4x4Wire attends SEMA Show 2003

Article By: Harry Wagner - November 2003
Photos By: Michael McAndrews and Harry Wagner

The SEMA show is to the aftermarket what the Detroit Auto Show is to manufacturers. SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) holds their annual convention in Las Vegas every November, where you can see everything from 28" chrome spinners for your Escalade to clear tail lights for your Hyundai. This is an industry trade show comprised of manufacturers, dealers, media, and others involved with the automotive aftermarket industry. Since the show is not open to the public, we at 4x4Wire took it upon ourselves to wade through the eight thousand plus booths in order to bring you the latest and greatest in the 4x4 marketplace.

The "latest and greatest" it is, with over one thousand new products representing the latest in automotive technology unveiled each year at the SEMA Show. Numerous products captured our attention this year. Advance Adapters has continued to develop their Toyota Land Cruiser line, with the new Orion 4:1 transfer case gear set complimenting the previously released Rock Box. Driveshafts sporting Bigelow joints are now available from Tom Woods Driveshafts and other select driveline vendors. The joints offer 40 degrees of motion and are stronger and quieter than traditional CV joints. Hutchinson, maker of Hummer wheels, are now offering their forged, DOT approved double beadlocks in a 15" size for 5x4.5 and 5x5.5 wheels. Skyjacker had on display their new 50 inch (50 inch!) mototube gas shocks, providing more travel than any of the competition by a large margin. Suspension manufacturers also had several new products to offer as a result of all of the new and redesigned vehicles entering production. Both Fabtech and Skyjacker released 6 inch lift kits for the new Ford F-150, and Fabtech had a prototype lift for the Nissan Armada as well. Revtek now has a 3 inch suspension lift for the new Toyota 4Runner. Revtek product manager Randy Haflich commented that the suspension geometry on the new 4Runner is an improvement over the previous 4Runner and current Tacoma, so expect to see more products for these vehicles in the future.

New products were in abundance at the SEMA Show.

Hummer H2s were the darling of the show this year; they could be seen lifted to the sky or dumped to the weeds, and almost all of them were covered in bright paint and filled with the latest in audio and video equipment. Our favorite H2 at the show was the orange and white vehicle in the Full Throttle Suspension booth. This rig featured a supercharged 6.0L Vortec motor and sat atop 49 inch Super Swamper Iroks. Clearance for the tires were provided by four links and coilovers front and rear, with a Dana 60 replacing the previously independent front suspension. Speaking of 49" Iroks, these were nearly as common as H2s at the SEMA show. Apparently 44 inch meats don't cut the mustard anymore, because many of those who could not get their hands on the Iroks were sporting huge military Michelin tires, which gave the added benefit of 20 inch wheels to put dubs on the show trucks.

More H2s than you can shake a chrome plated stick at.

The SUV market has become so popular that it commands its own hall at the show, filled with manufacturers like Warn, Skyjacker, and Rancho, along with throngs of smaller vendors. Other manufacturers whose products span more than just the off-road market secured booths in the main hall. These included such names as Advance Adapters, Currie Enterprises, and Bilstein. Currie had Shannon Cambell's LS1 powered buggy on display in their booth, and Bilstein drew attention with Avalanche Engineering's Assassin, complete with new white body skins.

Coming soon to a rockcrawling competition near you?

Several tire manufacturers also chose to highlight their products with rockcrawling buggies this year. Pro Comp tires introduced their 40 inch X-Terrains on Dustin Webster's Red Bull Rockit S-10 and Darren Runion's Toyota buggy. BFGoodrich had John Gilliand's Karnivore in a unique display simulating the exit from Upper Helldorado in Moab. Poison Spyder Customs had their Bruiser buggy on display in the Mickey Thompson booth and their new ZL71 four seater chassis in Nitto's booth. Garrett Sisson's championship winning YJ was in Alcoa's booth, its rockrash and bent sheetmetal a breath of fresh air in an otherwise chromed environment. Maxxis and Toyo also had rockcrawling vehicles on display in their booths, as they try and gain market share in this growing segment.

We had a chance to talk to a number of the rockcrawling competitors and promoters present at the show. Many are planning to build new vehicles before next season, and all are anxiously awaiting the rule changes likely to result from the merger of RCAA and UROC. By the time you read this, rules for all rockcrawling series should be finalized. Other rumors and speculation surrounded Nissan. Sources say that the manufacturer is interested in getting involved in rockcrawling and wants to campaign a rig with the new 5.6L motor found in the fullsize Titan. Perhaps that will be one of the rigs to capture our attention at next year's SEMA show.


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