Editor's Desk: SEMA's Influence Is Growing
"Check out that 4x4. That is hot." That's what Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly says when he sees a black four-wheel-drive 1985 Toyota Xtracab SR5 HiLux, known as the Pickup here (which was replaced by the Tacoma) on the back of a flatbed truck in the present-day (1985) portion of "Back to the Future." When I was a kid and saw that truck for the first time, I thought it was huge. I also realized that pickups weren't only about function. There was more to trucks than serving as construction equipment, farm trucks, and tow vehicles.
The Toyota in the movie-and the sequel-was the last model year of that truck to come with a solid front axle, and its 22RE 2.4-liter inline-four was backed by a manual transmission. The pickup was custom-built for the movie, with a rollbar behind the cab with four round KC HiLites, plus two smaller rectangular KCs in the grille. Other modifications were said to include Smittybilt tube bumpers front and rear, a black grille, and whopping 15-inch wheels wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear tires.
Marty's Toyota was my introduction to the world of modified trucks. A little more than 10 years after "Back to the Future" came out, I took my first trip to the Specialty Equipment Market Association show. And it absolutely blew my mind. I was there to cover the show along with co-workers at Four Wheeler magazine-the publication that gave me my first job in the industry-and I was overwhelmed. And that was before the Las Vegas Convention Center's floorplan expanded to include the two-story South Hall, which doubled the square footage to 3.2 million, and the SEMA show fills it. The show is not restricted to the inside of the center, either-many of the cool trucks are outside, including trophy trucks, big-rigs, 4500- and 5500-size trucks, classic rigs, and much more.
When SEMA was smaller, it took nearly a week to walk the show. Today, you simply have to accept that there's not enough time to see everything-there's only so much walking your feet can take.
So it was fortunate that Truck Trend sent a lot of people this year to seek out the coolest trucks and new products. After a full week, we found plenty of great new things that will soon be coming your way. These products help with traction on rough terrain and in snow, performance, styling, and towing. There are storage innovations, camping gear, and more.
The other part of the our SEMA coverage focuses on the best trucks of the show. With all of the glitz of SEMA, it's difficult for a truck to stand out. It's gotten to the point where trucks that don't sit two stories high, with a multicolor $10,000 paint job, can get ignored. Marty McFly's Toyota would be lost in a sea of giants.
But there were a lot of gems this year, and not just the sky-high pickups. We saw Wranglers, Utility Terrain Vehicles, classic trucks, diesels-stock and converted from gas power-and modern-day platforms with old-school truck bodies. There were also many, many trucks that cater to the needs of outdoorsmen.
We saw multiple vehicles with modifications accessible even during the Great Recession. These adhered to the idea of building your truck on a budget, and putting together the right combination of parts for your needs without going into serious debt. Some of the best were the Overlanders, vehicles set up for self-reliance in the backcountry. This is a growing category that allows for people of all income levels to participate. That story begins on page 20.
One category that seems to be growing every year is the OE. This year, there was a significant presence on the show floor from General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Audi, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Truck, Subaru, Kia, Hyundai, and more. Dodge showed its Durango for the first time (check out our first test and drive on page 62), and Ford showed modified versions of the new car-based Explorer (read about it on page 44). That might not seem to make a lot of sense, but the show is a great place to get feedback from a very specialized group responsible for a huge outlay of money on products.
If this group sees a new vehicle as having big aftermarket potential, that could be profitable for the OEs and the aftermarket alike. The global automotive aftermarket is estimated to be as high as $395 billion, according to some publications. Not bad for a show that was started in 1963 by a small group of hot-rodders at Dodger Stadium.