October has passed, and with it one of the biggest automotive events of the year, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, show. As always, this year’s event was absolutely packed with insane builds of every shape, size, color, and type, with enough accessories to make your head spin. We spent several days running around the event in an attempt to take it all in, and have undoubtedly missed plenty, but we’ve compiled a brief look at the cool trucks and gear we did see. Enjoy!
Warn showed up with a serious showcase of new and old four-wheel-drive tech. Their main display truck built by Bruiser Conversions was quite honestly one of the coolest JL’s we’ve seen and featured their new JL bumper. It’s part of their elite and crawler series and comes in both full-width and stubby varieties. The truck also included some new recovery gear designed specifically for soft shackles. One is called the Sidewinder, and it replaces the standard hook on your winch with a built-in shackle for faster connections. The other accessory is a hyperlink dual-pin shackle which can be mounted on a bumper or used to connect other recovery devices. Both accessories are made form 6061-T6 billet aluminum with forged steel pins, and can be purchased with polyurethane bushings to keep them from clanking against your bumper.
In addition to their hard goods, the company also released some weather-resistant, heavy-duty storage bags, and winch covers as part of their trail gear collection. The new designs look and feel fantastic, and are sure to protect your gear in and outside the vehicle.
Although this winch wasn’t necessarily a new release, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the limited run M8274-70. It brings us back to the original Warn winches, but is packed with new features that make it the fastest winch they currently offer. There were less than 1,000 made, each is individually numbered, and they are rated to 10,000 pounds pulling capacity at competitive speeds.
Volkswagens don’t usually pop up on our radar, since they stubbornly won’t give us the pop-top, all-wheel drive California van we all want (we’re not bitter) but there was actually one worth mentioning at the show. It was a partnership with AT Overland, and has a full habitat paired to its roof rack, as well as a swing-out rear bumper, front light bar, all terrains, and LP9s! As far as VW Atlases go, this is by far the best one out there.
Another favorite build of the show came from New Legend 4×4 in the Vision Wheels booth. This International Scout was built on a brand-new Jeep JK frame and Bilstein suspension, with an LS motor, Scheel-Mann seats, Hinterland Industries rooftop tent, and one whole truckload of style. Look for a full review of these trucks shortly!
On display at the Cooper Tire booth was the all new line of AT3 tires. Instead of producing one AT3 that tried to balance everyone’s needs, they decided to make three entirely separate models for light trucks and SUVs, larger vehicles hauling heavy loads, and finally, one optimized for off-road use. The AT3-4s is a four-season tire designed with a special silica compound, Adaptive-Traction technology, a five-rib all terrain pattern, and special siping for grip in all conditions. It also offers a 65,000 mile warranty, which is unheard of. The AT3-LT is designed for hauling heavy loads with extended life, while still providing off-road traction and durability. Of course, the one we want is the AT3-XLT, which utilizes an entirely different carcass, deeper tread voids, and all new rugged traction shoulders which finally gives the tire the aggressive looks we all want.
“These large, interlocking biting edges are built into the tire’s shoulders to offer traction and grip, additional resistance to abrasion and punctures, and added visual appeal for proud truck owners. Capable of extreme hauling and off-roading, the Discoverer AT3XLT offers Durable-Tread technology and a best-in-class 60,000-mile warranty.”
Autohome had some legitimate travel vehicles in their booth, as well as some sweet new hard-shell tents. One of which was absolutely enormous! Measuring in at a massive 180×230 inches, it makes the tent above it look tiny. The other new tent featured multiple entry points, and windows surrounding nearly the entire tent give you a panoramic view of your surroundings anytime you want.
Good lord, were there a lot of JLs at this show. It seemed like everyone and their neighbor, brother, mother, and distant cousin wanted to be the first to build the coolest JL at SEMA, and boy did they try. Here are just a few of the better examples we saw, as there were countless more Jeep atrocities throughout the show we skipped.
Two JLs in particular stole the show, American Expedition Vehicles’ trucks. They showcased a whole range of accessories that you can hear all about on the full video walkthrough here, but they included new stubby and full-size bumpers, pre-production lights to be released sometime in the future, JL specific wheels, snorkels, rear bumpers, an all-new suspension system and more. Each had beautiful touches and attention to detail such as the knee pad on the front bumper to make it easier to lean on for checking oil and working on the motor, a drop-down rear license plate that turns into a step for accessing the roof, a snorkel mount that fits behind the A-pillar so you can still fold the windshield down, painted shocks to avoid corrosion, and larger center bore on the wheels to accommodate the backup camera. Many of the facets are still pre-production, but things like the lower-mounted light bar in the front bumper and a dual swing-out rear bumper sound promising.
Holy moly, the Bilstein JL had some articulation, and its simple and clean lines are enchanting.
AEV wasn’t the only major brand displaying JL products, far from it. Rhino-Rack had a new Pioneer platform mounted to theirs, with a beautiful internal support system and an array of new accessories. The grab handle, box mount, and all new shorter Batwing were of particular interest. Official releases will be coming soon!
Of course, ARB wasn’t going to miss out on the action. They unveiled their own full-size and stubby bumpers which will be available with and without hoops for impact protection. In addition to the new bumpers, they had some unreleased sliders installed which utilize a thinner steel with rib structure in order to drop weight while increasing strength. Both Nitrocharger and BP-51 suspension systems were installed beneath the JL, and we were told that the Nitrocharger system will be available within the next month, while the BP-51s are just entering production now. Finally, a new Safari snorkel was on display, and looked great with the lines of the Jeep. Official sale dates are still to be released.
TJM was showcasing their JL products as well, which they took a more traditional off-road approach to. Their front Rock Crawler bumper is made from 3/16 steel and features strap and shackle recovery points, room for lights, jack points, mounting points for driving lights, and weighs just 88 pounds. There was also a simple rear bumper with optional reverse lights, side tube reinforcements, and an optional tire carrier. New tube-style fenders gave the sides of the JL a unique appeal, and an all-new battery and compressor mount were tucked up underneath. I was particularly interested in the snorkel, which requires no drilling of the body and simply replaces a factory panel with four screws.
Finally, CliffRide had some pretty sweet JL campers on display. The one that had a pop-top that reminded me of the Ursa-Minor tops out of California, while the other was actually sporting what looked to be an Action Camper repurposed for the JL! Unfortunately, from what we can tell, neither will be available through them, but all of the other accessories will be.
Phew. That was a lot of Jeeps. Now that we have that out of the way, lets look at the rest of the awesome rides, starting with CliffRide’s insane Sprinter van. This is rocking axles from a Ford F-250 and a whole slew of gear straight from Icelander. It has a living quarters, rear garage, workstation, and more!
Uhhhh, is that a Range Rover Sport on 6 inches of coil-sprung lift? Yes, yes it is.
How could we not talk about the Expedition Overland Tundra? The entire thing is amazing, but the Patriot Camper’s PCOR was of particular interest because it’s going to be available for multiple types and sizes of trucks here in the States! It is built to last and can be moved from vehicle to vehicle for pretty much the rest of your lifetime. Water and fuel storage can be added, lockable secure storage for cameras, tools, and recovery gear is all included, and there is plenty of accommodations for electronics and other gear.
We had the chance to do a full photoshoot on the amazing Brute below before the show, so look for that story in the future, but for now, can we just enjoy how great a Brute TJ with a camper and Cummins 2.8L is? Epic.
Okay, gear break! Maxtrax unveiled two new recovery products specialized for soft shackles at this show. They stated that their goal is to make recovery operations easier and safer regardless of the scenario, and they will continue to innovate toward that goal. In addition to their recovery board, the Australian company showcased the THI or tow hitch insert to replace the cheap bow shackles they saw inundating the market. When put under heavy loads, the cheaper shackles would bend and break, leading to dangerous situations and injuries. The THI is their answer. As you would expect, it does not work with metal shackles, but as long as you carry a minimum of one soft shackle that shouldn’t be a problem. It carries a working load limit of nearly 21,000 pounds, which is stamped on the back so you won’t forget. They even plan to make the engraving deeper to prevent it rubbing away while in the receiver. This product will be available in orange and black, and is made from 6061 T6 aluminum. Pricing is set to release around $100 in the early part of 2019.
The other product is their Recovery Ring, which is a simplified take on the snatch block. Gear like this has been used for sailing and rigging for a while, but we haven’t seen it applied in this fashion to the four-wheel drive world before. The ring features a smooth center to prevent abrasion on the synthetic rope fibers during rotation, while the exterior channel is slightly rough to encourage traction of the rope and prevent it from simply sliding over the ring which would build heat. It is only available in silver for now, and will cost $120. Sales should begin in early 2019 as well.
Hellwig had some new products on display as well, both a new adjustable rear sway bar for the JL, and airbags for the new Tacoma. These are perfect for people who are loading their vehicles up with gear and accessories, like most of us. The sway bar can be adjusted for weight, and at stock height, will not limit travel.
We had a sneak peek of Dometic’s affordable fridge and battery pack at Outdoor Retailer, but we couldn’t help but mention them again here. At a price of just $699 USD, the CFF line brings an affordable price tag to the fridge business by cutting out some of the fancy features found on their full-blown line. Stuff like Bluetooth monitoring, USB phone charging, and the like. They are available in 35L and 45L variants. The other news is on the battery pack front, the PLB40. It’s designed specifically for your fridge, and delivers power via a LiFePo4 lithium-ion battery which produces a true 12.8V at 40AH/500Wh. The pack includes an integrated battery management system to handle all charging and discharging, which prevents damage from surges or over-depletion.
The release of this battery pack means you can now power your fridge for the entire weekend without using your vehicle, and even pop the fridge out by the campsite or the fire if you’d like. The battery charges inline via your car too, so as you drive it will top it off. Pretty amazing.
Chevrolet, of course, had a major display for their new AEV Colorado Bison, which you can read all about here. It was looking absolutely fantastic, and we can’t wait to drive it in two weeks. AEV also had a Bison on display with slightly larger tires, an additional skid plate, and a winch mounted in the bumper. Looking at these trucks, it almost feels too good to be true. We’ve been asking for a diesel mid-size truck with front and rear lockers, a snorkel, and factory armor forever, and now we have it!
Chevrolet’s other trucks weren’t half bad either. In fact, we really liked a lot of them. The new Trail Boss Silverados and ZR2 race truck were drool-worthy. Just take a look for yourself.
Ford wasn’t to be missed either, of course, as they had a slew of Rangers and F-Series trucks on display. Some had a distinct racing vibe, others were definitely overlanders, and a few were just out there. Overall, the new Ranger looks amazing, but we were sad that the interior felt a bit lackluster. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get inside for a photo, but we did include a stock photo from Ford.
There were a few other Rangers in the crowd, and this tray bed definitely got our attention.
Don’t worry, Toyota wasn’t left out from displaying new vehicles. They had an amazing Tundra in their showroom, along with some new TRD Pros. The VooDoo blue TRD Pro exclusive color is pretty sharp, but we preferred the classic stripes on their race truck. Who else would be in for a special edition Tacoma or Tundra in that paint scheme?
Out of all the manufacturers, Nissan probably went the most all-out with a four-wheel-drive build. This Titan, designed as a mobile command post for the Red Cross, is paired with a Conqueror Trailer shell and equipped to help in areas of need throughout the country. It was partnered to an animal rescue rig, which was almost, but not quite as cool.
Although we had already seen a lot of Yakima’s new gear at a preview event in North Carolina, it was still fantastic to see the production versions here at the show. Their bed racks and new heavy-duty rooftop tent with improved fabrics, water resistance, windows, and other features fit the Tacoma perfectly. Especially since they will all be available from Toyota dealerships now. That means you could order a TRD Pro Tacoma with the upgraded Fox suspension, all terrains, locker, bed rack, and a rooftop tent right at your local dealership.
Cummins did a wonderful job as usual, and featured a sweet Land Cruiser with their 2.8 motor. This particular truck is part of the Clean Cruiser Project, and will be driven all the way to Ushuaia while remaining carbon neutral by running on Biodiesel and planting trees along the way. You can learn more about their project here.
One of the final products we had the chance to see were Scheel-Mann’s new seats. They are designed for vehicles with seatbelts integrated into the seat itself, and are perfect for anyone looking for more orthopedic support. Also on display were some new colors and fabrics to give you the ability to match your seats to whatever pattern you want.
Black Series Campers surprised us by showing up to the show as well, since most trailer manufacturers don’t run their own displays. We’re glad they did though, because seeing a few of their models in person again was a treat.
TJM had some great 5th gen 4Runner products on display in addition to their new JL gear. The snorkel was more low profile than the Safari Snorkel variants we have seen, and the rear bumper was pretty interesting with dual swing-outs, easy to use handles for opening, recovery points, and drop-down tables plus a light. The quality seemed pretty good, but we’d love to see how one holds up over time.
And that’s a wrap! It was one heck of a big show, and we only featured a fraction of the amazing things there, but we hope you enjoyed this look at some of the products and trucks we did see. Look for coverage of SEMA 2019 this time next year!
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.