It’s time for our Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show coverage again; Diesel World was there in force to scope out the newest trends and hottest rides on display. Lifted trucks are always a staple of the diesel market at SEMA, and this year didn’t disappoint. We spotted everything from functional off-road vehicles like chase trucks, to enormous show trucks, to trailer-hauling monsters. Big horsepower isn’t usually on display at SEMA, but there were still a few trucks in the 800 to 1,200hp range, along with a 3,000hp supercharged monster (more on that in a bit).

A few years ago the showgrounds were teeming with common-rail Cummins swaps, as many folks were out to prove that it could indeed be made to work. Last year however seemed to be the year of the 12-valve, as we saw more mechanical diesels than ever at SEMA. It seems that mindset made its way into 2017 too, as almost all the swaps we saw were mechanically motivated. These swapped trucks were also almost all modifi ed; we noticed a Steed Speed manifold and Attitude Adjuster on Laid Back Garage’s Jambulance, and a 66mm turbo on Complete Performance’s VE-pumped 5.9L Cummins Bronco. The point was clear: Factory 160-215hp Cummins engines weren’t going to cut it. New Fords were out in force this year, as there were almost double the amount of modified ’17 Fords as any other year truck. Lifted trucks ruled the skyline, and almost all of these rides were sporting expensive airride or coilover setups. Wheel well lights to show off the suspension were also practically mandatory, and were on at least half of the lifted rides.

No Really, It’s a Diesel

People still aren’t used to seeing superchargers on diesels, and there were two vehicles that many attendees walked right past without ever knowing they were diesel-powered. In the Wolf Aircraft booth there was an outrageously custom Dodge Charger, complete with dual chain-driven blowers sticking through the non-existent hood thanks to the Welderup crew. What people couldn’t see was that the Charger had a highly modified 5.9L Cummins under the hood, complete with twin turbos to compliment the superchargers.

Probably the most innovative diesel of the show was the ’37 Chevy Pro Mod in the Premier Performance booth. Also on board for the project was EZ Lynk and Wagler Competition Products. Wagler built the PSI screw-blown 500cid (8.1L) Duramax-based DX500, which is estimated to make 3,000 hp on nitrous. Weighing in at about 2,900 pounds, the car should be deep in the 6s in the quarter mile.
Laid Back Garage was there with its Jambulance, a Kicker speaker outfitted C10 that was powered by a mildly modified 12-valve Cummins engine.
Fusion bumpers sponsored this serious Duramax-powered H&S Motorsports-built dragster. Driven by Zane Koch, the digger has run in the 8s, but 7-second passes should be no problem next race season.
It’s not very often that we see a good amount of flex on a diesel truck, but PMF Suspension was there to prove that diesels can go off-road too. The Platinum Edition Ford was fitted with rear air suspension that was a big contributor to the truck’s twist.
One of the coolest engine swaps at the show was this ’74 Bronco that was built by Paul Rutledge. The Ford was Cummins-swapped with a 5.9L VE engine that had 90hp injectors and a 66mm turbocharger.
The “Million Dollar Diesel” was back this year, and was one of the hits of the show. The custom built off-road truck has a 6.6L Duramax engine mounted in the front of the cab, and a unique remotemounted triple turbos— a 98mm charger feeding 62mm twins.
One of our feature vehicles a few months ago, Chuckle’s Garage had “Old Smokey” made it to SEMA. The truck has garnered somewhere around 20 million views on various social media sites, so there was no shortage of crowds. It’s also up on horsepower (1,233 rwhp without nitrous) thanks to a new set of Garrett turbos.
Probably one of the cleanest trucks was Icon’s ’65 Ford F-250, which is a mix of old steel wrapped around a modern 5.9L Cummins powertrain.
Performance Diesel Inc. (PDI) brought their outrageous 2006 Peterbilt semi to the show, which sports a compound turbo system on a 625hp C15 Caterpillar engine, along with the company’s custom tuning.
This Ohio Dodge had a license plate that read “Go N Show,” and boy he wasn’t kidding. The Cummins sported a big single turbo and numerous supporting mods that made a 902-rwhp dyno number possible.
One of the wildest creations at SEMA was this Welderup-built classic Charger. Most onlookers were mesmerized by the twin chain-driven superchargers sticking up from the engine bay and failed to notice that the blowers blew into a twin-turbo 5.9L P-pumped Cummins!
We weren’t quite sure what to think about this mini cab-over style Chevy creation in the Toyo Tires booth, but it sure drew a crowd. The fact that it was powered by a (again) 12-valve Cummins didn’t hurt either.
Chevrolet had a display truck straight from the NHRA’s Safety Safari, which responds in case of an accident on the track. After looking the truck over, we can definitely say we’d want them coming to rescue us if we ever got in trouble.
Ford also jumped on the modified diesel pickup bandwagon with a bright ’17 F-250 in its display, fitted with a number of modifications and some shockingly orange paint.
Perhaps the most heavily outfi tted work truck in attendance was this Ford owned by “Dozer Dave,” which looked ready to help out in virtually any situation.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Cummins rat rod full of creativity, so this ’31 Chevy nicknamed “Wild Torquey” built by Tinman 2 Kustoms was a breath of fresh air. Sporting a gooseneck hitch, the Chevy had a compound-turbo 5.9L Cummins, produced an estimated 800 hp and 1,500 lb-ft of torque, and pegged the cool factor with its driveshaft intake and numerous other creative mods.
Unbeknownst to us, we’d stumbled across an entire rat diesel section of the show, which also had this slammed ’42 International KB 3 Mini Semi with a custom sleeper built by Charlie and Elmo Pacheco.
Another big-horsepower ride was this car hauler, which made use of another 800hp compound Cummins to generate its steam. Built by Flamin’ 8 Speed Shop, it was definitely unique!
Hey look, a cool bus! This ride sported a 5.9L Cummins (surprise!) but mixed it up a bit with a VP44 injection-pumped engine. It wasn’t a rat, but definitely looked like a pretty cool rod.
The engine setback award goes to the RLC Motorsports race truck owned by Michael Dalton. The common-rail powered ride has done an astounding 5.78 at 121 mph in the eighth mile, and has cut a 1.26-second 60-foot time.
If you’re looking for overall massive size, the Earthroamer XV (based on a F-550 platform) was perhaps the largest diesel at SEMA, and looked capable of going virtually anywhere.
This cool 6×6 Ford was built by Skeeter Brush Trucks to combat wildland fires, and was outfitted with all of the bells and whistles. We’d hate to see the price tag.
There was something for everyone at SEMA, including this lifted 6.6L Duramax-powered Hummer on 28-inch wheels. While the ride was definitely an over-the-top creation, it also got a lot of looks!
This eye-catching 6.7L-motivated Ford in the PMF Suspension booth was perhaps one of the nicest Blue Ovals we saw at the show. It also was well representative of the new undercarriage light trend that we’ve seen lately.
This slick-looking Cumminspowered Nissan Titan owned by Jason Laureles was one of the few we saw at the show, as it seemed like the majority of the truck crowd was still focused on GMs, Fords and Rams.

The second and by far wilder of the two was the ’37 Chevy coupe that was a joint creation between Wagler Racing Components, EZ Lynk, and Premier Performance. The tube-chassis hot rod was fitted with a DX500 engine a 500 cubic-inch diesel loosely based on Duramax technology. Everything from the block to the heads to the oiling system was custom however, and instead of turbos the engine was topped off with a massive PSI screw blower. Wagler hinted that 70-plus pounds of boost along with multiple stages of nitrous should propel the 2,900-pound ride deep into the 6-second zone.

What We Learned from SEMA

There were a few good takeaways from SEMA this year, the most important of which is the horsepower trend. We’ve seen a lot of factory engines in the past, but this year saw modified Cummins engines of all sorts, and even the newer Fords were running 150- to 200-horsepower tuning. Lift kits are getting more and more complex for these trucks, but we did notice the “wheels-out” trend that started in Central California now seems mostly confined to the Midwest. A huge number of gasoline engines are based on aftermarket blocks, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see more custom engines in the future that are Power Stroke or Cummins based. One thing that sort of stumped us was the lack of Jeep and Cummins/Nissan diesels, as it seems that full-size trucks are still the only option for most enthusiasts. Finally, most of the vehicles here had wild paint, body, interior, and engine modifications, which thankfully shows a more wellrounded approach than ever to build a SEMA vehicle. See you guys in 2018!DW

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