Another Day of Walking Through the Wonderland: SEMA 2011

Day 2 SEMA lead II
It’s amazing more people at this show don’t get whiplash. The guy with the neck brace vending concession could make a mint. And we’re not just reacting to the inordinate amount of good-looking people at this show (if chiseled chins or excess cleavage were currency, this trade show would be billed as The One-Percenters). Of course, the most amazing aspect of the show is how many built vehicles can fit under four roofs and also fill a ginormous parking lot. And that doesn’t even count the two huge autocross test tracks where Mustangs and Corvettes lay down huge rubber stripes on the blacktop like kindergarteners lay finger-paints to paper. There is something vaguely child-like and youthful about this show as you walk the miles of carpet.

Sure there are plenty of show trucks (even products) that look and act more like an immature nightmare than a well-thought-out, fully functional rig you’d like to bring home, but that’s part of the beauty. You can walk for hours (or at least 30 minutes) without seeing anything worth a hoot, then, all of a sudden, something smacks you in the face and you have to smile.

That’s when the show rocks. Would everyone smile at the same product, problem-solver, widget, or show vehicle? Probably not. That’s why, for most of us, the coolest thing about the SEMA Show is actually in the hunt itself. What better place can you imagine to be looking for buried treasure? If you like trucks or cars or 4x4s or hot rods or one-offs or things you don’t have the words to describe, you’re bound to find something around the corner on in the next aisle that will take your breath away.

Here are a few of the treasures we found today.

Day 2 48 Chevy IIThis is a Candy Apple Red (with meta-flake) 1948 Chevy pickup that's been fully restored and lowered. The engine is a supercharged Magnuson LSX-376 backed up with a 4L60-E trasmission. Owners Frank and Mary Lawrence allowed Ironworks Speed and Customs, out of Bakersfield, CA, the honors of performing most of the detail work. 

Day 2 MatchBox IIThis 2011 F-350 Super Duty has a 10-inch SuperLift suspension, 41-inch Super Swamper tires, a massive exterior tube rollcage, and all the fire suppression gear you could want (tanks and hoses on both sides). This "MatchBox" creation was designed to put out a fire quickly once it gets to the fire quickly. Needless to say, this vehicle got a lot of attention. 

Day 2 Call of Duty II

This 2011 Wrangler (yes, we know it's not a pickup) is called the Call of Duty-Black Ops Jeep and it's builders are donating it to the Army Rangers to be raffled off, with all proceeds going to a foundation for the families of fallen Rangers. The Hemi engine and 5-speed transmission were taken straight out of a 2011 Ram. The details that got the most attention were the decommissioned .50 caliber roof-mounted gun, the 240 Gulf machine gun on the passenger side, and the many smaller (non-firing) firearms throughout. 

Day 2 Amourak II
This one stopped us in our tracks. A VW Amarok, imported from Mexico, sat quietly in the Roll-N-Lock bedcover booth, where it was being used as prop for salemen. The truth is the sliding cover (which installs in less than 30 minutes) not only will protect your valuables stored inside the bed, but it will also latch and lock to your tailgate, thus preventing anyone from opening the back of your truck or stealing your tailgate. 

Day 2 RamRunner Build II
Ram Truck had a full-blown demonstration going all day long showing how to install a Mopar Stage III Ram Runner kit onto a brand new Ram 1500. They started at 9:15 AM and, with a crew of three guys, finishing the project before the end of the day. The guy pictured with his back to us held a microphone and explained what each mechanic was doing (and answered questions) every step of the way. 

Day 2 04 GM HD II
It's not every day you see a lifted one-ton dually built (and displayed) for rock crawling. This 2004 Chevy 3500 HD has a modified 12-inch BulletProof lift with 40-inch Interco tires. The front bumper, roof rack, and bed supports are all custom creations by the owner, Michael Murray. When asked why he built this creation, he replied, "Why not."

Day 2 PH100 II
This might look like an early-60s Ford F-100 restoration but just about every piece of sheetmetal on this one-off has been chopped, channeled, or modified in some way. It started out as a parts runner but soon turned into a long-term family project. Called the PH-100, it runs a 302 engine and 4-speed auto with adjustable coilovers all around. And if you look at the front grille closely, you see it reads P H O R D. 


Hey Mark,

Is there any way you could set up the pictures in your articles to enlarge when clicked upon. I appreciate and enjoy your write-ups but would love to see more detail in some of these great photos. Just an idea. Keep up the good work.

The Ram Runner demo must have been cool to watch. I'd like to see Power Block take one on.

That Amarok is the best looking of the new pickups coming out. It's clean and definitely "truckish"

A VW Amarok:

A re-badged Toyota HiLux!

I saw many of them re-badged Toyota's in Europe...

Is it really Hilux based? I thought it was interesting that even though VW is bent on becoming #1 auto maker worldwide at any cost, not even they dare bringing a midsize pickup "Amarok" to the US market.

I liked this article, but the quality of the photos is not up to the standard of the writing. Most photos look like they were taken with a cell phone camera, poorly exposed and slightly blurry. Please improve this aspect of your reports.

@flinstone - Stay tuned, Mark will likely have some more in depth coverage of many of these trucks. These pics are just a preview (teaser) to keep us "on the line" until he gets time for the real articles.

@oxi and toycrusher- no, it's not a hilux badge job. Some of the Chassis is said to be Crafter derived, making it more like a sprinter underneath than anything. There were lots of Hilux mules used in the development.

I would certainly consider that VW Amarok if it had the 2.0L TDI engine in it. In a Jetta sportwagon it yields 43mpg. I wonder if it could get the Amarok to 30 mpg? I would think more weight and of course 4-WHEEL drive would increase fuel consumption, but how much? Worth a thought anyway.

I seriously doubt it will ever make it here. Though I would like to stick that in Allan Mually's face when he refuses to save the ranger.

Thanks Mrknowitall

I will have to say the 3500HD does not look right on rocks. It's an awesome truck though.

Do any of you really want to spend $45-50k on a VW?! One, that is just hella expensive and two VW isn't know for reliability, even over the past few years.

(the $45-50k claim came from Mike Levine's write up around a year ago)


The days of buying $65k pickups is over.
Practical and efficient is in.

That is all.

Maybe everyone can chip in $5 or so and Mark can buy a Nikon D7000 or something like that. Or chip in $50 and he can buy a Nikon D3x

Actually you can support PUTC by repeatedly clicking on each and every ad that comes out on each page. It takes alot of clicks to equal $5 but eventually it will get there

That RAM scared me, like I thought it was Halloween all over again!

Just kidding. They're teaching people how to build a Ram Runner. That VW Amarok is too cute. And since VW sells diesel-powered cars in the US, if they can bring that pint-sized hauler (legally) above the border, we will definitely see a TDI model!

@Ty - I'm thinking approximately 34 mpgs for the Amarok TDI.

I want to know who makes the scissor lift used to install the Mopar Stage III Ram Runner kit and the price. Looks sturdier than floor jacks and compact enough for a garage ... where one can park over it when "not in use". Come to think of it, how about articles on accessories/equipment that may be of interest. Like the recent "Ten Things Your Truck Shouldn't Be Without" (

I am glad our tax dollars helped GM make it to 100 yrs!

damn it frank you just know were gonna have to listen to bob now atleast this one was going good for awhile

@chevy guy,

My bad! I meant Chevy 100 yrs.

@MrKnowitall. Correct. I saw a brown coloured one being driven by a teenage girl, two days ago. They have a nice balanced design, wider and appear bigger than a Hilux. The 2 Litre diesel is a worry though. You can get a 8 speed auto now. Still very few here spotted by me(2 on the street, and 1 on display in a mall)

MrKnowitall. Correct. I saw a chocolate brown one here two days ago driven by a teenage girl. Very balanced clean design. Wider than a Hilux and appears bigger. Major concern stressed 2 Litre diesel. You can now get a 8 speed auto transmission. Still have only see 2 on the street and 1 on display in a mall.

Some nice trucks. I can't see that Chevy dually as a rock crawler. Those rims look pretty wimpy.
The 1948 Chevy is cool.
The Match Box SuperDuty looks good. Take it for a drive and pump Bob's Impala full of water ;)
I'd like to see a diesel Amarok find its way to NA.

@Lou - Something tells me you're not into impala's. I mean, there's nothing wrong with driving one either.

Mhowarth - I agree that VW isn't known for their reliability. I looked at their products before we bought our minivan. The diesel VW's had a better rating than the gassers. There were tons of reported electrical gremlins affecting almost every component.

That is the problem VW has here. Still they are improving.

@Robert Ryan - I liked the idea of a 40 mpg vehicle but not if it means living at the dealership.

@Craig - I have nothing against an Impala, especially "60's era ones, but since it is what Bob drives, it therefore becomes a victim of collateral damage.

I would have enjoyed watching the Ram Runner build.

@Buy American Or Say Bye To America!-I believe I would have enjoyed seeing that build too. I like to know how stuff works and am generally interested in building things of any kind. I guess I like to see the results of almost any constructive work.


The VW pickup is a re-badged Toyota! I was in Europe and saw the re-badged VW's in Greece years ago!

Were you over there?

I remember driving the countryside and stopped for a bite to eat with my wife and walked up to a 4wd pickup that looked like a Toyota Hi-Lux but to my amazement it was a VW badge on the grille and steering wheel...

It was what it was, a re-badged Toyota selling under the VW nameplate, the damn thing looked like a Toyota!

Suspension, size was all Hi-Lux...

"Sandseth says Volkswagen is preparing to badge engineer the Hilux and will sell it as the new Volkswagen Taro. It wouldn't be the first time VW has sold rebadged Hiluxes. Toyota and VW had an agreement in the 1980s and 1990s, where VW built Hilux-based Taro pickups in its Hanover, Germany factory. The trucks were produced from 1989 to 1994."

that VW isn't bad, but if they bring the diesel, it somehow has to compete with the tacoma (and frontier) especially in price. like oxi says (and he's right), the tacoma is the kind of the midsize segment. I do think a reasonably priced diesel with excellent MPG could do wonders though.

I like the VW Amarok. I agree that VW has not had as good a reputation for reliabilty and if it were priced too high it would not be competitive. Maybe that is one reason that it will not be in the US market. If given a choice between the Amarok and the Hilux with everything being equal including price I would chose the Hilux but neither are available in the US. The '48 Chevy is cool and so is the '61 or '62 Ford. Nice to see these customs. I also like the '56 Ford crew and the '55 Chevy from last year. Happy 100 to Chevy regardless of the Government loans. Good to see the iconic brand last.

I really like the look of the Amarok as well... I owned a Volkswagen once and it was a solid, well-engineered vehicle, for the most part, but had a lot of niggling little glitches with the electronics.

How do all these midsize foreign trucks compare size-wise? I'm really curious, if the global ranger is 9/10 of an F-150, then it's basically the size or a little bigger than the first gen Tundra. Is the Hilux that big? How about this Amarok? Or the new Colorado?

Can anybody find outside dimensions of a first gen Tundra to compare with these foreign (truly) trucks?

@toycrusher84 - that would be a good story. Post the actual dimensions. One could do transparent overlays of the trucks (superimpose one truck onto another)so one could actually see the different sizes and shapes and how they actually compare.

I tried PUTC specs but it appears first gen tundra is bigger than current f 150, it doesn't seem right so I'm not sure where to look for this info.

I know my Tacoma is as big as the first gen. Tundra...

@ Toycrusher. I saw a 2000 Silverado XLT(most light US Pickups are rare here) It had a GVM compliance rating of 2900kg on its registration sticker on the windshield. A short bed current model Hilux 2700kg. A Landcruiser 70 3400kg(7400lbs)

@ Robert Ryan - very interesting. That GVM includes truck and load?

@Toycrusher. No it is the same as GVWR,

Thank you for recognizing our 1948 Chevy pickup that was featured at the 2011 SEMA show. The color is not "candy apple red"; however. It is a special mixed blend Glasrut (German) shot in two-stage by Alan Palmer, Palmer's Custom Paint and Fabrication out of Camarillo, California. We call it (and the pickup) "Naughty Spice".

Also, the pickup is not restored. The project actually started in pieces. . . literally. The cab traces back to December of 1948; however, to get the finished product, we used six fenders, eight doors, three hoods and three grills. Over 80 sheet metal modifications include an inch and 1/2 chop, one and 3/4 inch section and a three inch lengthening of the cab through the doors. Ironworks Speed and Kustom did the fabrication and Palmer's made you believe the paint was candy. The fantastic interior was done by Ron Mangus Interiors in Rialto. Pretty ingenious, huh?!?

Hope you enjoyed it; we do!!!

that chevy dually is bad ass

If you look closely the big bull bar on the Ford Super Duty stretches the bottm of the frame and around the back body for full support. It's engineered to punch over trees when getting to a forest fire.

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