2007 SEMA Show
October 30 - November 2, 2007
Story and photos by Lance Clifford


While the end of October signifies candy and costumes to most people across the nation, gearheads look to this time of year not in anticipation of Snickers bars or ghost outfits, but the Specialty Equipment Market Association's (SEMA) annual tradeshow in Las Vegas. As this is a tradeshow, it takes more than just being a gearhead to get on the invite list. You must be a member of the automotive industry. Fortunately for you the Pirate staff packed our bags (consisting mainly of aspirin and one dollar bills) and headed to Sin City, cameras in hand, to bring you all of the hottest new products, coolest display vehicles, and of course smokin' hot chicks. While we don't have any candy corn or Snickers bars, Pirate has plenty of "eye candy" to hand out this Halloween.

The silicone and fake tans were abundant, but hardcore rockcrawling products seemed to be lacking. Were we looking in the wrong place? Did we already see all of the next products at the Off Road Expo? The new BFG Goodrich Mud Terrain KM2s and 20" Walker Evans rims were old news after we saw them on Don Campbell's FJ48 in Pomona. Stak had something new for us though; their long anticipated Dana 300 replacement case is finally in production and shipping. Many JK products were also on display at the SEMA show. Every year there is a "darling" of the show; in the past it has included the Wrangler Rubicon, H2, and FJ Cruiser.

The JK was hot last year, with many new suspensions unveiled. The market for the Jeep matured this year as driveline and other components were revealed. In addition to an abundance of new intake and exhaust options for the 3.8L engine, Superior Axle and Alloy USA both have chromoly axle shafts and lower ring and pinion gear options for the latest Wrangler Dana 30 and Dana 44s. Currie and Dynatrac took it one step further with full replacement Dana 60s that bolt-in to the two-door and four-door JK. Judging by the number of Hemi swaps we saw, the upgraded axles will be in demand. Dan McKeag has clearly been busy as nearly every Hemi swap seemed to come from his shop, Burnsville Off Road. The baddest JK at the show sported more than just a 6.1L Hemi shoehorned under the hood. Bilstein had a four-door JK on display that was built for the Jeepspeed 3 series. The Wrangler had Bilstein Blackhawk shocks, triangulated four links, and Currie 9" axles front and rear. Mike Barnett will pilot this new JK next year and the bar has clearly been raised in Jeepspeed 3.

Desert racing in general seemed more popular this year, not just Jeepspeed. Is this just because desert racing is on the Pirate radar after last year's Baja 1000 victory, or is it really gaining popularity with the general public? There were many Full Stock vehicles built for the 40th anniversary Baja 1000, including Camburg's Tundra and Kent Kroeker's new Hemi-powered Ram 2500, which will be co-driven by Darren Skilton and Malcom Smith. This truck was unveiled in Mopar's booth at the end of the first day of the show, as was another Mopar race vehicle. Chrysler made a bold move by providing factory support to Larry Ragland and Brian Collins in their Trophy Truck. With the tire wars in full swing, is a manufacturer battle heating up in the Trophy Truck class as well?

There were less FJ Cruisers this year, but the new fullsize Tundra picked up the slack for its fellow Toyota. TRD is offering a supercharger for the 5.7L engine that pushes power output north of 500 horsepower! Not to be left out, the FJ Cruiser's 4.0L will have an optional TRD supercharger available in early 2008. Fabtech unveiled their 6" Tundra lift with 2.5" Dirt Logic coilovers and new steering knuckles, going beyond the 2" leveling kits offered by most other manufacturers. The truck that went beyond anything and everything we had seen before was the crew cab, dually Tundra in Toyota's booth. An 8.0L inline six Hino diesel was stuffed under the hood of the Tundra and complimented by an Eaton five speed manual, 22.5" forged Alcoa rims, and H rated Michelin tires. Mark Amstock had a huge task trying to top the FJ45 rat rod Toyota had in last year's booth, and the Tundra filled the bill. When asked if this truck would make it to production, Amstock admitted that the 8.0L diesel would not be used, but was tight lipped about what diesel we might see under the hood of a Tundra in the future.

Toyotas and diesels seemed to be the two biggest topics at this year's show. For their 50th anniversary, the Japanese auto manufacturer chose the SEMA Show, not the Detroit or New York auto shows, to unveil the new Corolla and Matrix models. Toyota is clearly taking the automotive aftermarket seriously. Diesel manufacturers like Bully Dog, Edge, Gale Banks, and BD Power expressed interest in future Toyota diesels, but for the time being they have their hands full trying to deal with the new emission controls found on the LMM Duramax, 6.7L Cummins, and 6.4L Powerstroke. New programmers, chips, and downloaders are still being developed to reliably deal with the diesel particulate filter and more complicated electronics used on the new trucks.

While we were able to get diesel manufacturers to admit that they were struggling with the new controls, there were plenty of reports that were less obvious. We heard many rumors throughout the week, in addition to the future Toyota diesel mentioned above. Several sources suggested that NASCAR will be riding on BFGoodrich tires next season, a huge opportunity for the tire manufacturer. We also heard that UROC and XRRA scheduled events in Moab on the same weekend, forcing teams to choose one series or the other. Ranch Pratt was not available for comment, as he was running UROC's Proving Grounds for rockcrawling competitors and the new Tundra. Familiar faces such as Rusty Bray, Dean Bulloch, and Brad Lovell were all spotted at the Proving Grounds. Not to be outdone, WE Rock announced that AlphaTrade.com has signed on as a WE Rock sponsor for 2008. This was quite a Halloween treat for rockcrawling fans everywhere. Check out Pirate's SEMA gallery for even more treats from Sin City, just don't expect to find any caramel apples.