After spending three days looking at automotive eye candy at the giant trade show put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Assn., or SEMA, in Las Vegas this week, we’ve put together our top five picks.
There were scores of vehicles to review at SEMA, the world’s largest aftermarket parts show for mainstream trucks and cars. The five that top our list are the vehicles we found most inspiring and distinctive amidst the crowd due to extreme attention to detail.
5 – Bilstein’s Dirty Trucks
Bilstein of America, a Hamilton, Ohio, seller of shock absorbers and performance suspension parts, exhibited two vehicles at SEMA. Both were 2015 Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks that had each driven more than 500 miles – all off-road – before arriving at SEMA, and they showed it. This duo was covered in mud, sporting the type of authenticity we like to see in an off-road truck. Bilstein used the truck to unveil its new B8 8112 Zone Control CR front and B8 8100 Bypass rear shocks.
4 – Colt-themed Craziness
Pitbull Tires of St. Louis, Mo. worked with Hauk Design from Chambersburg, Pa., to create a custom 1948 Willys Truck for the SEMA Battle of the Builders contest. Dubbed the Hauk .45, inspired by a Colt .45 pistol, the Willys featured bull horns atop the grill, a red and black rust-like paint mashup and faux bullets for lug nuts. And, the detail in the gold engraved polished metal is what really set this truck apart.
“The hand engraving is my favorite part,” said Frank Sheaffer, welder and fabricator of Hauk Design. “We had a guy come out from California and he took two weeks just engraving everything. Engrave It did an amazing job.”
3 – Max Bilt’s Old Timer Truck
Max Bilt, an aftermarket Jeep manufacturer from Eau Claire, Wis., brought a rescued 1949 Willys Wagon to SEMA. It featured modern conveniences, like an upgraded transmission with original shifter parts, with an original look and feel. Following its removal from a farmer’s field, they refreshed the interior, left the exterior patina and built up the front suspension. Knowing when to restore and when to let originality shine is why we liked this truck.
“We were trying to keep it as much wagon as we could, but have the new modern convenience of the drivetrain,” Schultz said. “It was a challenge to get it to work.”
2 – Turtle Expedition
Adventure company The Turtle Expedition exhibited its Turtle V, the latest iteration of its adventure truck. It is a 1999 Ford F-550 powered by a 7.3-liter power stroke diesel engine with a 6-speed transmission that uses Dana heavy duty axles. From the Silk Road to South America, this vehicle is always on the move; it has traveled 40,000 miles across 26 countries in two years. Turtle Expedition has offered globe-trotting expeditions organized by photojournalists Gary and Monika Wescott since 1972. Their dedication to travel and experiencing the world is what we like to see in adventurers.
1 – Engraved Ford
American Force Wheels, an aftermarket wheel manufacturer from Miami, Fla., brought out an engraving artist to create on-site art at SEMA. Hank Robinson, owner of Hanro Studios Engraving out of Avondale, Az., used his experience as an infantryman in the U.S. military as inspiration for the engravings. It has taken more than 800 hours of Dremel work to create the “Freedom Blues” truck art on a Ford F-150. Dedication, passion and meaning is why this truck makes it to the top spot in our list of SEMA trucks.
“It’s something that has never been done to this extent, and the crowd response has just been amazing,” Robinson said. “This is for everyone in my generation who have served and answered the call. It’s my ode and my thank you to everyone who served.”