LAS VEGAS CREATES A DIESEL TRUCK PARADISE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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