Editor’s note: This story was reported and written by Ryan ZumMallen and Rick Stella of Trucks.com
Thousands of modified vehicles showed off the latest aftermarket style and performance parts at the SEMA auto accessories and gear show in Las Vegas.
The exhibition, once full of flashy import tuners and hot rods, has evolved into the epicenter of extreme trucks and SUVs. Off-road parts and pickups lifted several feet into the air took center stage both inside and outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Trucks.com canvassed the massive convention to find the trucks that made the biggest splash. Here are 11 of the show’s standout vehicles:
Spencer’s Rods and Restorations ‘School’d’ Bronco
Several sparkling restorations of the iconic Ford Bronco came to SEMA. There is a healthy appetite for classic Broncos as Ford prepares to re-launch the SUV next year. One of the most eye-catching examples in Las Vegas was the bright yellow 1969 Bronco on display at the Billet Accessories booth.
Billet partnered with Spencer’s Rods and Restorations on the job. In order to bring it to life, Spencer’s owner Spencer Caldwell partnered with students enrolled in a local training program. The truck’s golden hue was punctuated by a stark white top, aggressive black fenders, beadlock wheels and Mickey Thompson tires.
AEV Chevrolet ZR2 Bison
To bring an off-road warrior to market, General Motors turned to Montana-based overlanding parts and accessories manufacturer American Expedition Vehicles to outfit its Colorado ZR2 Bison. AEV designed the fender flares, skid plates, winch-ready steel bumpers and optional snorkel air intake.
For the SEMA show, AEV went even further. It brought a red Bison sporting LED fog lights (an option on the factory truck) and an aftermarket 30-inch LED light bar – both made by Vision X. The company’s Crestone wheels fit to 33-inch BFGoodrich KO2 tires. For added protection AEV added heavy-duty bumper bars and a sixth skid plate covering the transmission. The truck previewed the way Bison owners might look to upgrade their new rigs before taking to the trails.
The factory ZR2 Bison goes on sale at Chevrolet dealerships in January. AEV accessories will be available at launch.
Honda Open-Air Vehicle
While truck manufacturers zigged toward self-reliant overland vehicles for adventure, Honda zagged toward something completely different. The automaker took the chassis of its Ridgeline pickup truck and added the extreme style and performance of its Pioneer 1000 side-by-side.
The result was an enormous, stretched ATV called the Honda Rugged Open Air Vehicle. It uses a modified Ridgeline body and suspension with stock Pioneer doors and 33-inch Dick Cepek Extreme Country tires. The bed and tailgate were custom-built with inspiration from the Pioneer. Honda will not produce the Rugged Open Air Vehicle for the public, but it’s fun to imagine the endless possibilities of overlanding adventures.
2019 Ford F-250 Project Two Tone
One of SEMA’s sweeping themes was mixing old-school style with brand-new trucks. The technique is eye-catching, as evidenced by the 2019 Ford F-250 Two Tone on display at the Rancho Suspension booth. Rancho teamed with Thrush Exhaust, custom shop 4 Wheel Performance and others on the build.
The Two Tone featured a classic red and white stripe color scheme, a throwback to high-performance trucks from the 1970s. Rancho added a 5-inch lift and its RS5000 shock absorbers, plus 42-inch tires and a chrome push bar on the bumper. The exclamation point came via KC Daylighter off-road lights mounted to the grille and roof. Its classic yellow “happy face” covers lent the Two Tone instant ‘70s authenticity in a trend that we expect to continue.
Ringbrothers Seaker Blazer
The practice of “resto-modding” old trucks with new components took a luxurious turn with the Seaker, a 1971 Chevrolet K5 Blazer restored and upgraded by the Ringbrothers custom shop of Spring Green, Wis. The one-off truck maintained the Blazer’s cool character with a high price, similar to ultra-detailed builds from shops like Icon 4×4.
Ringbrothers started by dropping a modern LS3 V8 engine with 430 horsepower under the custom-designed hood. It added sway bars and a sumptuous leather interior, but kept the original grille and hunted down pristine seatbelts from the era. “We really like simple,” said Mike Ring, co-owner of Ringbrothers. “This is how you do simple but still stand out.” The shop enjoyed the build so much it bought seven more Blazer chassis for future projects.
Mopar Nacho Jeep Wrangler
Modified Jeep Wranglers were in no short supply at SEMA. But Mopar, the parts and accessories arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, had something special up its sleeve. The brand brought a modified Wrangler JL – nicknamed “Nacho” for its orange paint – and swapped the axles for a new set developed in a partnership with Dana Inc.
The result is the JPP Ultimate Dana 44 AdvanTEK, a performance axle that added one half-inch of ground clearance, additional gear ratios, electronic differential lockers and fitment for a range of tire sizes. Mopar said the easy bolt-in assembly makes the axle “plug and play” for those who need extra strength and durability on the trail. The JPP Ultimate Dana 44 AdvanTEK will be available this month.
Outside Van Transit
Outside Van specializes in outfitting Mercedes Sprinters and RAM ProMasters, but at this year’s SEMA show, the Portland, Ore.-based company showcased its new Ford Transit conversion. The van featured a wide variety of overlanding-specific options like built-in bunk beds, a galley-style kitchen, roof-mounted solar panels and upgraded tires.
The Transit also came with a second row of seating, a fold-out bed, several cabinets of storage space and surfboard racks inside and outside the vehicle. Outside Van has a selection of its own converted 4×4 vans at its Portland shop and customizes customer-purchased vans.
When asked why the Sherp ATV exists, the brand had one simple message: Why not? Though its booth at SEMA suggested it’s ready for a zombie apocalypse, the behemoth ATV is much more practical for traversing harsh environments like swamplands, icy mountain passes or marshes. It also would prove beneficial in times of emergency.
Featuring low-pressure, tubeless tires, a high buoyancy, sealed body and pneumatic circulating suspension, the Sherp is built to traverse deep snow or sand. It’s even able to transfer from water back onto ice in the event of a partial fall – assuming the entire rig hasn’t fallen in. It does this by still operating even when just two or three tires are on ground. Inside, the Sherp ATV can house up to four full-size beds and features storage space beneath its floorboards.
Ford Ranger Concept
Ford dedicated an entire section of its exhibit to concept versions of its upcoming Ranger pickup, each of which was decked out in aftermarket accessories and add-ons. The Ford Base Camp Ranger was its most compelling, featuring Yakima’s SkyRise rooftop tent, Yakima SideBar bed tracks and Outpost HD rack kit, a Slim Shady awning, and Skinny Warrior roof basket.
In addition to its Rigid brand front, rear-facing and underbody lighting upgrade, the Base Camp also featured front and rear bumpers from Warm Ascent. Warn Industries supplied a Recovery Kit for storage inside the vehicle, and Ford’s own all-weather liners made it more than ready for any backcountry trip. With a 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission, it doesn’t lack for power, either.
Warn Stretched Wrangler JL
Made in collaboration with Bruiser Conversions, the Warn Stretched Wrangler JL was one of the most interesting vehicles we saw at the SEMA show. The list of modifications is long, but what stands out is the Jeep’s complete second row of seating (and full-size doors), along with its extended bed used to carry spare tires and other off-roading equipment.
Bruiser Conversions modified everything from its suspension, steering system, axles, shocks, front and rear bumpers, and driveshafts to give the Stretched Wrangler its unique look. The interior features Katskinz leather seat covers and a control center with an upgraded sound system and infotaiment center. There are even headsets for each passenger to maintain communication when the top is off. Warn’s own Zeon 10-S Platinum Winch is placed on the front bumper, offering a pull capacity of 10,000 pounds.
Cliffride specializes in the Jeep aftermarket industry but at the SEMA show, it rolled into Las Vegas with a mammoth Mercedes Sprinter Van dubbed Icelander. Unlike Sprinters on the road, Cliffride’s was closer to a semi-truck in regards to its body, featuring bigger wheel wells (and tires) and a larger overall front.
Inside, the van appeared large enough to easily lodge two to three people. Its Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires give the Icelander self-cleaning traction in mud or snow, thanks to its mud scoops, and its directional sidebiters increase the sidewall protection.