ONCE again the annual SEMA Show blew us away with its size and number of exhibitors and visitors attending the Las Vegas Convention Centre.
The show itself actually runs for four days, but it’s a week-long rollercoaster ride of seminars, product launches, demonstrations, unveilings and walking between halls. Then there are the after-hour happenings which, being in Vegas, can be just as gruelling but a lot more fun.
Of the thousands of new products on display and hundreds of incredible custom vehicles, we’ve selected our Top 10 custom trucks (in no particular order).
AEV OUTPOST II CAMPER
THE guys from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) never fail to disappoint at SEMA, and 2017 was no exception. Joining the AEV-kitted RAM 1500 and 2500 pick-ups on the stand was this cool camper-converted JK Wrangler. Loaded with all the usual AEV kit such as the Dual-Sport suspension, AEV wheels and bonnet, the Wrangler has been converted to a single cab to allow the placement of a mammoth pop-top camper on the back. It wasn’t quite finished at the show, but we’ll be taking a closer look at it once it’s completed.
JCR OFFROAD COMANCHE
LAST year JCR displayed a wild snow-melting XJ running caterpillar tracks, but this year it delivered something better suited to the rocky trails with this 1989 Comanche. Fitted with a supercharged 4.0-litre inline six engine, further boosted by a shot of nitrous oxide, the bright orange pick-up was a stunner. It also features a custom-fabricated 4-link suspension front and rear, 37-inch Nittos and a Warn Zeon winch in a Vanguard bumper. However, it’s the stance that really makes us want to take it out in the desert and beat on it.
PROFFITT’S LAND CRUISER 79
PROFFITT’S Resurrection Land Cruisers is one of the most well-respected LC shops in the USA. Jerimiah Proffitt’s latest rig is this 79, which isn’t what it seems at first glance. The US doesn’t get LC70s directly, but the shop scored a few sets of complete LC70 panels from vehicles converted to armoured off-roaders with bespoke bodies. The LC79 panels were adapted to a reconditioned 80 Series chassis to deliver an all-coil pick-up. With the body sets it has in stock, Proffitt’s can create a limited number of these turn-key rigs for US customers. It uses the 2.8-litre Cummins diesel crate that is becoming popular in the US, and Jerimiah tells us it’s more than happy in the ute. It makes 120kW (3600rpm) and 362Nm (1500-3000rpm), which is more than a stock 12H-T made in a 60 Series or any standard 1HZ.
PROFFITT’S FJ 40 RETRO CRAWLER
PROFFITT’S had another cool Cruiser over on the Bilstein Suspension stand. The Retro Crawler is a 1972 FJ40 riding on a chassis that has been lengthened 350mm and fitted with ARB air-locked 60 Series axles mounted on 3-link front and 4-link rear suspension with Bilstein coil-overs and hydraulic bump stops. Power comes courtesy of a 3F-E EFI petrol engine mated to an A440 auto. While the rig was immaculately presented, we wouldn’t mind getting it dirty with some Moab red dust. It looks like a lot of fun.
WE’VE been keenly following the development of the Bollinger B1 all-electric off-roader, and it was great to see it in the metal and meet the people involved in getting it this far. Set to go into production in 2019, the B1 is a pure off-road workhorse, be it for use on your farm or off-road tracks. Sure, with only around 300km of electric charge range, this isn’t a vehicle you will drive across the Simpson Desert, but the technology is developing quickly and we’re certain that the range will grow in the future.
The B1 uses two electric motors – one for each axle – and power is sent through a custom gearbox to custom-made independent, height-adjustable suspension with portal gear reduction hubs and BFG off-road tyres. With torque from the electric motor coming on the instant you touch the throttle, this rig would be a rock-crawling weapon. We also love its functionality as a work hauler and the fact it can be configured as a wagon or pick-up, with a four-door to come in 2018.
DESERT LABS BRONCO PRE-RUNNER
PRE-RUNNERS are vehicles race teams use to reconnoitre off-road tracks in the days before the race. They usually feature full-race suspension and drivelines, plus a roll cage, but are often four-door pick-ups with semi-factory interior fitouts. They’re usually modern Raptor or Colorado utes, but there are also a few older-style vehicles being built in this style.
This 1995 Ford Bronco is one such rig and, if you can look past its hideous grille, you’ll find a 900hp supercharged Coyote V8 backed by a race-prepped auto and off-road racing-style suspension. Concealed in the full roll cage is a leather-trimmed interior with a custom dash and Bentley carpets.
It was built by California’s Desert Labs for a customer in the Middle East, where it was being shipped to the week after SEMA. Significantly, the truck made the Top 12 in the Battle of The Builders competition against some of America’s top and most talented hot-rodders and custom car-builders.
ANOTHER Battle of The Builders contender, Synergy Manufacturing’s JK Commando, blends old and new by fitting a Jeepster Commando body to a JK Wrangler Unlimited frame, then loading it with hardware from some of the best-known brands in the off-road business. Power comes from a 6.0-litre LS V8 backed by a 4L80 auto and Atlas transfer case. Axles are Rubicon-spec Dana 44s with Synergy housing trusses and RCV axles for extra strength. The suspension is a mix of Synergy gear and Fox bypass shocks, while the red rocket rolls on 35-inch Nittos.
We loved the retro feel of this thing so much we asked snapper Alastair Ritchie to stay on in the US and shoot it for a feature for us, so keep an eye out for that in a coming issue.
AEV CHEVROLET COLORADO ZR2 CONCEPT
AMERICAN Expedition Vehicles (AEV) is best known for its top-shelf treatments of Jeep Wrangler and RAM truck vehicles, but it jumped ship for the SEMA Show with this Chevrolet Colorado concept. The Colorado ZR2 is Chevy’s Raptor battler and has been getting huge praise in the US. AEV takes it up a few notches with its own accessories including barwork, wheels and tyres, suspension, cargo bed fitout, air system, ARB fridge and MaxTrax. Interestingly, the ZR2’s Multimatic DSSV shock absorbers have been retained in the AEV concept. The production ZR2 is the first off-road application for these, as they are normally found in high performance Chevrolets, Aston Martins and AMG vehicles.
THE FJ COMPANY FJ43
QUALITY FJ40 Land Cruisers are in high demand in the USA – $100,000 restorations aren’t uncommon, and the ones done by Florida-based The FJ Company are some of the best. The FJ Company doesn’t just do original style restorations, but also resto-mods them to improve usability. Sharing the stand with a ‘Classic FJ40’ was the company’s latest offering: its ‘Signature FJ43’ featuring a 1GR-FE 4.0-litre V6 engine backed by a six-speed manual gearbox. Other features include ARB Old Man Emu leaf springs and Fox shocks, a fully rebuilt and detailed chassis, custom leather-trimmed interior and good looks. All this could be yours for US$210,000, but the Signature edition vehicles start at US$200,000. The 2F-powered Classic from The FJ Company start at US$85K.
YES, Daystar’s 1941 Dodge Powerwagon it calls ‘Bootlegger’ was at SEMA last year, but it was back again in 2017 and is still one of the best builds you’ll find. Online videos of the classic truck off-roading throughout the past 12 months only enforce how awesome this truck is. Powered by a supercharged LS V8 claimed to make more than 700hp, it has more than enough grunt to turn those monster Swampers that are bead-locked to our favourite Hutchison wheels. We also think the gleaming copper details and old patina ooze coolness.