Every year, thousands of people flock to the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas, Nevada, to check out the hottest fads and latest creations the aftermarket has to offer. With the economy on a slow mend, the automotive aftermarket has experienced a rise in sales and new products. Truck owners are holding onto their vehicles, and opting for DIY projects to keep them rolling longer. While there will be plenty of toys to explore in the New Product Showcase, it's really the vehicles scattered throughout the 3.2-million-square-foot facility that draw the most attention. Here are our 25 favorite vehicles from the show.
01: The Yeti
This custom Dodge Ram cab rides on ultra-tall, tractor-esque multipiece wheels, and sports a plow mounted on the front end. We can't think of what kind of specialized purpose this modified truck might serve, but since it's a SEMA show car, there probably isn't one.
02: 2012 AEV Brute Double Cab
American Expeditionary Vehicles is known for building cool Jeeps, and the Brute Double Cab is no exception. For years, Jeep enthusiasts have been clamoring for one of two things: a Hemi V-8-powered Wrangler and a Jeep pickup. The Brute Double Cab is both. AEV starts with a Wrangler Unlimited, and then stretches it to create a 5-foot pickup bed, and crams the 475-hp, 475-lb-ft 6.4-liter Hemi from the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 under the Brute's hood. The modifier then gives the Brute Double Cab heavy-duty front and rear axles and 37-inch Super Swamper tires. To complete the Brute's new look, AEV finally bolts on unique mil-spec bumpers and AEV-designed wheels.
03: Willys-Overland Jeepster
This beautifully restored Willys-Overland Jeepster is one of the original crossovers. Built only from 1948 to 1950, the Jeepster was designed to fill the perceived gap in Jeep's lineup between the original CJ and the Willys Wagon and Truck. This Jeepster was on display at Rugged Ridge's booth, and stood out among the lifted Wranglers that surrounded the little convertible. While we weren't able to grab details like the Jeepster's year or engine (throughout its two-year run, it had three engine options: the World War II Jeep's Go Devil I-4, the Hurricane I-4, and the Lightning I-6), it was very cool to see a rare and often forgotten piece of Jeep's long and illustrious history in the metal.
04: UPS 1953 Ford F-100 Panel Wagon Hot Rod
One of the surprises at this year's SEMA show was this 1953 Ford F-100 Panel Wagon Hot Rod created for UPS. The delivery giant took this vintage Ford F-100 panel van and restored it before adding the distinctive brown livery. Slammed, the UPS Panel Van backs up its newfound aggressive look with a Ford Racing V-8 wedged under the hood. Inside, the UPS F-100 gets a rollcage, and, befitting the delivery theme, a hardwood floor and UPS-branded padding on the walls.
05: Big Oly Ford Bronco Trophy Truck
Big Oly is all kinds of awesome. The original Big Oly was a Bronco-turned-trophy truck by Parnelli Jones in the early 1970s. This reincarnated Big Oly was built with Jones' help to pay tribute to the original--but plus-sized. Madruga hand-built Big Oly's fiberglass Bronco body on a Sandco chassis, and then bolted a Ford 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 725-hp and 650 lb-ft of torque under its hood. The most unique part about Big Oly, though, is its wing. Don't see it? We didn't at first either, but the cabin's roof actually doubles as a downforce-improving wing. Cool, huh?
06: Ram 392 Quick Silver
The Ram 392 Quick Silver shows off Mopar's vision for a high-performance truck. It began life as a humble Ram R/T, but the SRT group's 470-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 was slotted into its engine bay, while it also got new headers, an exhaust cutout, a cold-air intake, and a dual-exhaust system. A Brembo brake system with 15-inch front rotors and six-piston calipers keeps things in check, and the truck rides 2 inches lower than stock on new suspension. The body is painted silver and the roof is gloss black, while the 22-inch wheels, grille, mirrors, and some interior parts are finished in red. A Mopar bed cover with integrated spoiler is meant to improve downforce at speed, while Kicker speakers add more musical accompaniment.
07: Toyota Tundra Ultimate Motocross Truck
Why is this the ultimate motocross truck? Because DC Shoes' motocross riders spilled their guts on everything they would want in a truck, and West Coast Customs made it happen. The Tundra Double Cab 4x4, equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic, is transformed into a roughrider coated in a custom rough-textured paint by Line-X. It receives a suspension lift, courtesy of Camburg Racing, and shocks are provided by Fox. Goodies include a roof rack that doubles as a viewing deck, fold-up side beds, and a suicide tailgate. A gas pump and water pressure washer are stashed under the bed, along with an air compressor.
08: 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty by Superlift Suspensions
Matchbox and Superlift Suspension partnered up to produce the ultimate off-road machine: the Matchbox Superlift Brush Truck. Sitting atop a 10-inch lift system on 41-inch Interco Irok tires, the "Oh, So Orange" and black powdercoated body is sure to save the day with code-three emergency lights and sirens and a firefighting utility bed complete with equipment.
09: Icon Ford Bronco
For years, Ford fans and off-road enthusiasts have been calling for a return of the Ford Bronco. Rather than waiting for what may never come, Los Angeles-based Icon decided to bring the Bronco back itself, packing a Coyote 5.0-liter V-8 from the Ford Mustang, no less. The engine is paired with an Aisin Warner five-speed manual transmission and Atlas II part-time 4x4 transfer case. This Bronco is equipped with Stoptech brakes and a coilover suspension setup using Eibach coils and Fox Racing shocks. Color us impressed.
10: 1944 Mack Truck Fire Truck
Some of the sweetest rides are seen outside the convention halls. That's where we spotted this custom 1944 Mack Truck fire truck powered by a Viper SRT10 V-10. It also features rear suspension and axle from a 2008 Ram, Dodge Ram SRT10 brakes, 24-inch American Force wheels, and custom leather seating.
11: 2011 Ford F-150
Extreme off-roading by Randy Ellis Design. Petersen's 4Wheel & Off-Road's 2011 Ford F-150 is equipped with a Dynatrac ProRock 80 rear axle and ProRock 60 front IFS, RCV axle shafts, ARB air lockers, and JE Reel driveshafts. It also features Randy Ellis Design bumpers, Warn winch, TJM and KC off-road lights, boat-sided doors and bed, Tuffy Security bed box, and rollcage. Randy Ellis Design also customized the suspension with Deaver rear springs, Icon Vehicle Dynamics front springs, Fox shocks, and shortened front and rear chassis and body.
12: Brian Deegan's F-150 Monster Truck
Amid a smoke show and massive doughnuts courtesy of his Ford Fiesta Rally Cross Car, Brian Deegan unveiled Metal Mulisha's latest effort, this Ford F-150 monster, which he will drive at Monster Jam events around the country. Deegan's Metal Mulisha F-150 Monster Truck is gigantic in all aspects: The F-150 weighs close to 10,000 pounds, and the beast rides on 66-inch tires, which are barely taller than Deegan. The AWD truck is powered by a mid-engine supercharged Ford V-8.
Automotive artist Randy Grubb of Portland, Oregon, designed and built this 1970s Art Deco motorhome from the ground up using a very used 1973 GMC motorhome and the cab of a 1955 White cab-over. Its 26-foot polished aluminum body features eight bubble-side windows and a see-through staircase that leads up to a "flying bridge" that seats five.
14: 2011 Nissan Xterra
Used as a support vehicle in the Ultimate Adventure series, this 2011 Nissan Xterra is wrapped with a full 1-3/8-inch exo-cage and is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine with a factory five-speed transmission. It is outfitted with a Warn winch, a custom solid-axle conversion with front and rear leaf springs, and 42-inch Pit-Bull rockers on 15x10-inch steel wheels with Staun internal beadlocks. When this vehicle isn't pulling someone out of the mud, it's testing its own limits off-road.
15: TVN Dominator Storm Chaser
Built for TornadoVideos.net (yes, there is such a thing), the Dominator starts with the chassis from a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, and then adds aerodynamic bulletproof sheetmetal to protect it from damage from the force of a tornado. TVN has fitted the Dominator with an external rollcage and racing harnesses to keep passengers secured. All the Dominator's protection is designed to allow TVN to drop a tornado probe in a storm's path, and then to drive to the edge of the storm, where the Dominator would hunker down and collect high-definition video of the carnage.
16: X-Treme Toyz "Heritage" 2011 Jeep Wrangler
There was no shortage of Jeep Wranglers at this year's show. While many modifiers took an extraordinarily capable off-roader and ruined it, X-Treme Toyz went the other way: It took this 2011 Wrangler Unlimited and created a "Heritage" edition, making it more useful to the sorts of people who actually buy Jeeps. X-Treme Toyz starts with a stock Pentastar-powered Wrangler Unlimited, and then reinforces the Dana 44 axles and adds a new coil-over suspension. The Heritage is fitted with off-roading and camping gear, like Warn winches front and rear, Hi-Lift Jack and Recovery gear, and even a rooftop-mounted tent that stealthily folds up and away.
17: BRE Rods & Classics and Save Mart Supermarket's "Big Red" Shopping Cart
SEMA always brings out wacky yet wonderful creations, like the BRE Rods & Classics and Save Mart Supermarket's Big Red shopping cart. While we can't say we've always dreamed of driving around in a shopping cart powered by a custom-built V-8, now that we've seen this one, we can't get the image of doing smoky burnouts down the produce aisle out of our heads.
18: Shark-Nosed Local Motors Rally Fighter
The Local Motors Rally Fighter may be part Honda Civic and part Chevrolet Corvette, but it's 100-percent awesome. The first car designed by crowd sourcing, the Rally Fighter is an off-road monster. Already sinister-looking with its lifted appearance and shovel nose, it gets an extra dose of attitude with shark mouth nose art like those popularized on World War II warbirds. This Rally Fighter also adds to its off-road street cred with roof-mounted driving lights for high-speed desert runs and a roof rack sporting a full-size spare.
19: Wild Boar Six-Wheeled Jeep Pickup
Here's something different. With six wheels, three axles, and a truck bed conversion, this four-door Wrangler isn't your average Jeep build. Put together by Wild Boar Products, a company specializing in Jeep accessories, this project rides on six wheels and features a large auxiliary fuel tank for extended outings. The front end gets a bumper-mounted winch and an "angry eye" headlight treatment, while a set of roof rails and off-road lamps complete the look. This Jeep looks the part of a capable off-roader, but those dual rear axles likely make driving it anywhere a bit of a challenge.
20: 1964 Ford "PH100"
This classic Ford truck was stunning in person, and its subtly modified bodywork made it one of our favorites of the show. The truck began life as a 1964 Ford F-100, and was used on a ranch in Southern California during its early years. After many years of service, the truck was given a much-deserved restoration. But as you can see, it wasn't any ordinary restoration. A mild chop took a couple inches off the roof, while a lowered suspension combined with large, chrome wheels gives it that modern hot-rod look. The builder says every piece of sheetmetal has been restyled to enhance the original design. The look is clean and classic, and overall, it's a job well done.
21: 2012 Red*Jacket Firearms Ultimate Jeep JK8
Making its debut at SEMA, Venchurs VWerks built this custom JK8 for "Sons of Guns" TV stars Will and Stephanie Hayden. The Red*Jacket Jeep is modified with a Mopar Scrambler-inspired bed conversion, Mopar suspension, huge 44-inch off-road tires with Hutchinson bead-lock rims, custom candy red paint, a bed-mounted cannon, and Kicker custom sound system.
22: Toyota "Taco-Drop" Tacoma
This 2000 Toyota Tacoma used to be part of the Truck Trend family. Sergio Casillas Jr. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, bought this truck from our Web editor's grandfather in 2006. It's been turned into one of the most recognized Tacomas in the mini-trucking world. Known as Taco-Drop, this truck is painted a flat version of Dodge's Green with Envy topped off with a heavy metallic green flake and classic pinstriping.
23: Chevrolet Silverado HD Realtree Concept
Chevrolet has teamed up with outdoor outfitter Realtree to build the "ultimate hunter's truck." It began life as a Duramax diesel-powered Silverado 2500HD crew cab pickup. It now sports a custom Champagne Silver paint job with Realtree camouflage graphics on the body and shell. Inside, you'll find more Realtree accents and seats finished in Dark Cocoa leather with camouflaged piping and Blaze Orange stitching. The 4WD truck rides on 35-inch off-road tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels. Power running boards aid entry and exit and hide away for increased ground clearance. The concept also has a winch integrated into the custom front bumper.
24: Volkswagen Amarok
In view of Volkswagen's lack of interest to bring the diesel Amarok into the U.S., we were excited to see it at this year's SEMA show, nearly in its OEM state. We offered to take the truck off their hands, but were reminded it was scheduled for immediate return to Mexico.
25: Dodge Durango Tow Hook
This Durango Tow Hook concept is painted bright orange and satin inside and out. The Durango is dressed up with 22-inch wheels, a custom Corsa exhaust, and a new piano-black front grille, and rides one inch lower than stock. The interior is outfitted with black leather seats with orange accent stitching, as well as the center armrest and door panels and an SRT steering wheel, black chrome trim, a piano-white center console bezel, and aluminum pedals.