After we return from SEMA each year, our friends and families like to ask us the same thing: what was your favorite vehicle? Anyone who has ever been to SEMA will know that such a question is tough to answer. It can take days to see all of the amazing cars and trucks placed throughout the show, and selecting just one as the best would be nearly impossible. Thus we’ve assembled a short list of a few of our favorite four-wheel drives from SEMA 2017.
One of the first vehicles to catch my eye at the show was on display at Raceline Wheels. The combination of black and gray with little to no chrome made this Bronco stand out amidst a sea of ostentatious builds. Sometimes less is more.
Of course, sometimes more is more, and that seems to be the case with EarthRoamer’s new XV-HD. (Read all about it here) While I had already seen photos of this behemoth ahead of time, there’s nothing quite like standing next to it. The size is impressive to be sure, but its quality and craftsmanship are notable, especially on the interior.
Maxxis isn’t known for producing subtle tires, so why would their display vehicles be any different? With a stretched bed, bright orange paint, and a 6.4L Hemi V8, this resto-mod power-wagon definitely grabs your attention, but without being too obnoxious.
This retired military truck was one of my personal favorites at the show. Dented and rugged, this four-wheel drive is about as honest as they come. It’s built for getting the job done first, and aesthetics last, which as it turns out is exactly why we think it looks so good.
Rhino-Rack had plenty of cool trucks, trailers, and new gear in their booth this year, but their Tacoma was our favorite. Loaded up with an Icon suspension, ARB Bumper, and a range of Rhino-Rack accessories, this truck is ready to take you to the mountain bike trail or the other end of the world in complete comfort.
Over the years ICON has been able to establish a reputation as one of the best for resto-mod shops in the world, and when you see a truck like this it’s easy to understand why. This beautiful 1965 F-250 sits on a 2006 Dodge frame and is powered by a 5.9-liter Cummins motor. Every component was gone through before being reinstalled on the vehicle, and many were upgraded to control modern vehicle amenities like the four power windows. All told, more than 3,000 labor hours went into creating the masterpiece you see above, and we’d say it was well worth it.
Two other cool vehicles snuck into the show from ICON, but didn’t receive quite as much attention as the F-250; a Bronco and a Land Cruiser. I have to admit that while red paint usually isn’t my favorite, it looks perfect on the classic Bronco seen above.
The 5.11 and Cooper Tires Tacoma may be just a tad too tactical for most people, but it’s certainly cool. We’d love to take it out for a few days on the trail and see how the upgraded suspension with STT Pro tires handle on the dirt.
On the opposite end of the tactical spectrum we find this Synergy Jeep. With bright red paint and stylish retro wheels, it’s ready for a day on the trail or by the beach. Personally, I’d like to load some surfboards in and cruise the California coast.
We simply can’t talk about the coolest vehicles of SEMA without mentioning American Expedition Vehicles‘ stunning new builds. Between their Outpost II concept, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 build, and their new Recruit products, AEV really knocked it out of the park this year. Unfortunately, both the Outpost and ZR2 products are simply design experiments at this point, and we’re crossing our fingers that Chevy and AEV see enough interest in these platforms to move toward production.
Although a little unusual, we thought this VW Atlas looked great. It has certainly come a long way from the mild-mannered family SUV it was intended to be.
As usual some of our favorite vehicles came from The FJ Company. Their “new” Land Cruisers might look just like your father’s 4×4, but many of them pack a modern punch with their classic durability. Take the tan Signature model seen below for example. It’s powered by a factory-fresh Toyota 1GRE-FE engine and Toyota six-speed manual transmission, and includes disc brakes, Fox shocks, power steering, air conditioning, and even comes with an iPad integrated into the stereo system. The most impressive part of their builds is the attention to detail though. Everything is made to look like factory equipment, but operate better than the originals ever could. The result is a reliable and comfortable driving experience that combines modern luxury with classic styling.
The Cummins booth definitely had some of the coolest vehicles of the show, but this beautiful Land Cruiser was our favorite. Built by Proffitt’s Resurrection Land Cruisers out of Colorado, this 79 series is an amazing blend of a non-USA HZJ79 truck, a Toyota FJ80, and a Cummins R2.8 Turbo Diesel. A big thanks to Bryon Dorr of Exploring Elements for capturing this photo.
Amidst all the massive lifts and chrome accessories outside, we stumbled upon this diesel beauty tucked in by a bush. It seemed a shame not to have put it somewhere more noticeable, so we decided to publish it here.
Besides the epic partnership with AEV, Chevy had a few other cool vehicles on the floor this year. One that seemed to have particular potential for overlanders was their Suburban. While it carries a rather long and ridiculous name involving hunting and fishing, and we’d like to see smaller wheels, it’s a solid step in the right direction for Chevrolet.
WARN had two very cool vehicles in their booth this year: a tan Toyota Tundra and a black Defender 110. Despite our love for Defenders, their Tundra might have stolen our hearts on this occasion.
Patriot Campers has been making a solid entrance into the U.S. market as of late, and having their Super Tourer at SEMA was just taking things one step further. While we don’t have the 79 Series cruisers to build a supertourer here in the states, this outrageous platform still draws plenty of attention and was a perfect fit for the show.
There were plenty of things at SEMA built to go fast on the dirt, and while our mantra is usually as slow as possible, as fast as necessary, we’d feel the need for speed with these builds.
Did you think that ARB just hadn’t shown up this year? Don’t worry, their trucks definitely made the list. While we’ve seen their Tacoma before, and it’s as impressive as ever, their Tundra was what grabbed our attention. It was looking fantastic with a brand new bumper at the front of the show.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical of the Sprinter platform as a replacement for the Ford E-Series vans, but examples like this one are helping me accept them. Owned by Scheel-Mann seats, it sports a lift, new wheels and tires, front and rear bumper protection, a raised air intake, and of course, a pair of aftermarket seats.
It seems that Chevrolet wasn’t the only manufacturer to catch the overlanding bug this year; Ford did as well. Although many of their show models were built for off-road use, it was their Expedition that stood out with an Icon suspension, roof top tent, and ARB awning. They ruined it by using a two-wheel drive version of the Expedition as the base for the build, but at least we know that this platform has potential.
Is it conceited to say our own vehicle was one of our favorites? Possibly, but we’re willing to take that risk. This Tacoma project truck is equipped with WARN front and rear bumpers, Cooper ST Maxx tires, and a mild lift to make it more capable off-road. For camping, it has been upgraded with an AT Overland habitat, Decked cargo slide, and an ARB fridge to create a true live-in experience.
So have you figured out what’s missing yet? Where are all the Jeeps!? Don’t fret, we didn’t forget them, there were simply so many that we’ve set aside an entire article to cover them. Look for that to hit our front page tomorrow.
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.