There's nothing quite like the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas. From wild vehicle modifications to chrome-plated inventions to full-blown futuristic concept vehicles, there's everything any casual or passionate car enthusiast might want to see.
Most of the major pickup truck makers revealed some interesting and impressive early production and concept vehicles, giving attendees a chance to see what's on the automotive horizon. Based on the immense crowds at the show, our prediction is that the outlook for the aftermarket parts industry in particular and the economy in general looks pretty good.
Here are just a few of the highlights from the 50th annual SEMA Show since this industry show isn't open to the general public. For more photos, go to our Facebook page and check out our albums.
Chevrolet invited several journalists to see how difficult it is to install some of the Silverado 1500 and Colorado accessories, such as the larger, more efficient intake kits and exhaust systems. As you might expect, both are simple to install and won't void any part of a vehicle's factory warranty.
Honda has a long history of using the SEMA Show as a testing ground for what types of parts to offer for select vehicles. Based on showgoers' reactions, this Ridgeline with lights, fender flares and visual kits could make it into production.
There's an interesting thing happening at Bilstein: Ever since Toyota announced it would be using Fox shock absorbers for the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro (it used to have Bilstein shocks), Bilstein has been promoting its newest shock absorbers — the B8 8112 ZoneControl CR — which were designed specifically for the new Tacoma first. The new shocks are rebuildable, aluminum and side specific, and they cost about $1,000 per corner. They even took a new Tacoma TRD Pro with the new shocks and drove it from So Cal to SEMA before the show.
Toyota had an interesting array of both new and old vehicles, all introduced in a high-tech production by Rutledge Wood of "Top Gear" fame. Among our favorites was this second-generation1966 Toyota Stout, one of the first compact pickups to be imported into the U.S.
Toyota Booth Display
In the packed and expansive Toyota booth, which had a general theme of Past, Present and Future, we saw some interesting artwork surrounding the booth, including a historical mashup photo of an early pickup (the Stout), a current pickup (the Tacoma) and a future pickup (the Camburg Racing 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro race truck). It's a small thing, but we thought it was well done.
GM is working hard to increase the number of accessory parts it offers to its dealership network. During auto show season GM will be promoting its desire to give new-truck buyers a chance to upfit and personalize their new rigs and even roll those extra option charges into a pickup's financing. Pictured is just a small number of parts available for the half-ton Chevrolet Silverado.
It's not every day you get to see one of these classic Jeep pickups. In fact, we'd go one step further and say we've never seen one of these short-wheelbase Forward Control vehicles reconditioned so well. That's 90 inches from wheel to wheel, and there's a 5.7-liter Hemi in between the driver and passenger seats.
Dodge Power Wagon
As if the 50-gallon cask of Jack Daniels wasn't enough to catch our attention, this 1941/1949 Dodge Power Wagon also had a copper bed and a 700-horsepower LS3 Corvette V-8 under the side-hood inlets. Inside it looks like a helicopter cockpit (see our video). We're sure it attracts huge crowds wherever it's displayed.
Just in case you thought the only type of vehicles at the SEMA Show were restored pieces of garage gold, GM was there to prove otherwise. It's looking to make some history with the hydrogen fuel-cell Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 prototype, which the automaker hopes will help give it a leg up on the developing alternate fuel. GM is partnering with the U.S. Army and will get back this test vehicle in about 18 months.
We saw several creative examples of unique pickup truck interiors, but this late 1950s Chevy was probably the best example. With a combination of pine and cherry woods, this custom builder fashioned a stunning center console and door inserts. Although not pictured, it also had a swoopy, full-length bed cover.
It took us some time to find this gorgeous mid-1960s Dodge dually in the Toyo booth. Once we got there, it was a sight to behold. Since Dodge didn't make trucks this long and large at that time, both the bed and the cab had to be altered to accommodate a factory stock 2015 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn MegaCab dually.
Jeep Pickup Concept
This well-executed Jeep Crew Chief 715 concept was introduced at the 2016 Moab Easter Jeep Safari. It might give us some hints about what to expect in the highly anticipated midsize Jeep pickup truck due before 2020.
Jeep Pickup Prototypes
We found more than a few examples of vehicle modifiers trying their hand at what a new Wrangler-esque Jeep pickup truck might look like. We know AEV does a pretty good job with its popular Brute versions, giving them incredible off-road ability, but our guess is Jeep might do something a little different this time around.
'Diesel Brothers' Showpiece
The Utah brothers who gained fame with the "Diesel Brothers" show do a pretty good job of creating diesel-powered masterpieces at their DieselSellerz shop. Some are fairly subtle; some are ridiculously wild. This is one of the latter: four-wheel steering, a Caterpillar engine and Mickey Thompson tires all in a heavily modified Ford F-350 Super Duty.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears