DIESEL SEMA 2016 - Diesel World


When it comes to viewing the latest and greatest that the diesel truck market has to offer, there’s no better place than the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show hosted every year in Las Vegas, Nevada. SEMA is an event that’s closed to the general public, but manufacturers, buyers, builders, distributors, and companies of all shapes and sizes are present to comb over everything and anything automotive. With last year’s show reporting more than 140,000 attendees, for a short time the Las Vegas Convention Center is turned into a car and truck paradise.


Old diesels are starting to make a comeback, as evidenced by the ultra-clean first-gen Dodge W250 that was placed front and center in the Nitto Tires booth.


Jeep introduced a cool new concept vehicle to bring diesels back to small pickups. The Jeep Comanche features 32-inch tires and a 2.0L inline-4 diesel that’s mated to a 9-speed transmission.


American Force invaded SEMA with both outdoor and indoor displays featuring its custom wheels. This absolutely stunning dually Ford was at the indoor booth, decked in a set of AF wheels and Toyo M/Ts.


One of the coolest trucks at SEMA was this Power Wagon wrapped around a ’15 Dodge 3500 frame in the Toyo Tires booth. The Dodge even had the factory Ram interior integrated, making it a ride with true modern comfort and classic looks.


Rudy’s Diesel had the hands-down coolest Ford at the event. This 3,000-pound drag truck has a Ford cab, but the rest is fiberglass and carbon fiber. With a 1,900rwhp triple-turbo 6.4L, Rudy’s goal is 7s in the quarter-mile for 2017.

Celebrity Appearances

If the 5.2 million square feet of show space doesn’t entice, then check off the list of diesel products and vehicles on display. The Diesel Brothers were there with a number of vehicles, and Vegas Rat Rods’ Steve Darnell brought his famous ’28 Dodge Brothers coupe. GM, Ram, and Ford were all represented, and brought special editions or concept vehicles of their own. For those wanting to re-power their rides, there were a number of builders on hand to help. Cummins had its own re-power booth, featuring its new 5.0L and 6.7L engines, and Wagler Competition was on hand with its insane turbocharged, supercharged, and nitrous-injected DX500. Duramax and Cummins engines were the powerplants of choice, as we saw more of these on the floor than anything else.

Fabricators from all walks of life use SEMA as a chance to display their talents with custom-built vehicles. This year, SEMA was home to literally hundreds of lifted trucks, some of which employed air suspension to achieve lifts of 10, 15, or even 20 inches. There were also purpose-built rides, as Chuckles Garage brought its Cummins-powered standing-mile rig, Rudy’s Diesel brought a drag truck, and Battleborn Engineering brought an awesome pre-runner build. Creativity is off the chart in these types of creations; we witnessed remote-mount turbos, full tube frames, and even a rudimentary traction control system.



For those interested in bug-out vehicles, there was this ’89 Hummer powered by a VEpumped engine. With virtually no electronics, this type of off-road vehicle could practically run forever.


The 5.0L Cummins in the Nissan Titan is slowly gaining ground in the aftermarket. S&B Filters has just released an intake for the truck that promises improved flow and turbo sound.


Wagler was nice enough to bring Scheid Diesel’s triple-turbo Cummins along, which also makes mind-bending power at 3,000- plus horsepower. The aluminum-block engine is used in a number of the country’s top Super Stock sled pullers.


Advance Adapters makes a number of engine-to-transmission adapters for a variety of applications. Want to put a 5.0L V8 Cummins in something? They have your solution.


When it hits the track, the “Demon Smurf” ’65 C-10 is sure to raise some eyebrows. With a parallel-turbo, nitrous-injected Duramax backed by a TH400 transmission, high 8s are the goal for the Diamond Eye-sponsored build.


PPE Diesel has been shipping their ever-popular Stage 5 transmission kits across the country for the past couple of years. They were at SEMA with this cool cutaway showing what it takes to handle a mega-horsepower Duramax.

In addition to the full vehicle builds, there were also companies with a wide variety of products on display. There are still hundreds of thousands of older pickups on the road in North America, and the market has responded with turbos, radiators, and gaskets to keep this fleet of aging trucks going. With brand-new models available at 370 to 440 horsepower, new heavy-duty pickups are as capable as ever, so here the aftermarket seemed to focus more on lift kits, wheels, tires, and 50-state-legal products that still were able to produce some power.

Diesel Trends

There were two strong trends we observed at SEMA that we think will hold solid well into 2017. The first is that diesel re-powers are becoming more and more popular. There were Jeeps with diesel engines, street rods with diesels, and multiple muscle cars that were powered by high-horsepower compression-ignition engines. Second, we’re starting to see more of a focus on pure competition-oriented parts that aren’t saddled with the same restrictions as street products. This rockets horsepower off the chart, as 2,000 or even 3,000 hp is now a reality.


Bully Dog brought one of the cleanest six-door conversions we have ever seen to the SEMA show. With bright red paint and American Force wheels, it definitely stood out in the crowd.


Scott Birdsall made a mad two-month thrash to finish his Cummins-powered Ford F1 in time to display it in the Auto Meter booth. With features like inter-stage intercooling and traction control, Scott’s Ford was second to none when it came to innovation


Steve Darnell’s ’28 Dodge Brothers rat rod helped make him famous; it was on display in the Discovery Channel’s Motor Mondays booth. Over the years Steve’s radical rod has been subjected to a number of improvements, including an awesomely creative intercooler wing.


Perhaps the creation of the show was this ’50 copper Cummins Cadillac built by Hot Rod’s Restos, which had a 1,000 horsepower compound-turbo 12-valve for power. The engine also received the copper treatment, and can summon plenty of power for towing Wet Sounds’ boat.


Diesel swaps are on the rise, like this awesome ’56 Nomad that’s powered by a Duramax diesel. The Chevrolet is currently making the rounds in various show-car circuits.


Battleborn Engineering’s “Million Dollar Diesel” was a big hit in the Aeromotive booth. With a custom frame, long-travel suspension, and a 1,700hp Wagler Competition Products Duramax, the builders aim at feet of suspension travel along with 180mph speeds.


We’ve seen diesel rat rods before, but this immaculate Cumminspowered street rod in the House of Kolor booth was an interesting change of pace. The 12-valve is way nastier than normal with an estimated 1,200 horsepower, and propels the ’29 Plymouth down the road in rapid fashion.


We’ve seen diesel rat rods before, but this immaculate Cumminspowered street rod in the House of Kolor booth was an interesting change of pace. The 12-valve is way nastier than normal with an estimated 1,200 horsepower, and propels the ’29 Plymouth down the road in rapid fashion.


Diesel engine re-powers are getting so popular that Cummins had its own booth. On display were two of its most popular engines, the new 5.0L, and the legendary 6.7L inline six.


For those looking at some serious off-roading, King Off Road Racing Shocks had shocks and coil-overs for any situation—from mild to wild.


Diesel owners often overlook stopping, but anyone who tows a trailer or camper can tell you it’s important. Pacbrake offered both exhaust and engine brakes for a variety of diesel truck engines.


Looking like it drove straight out of a movie, the treaded and armored “Ice Ram” will indeed star in a new Fast and Furious film that’s set to release in 2017.


One of the more innovative products we saw at SEMA was Any Level Lift’s kit for the new F-350. The lift has coil-over shocks that mount on swinging hydraulic arms, giving the user anything from a dropped stance (1 inch in the front, 4 in the rear), to a huge lift (13 inches in front, 12 in back).


Lift kits are more popular than ever, and Skyjacker is already ahead of the curve with a 6-inch lift kit for the 2017 Ford Super Duty.


For those who fondly remember Weld wheels on their diesel rig, the company is making a comeback with a new line of wheels designed specifically for 8-lug enthusiasts.


Mcgaughy’s Suspension had a number of Fords and Rams on hand to display its wide variety of lift kits. Independent front suspensions weren’t left out either, as this bright red GM was outfitted with one of its lifts.


Pit Bull tires had this awesome “Hauk .45” ’48 Willys build in its booth, powered by an Industrial Injectionbuilt Cummins and riding on Pit Bull Rocker tires.


Premier Performance had last year’s “Six Pack” Cummins build at the show, but this time it was on an incredible diesel-powered hauler built by Weaver Customs.


Turbosmart had a wide variety of wastegates at SEMA, everything from 38mm all the way up to a 60mm honker. With diesel enthusiasts pushing turbos harder and harder, wastegates can become an important aspect of a performance build.

After more than 15 miles of walking, we were able to corral some of the best that SEMA had to offer, and ended up with a full appreciation of the vast diesel marketplace that’s out there. One thing is for sure: 2017 is going to be an exciting year! DW