A report on the hottest diesel-powered cars and trucks of the 2016 SEMA Show
For us and several thousands of our media brethren, making the pilgrimage to the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s weeklong automotive-aftermarket nirvana—better known as the SEMA Show—is definitely one of the year’s biggest highlights. That it’s held each November in sunny Las Vegas is only a plus.
Customizing vehicles, cosmetically and/or mechanically, is the main objective for the people who work in and support the automotive aftermarket. And every one of the thousands of companies that presents its latest hotness at SEMA makes and/or promotes the parts and, of course, the fantastic cars, trucks, and bikes that are on display. Basically, exhibitors are there to show off, and at SEMA 2016, the grandstanding was truly taken to new heights.
While props, accolades, and kudos are deserved by all the builders and brands whose fine works were at the show, our focus was on the cars and trucks motivated by Cummins, Duramax, and Ford diesel engines (of course). Diesel Power Editor KJ Jones searched for oil-burners that were over-the-top badass but differed from the more common SEMA show trucks (lifted, high-image rigs that are typically found in our sister magazine 8-Lug).
The following collection of diesel-powered wild-ride photos is not presented in any ranking order. It is simply a presentation of the cars and trucks that aren’t typically featured in these pages but still deserve to be acknowledged in this report. The SEMA Show celebrates and showcases the uniqueness, creativity, and craftsmanship put into all the vehicles that earn the privilege of being featured.
We always enjoy seeing race truck badness, and Rudy’s Diesel Performance & Offroad has definitely created a head-turning rig. Rudy’s all-new ’10 Ford F-250, built for Outlaw Diesel Super Series Pro-Street competition by Elite Fab & Design, is highlighted by River City Diesel’s triple-turbocharged, 6.4L Power Stroke engine that pumps out 1,987 hp and 3,005 lb-ft of torque. One of this race-rocket’s very cool features is its engine-management system: Motec’s first diesel-specific, standalone ECM with tuning by Energetic Motorsports. Rawlings Barnes is slated to command this vessel, and we’re anxious to see it on the dragstrip in 2017.
Although we were given a heads up about John Dwyer’s 6.6L Duramax LB7-powered ’56 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon months before SEMA, the spy photo and limited information didn’t prepare us for our first look at the finished project. The Nomax, built by Crosby Designs, is one of the coolest car-platformed diesel rides we’ve seen. In addition to the oil-burner, the slick grocery-getter features Ridetech coilover shocks (no airbags here), Forgeline wheels, and Anzo lighting from stem to stern.
Some of you might be old enough to actually remember when ’60 Ford P300 vans were used for delivering diapers, milk, and bread. While those rigs were motivated by I-6 engines, Centerforce acquired one (don’t be fooled by the ’56 grille, it really is a ’60) and restored it with modern-era diesel technology being a priority. The company's Centerforce Express display rig is the creation of Hot Rod’s Restos. It’s updated with a compound-turbocharged 5.9L Cummins engine from BD Diesel Performance, plus many cool (and custom) interior and exterior treatments. As the shop truck for a clutch company, the P300 is equipped with a Tremec G56 six-speed manual transmission and Centerforce’s own diesel twin-disc clutch.
If you’re shopping for the ultimate prerunner, Robby Woods of Battleborn Engineering is the builder who can put one together for you. Robby’s Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD—aka The Million-Dollar Duramax—is another SEMA custom we received pre-show intelligence about. The truck is 100-percent handcrafted, and it’s absolutely amazing—even in its incomplete state. While Wagler Competition Products is responsible for the truck’s 6.6L Duramax engine, Battleborn gave it a unique placement, midframe in the Silverado, and made the setup more trick by positioning a triple-turbocharger system (highlighted by a Precision Turbo Pro Mod 98 atmospheric turbo and two of Precision’s PT 6266 high-pressure units) in the rear. We have a standing invitation to ride in the completed work and will let you know more about this rig when we take that blast across the desert with Robby.
If you’re familiar with Fred Williams and Dirt Every Day, one of our Truck Group siblings’ video broadcasts, you are probably aware of Tubesock, Fred’s ’97 Jeep TJ—the infamous Underwater Jeep (Dirt Every Day Episode 54). Powered by an all-new Cummins ISF 2.8L I-4 engine that Fred and crew swapped between its framerails, Tubesock traversed a small, 12-feet-deep pond, completely underwater, and the little Cummins never missed a beat. Yes, it was a crazy stunt, but it was a very impressive feat for Fred and especially for Cummins and its small-but-mighty crate engine.
Diamond Eye Performance’s Cummins-powered ’48 Ford F4 cab-over-engine pickup hauler is purely bad to the bone, and so is the ’65 Chevrolet pickup that’s on its deck. The truck going along for the ride sports a twin-turbocharged 6.6L Duramax.
In the Real World…The halls of SEMA are absolutely stuffed with diesel-powered rat rods, Eurosport tuners, and chrome-gilded trucks and off-roaders. But while we love seeing diesel enthusiasts take their rigs to the upper limit, there’s still something to be said for honest, hardworking oil-burners, trucks whose primary purpose is to get those wild customs to and from the show floor.
Such vehicles could be found not on the SEMA floor, but in the parking lots and short-term storage facilities in and around the Las Vegas Convention Center. Our curiosity got the better of us one afternoon, so we spent a few moments wandering one such lot, snapping photos of the honest work rigs that help make SEMA happen. If you love the Duramax-powered hot rods, sky-high Power Stroke–driven Fords, and Cummins-fired Jeeps appearing in this issue, then you have these rigs to thank.