure.
Another Gladiator build of note is from Mel Wade at EVO Manufacturing. The size of the new Gladiator makes it proportional with 40-inch tires, and this is no exception with Nittos on 20-inch rims. With a bolt-on coilover rear, double-throwdown coilover front suspension, and plenty of armor, this pickup will set the standard out in the field.
An FC-170 (Forward Control) can garner attention like no other, and this one certainly did. While slightly ungainly at first, these platforms can make an incredible overlanding package. This started life as an M-677 military model, which is why it sports four doors. While originally powered by a three-cylinder Cerlist diesel, this one got an upgrade to a small-block Chevy and a host of other goodies.
Real Jeeps have round headlights, except for YJ Wranglers and this Inlander Gladiator in the Steer Smarts booth. Why go retro? Well, if you are a real Jeep nut, you know of the Islander package found on mid-'90s YJs, and this throwback pays homage and nails it. It also sports all the upgrades a modern Gladiator has—look forward to a full feature on this fun build.
Classic styling and modern mechanicals are exactly what the Nugget is all about. Taking a mid-'50s Willys pickup and expertly grafting it onto a mid-'teens JK Wrangler makes for an incredible build. And yes, that is real patina and awesome lettering that was only exposed after careful sanding of old spray paint on the doors!
Oftentimes we speak of unicorns as if they aren't real but simply rare. Much to our delight we found the best unicorn of the show, the Centerforce Clutch two-door Wrangler manual transmission JL! That's right, and it's equipped with a Centerforce high-inertia flywheel and dual-friction clutch. It rides on an Icon 2.5-inch lift and 37-inch Falken Wildpeak tires. Baer brakes help stop it cold, while the manual tranny can slow or go it.
Bruiser Conversions are best known for their JK engine swaps using LS, Hemi, and Cummins components. We love the desert-race look, and this LS swap and eight-speed tranny should make quick work of the dirt. The Ultimate Dana 60 axles pour the power to the BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2 race tires, which give you an indication what this Jeep is built for.
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