The 9 best trucks and SUVs from SEMA 2019
Each year, companies bring their best-built vehicles to the SEMA show in Las Vegas to highlight the latest in performance and off-road products, and each year pickups and SUVs make for a mighty contingent. Of course, SUVs and trucks make up the majority of the vehicles in the top floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall, where the off-road vehicles are gathered; but you can find trucks and SUVs, both lifted and lowered, all over the show. They proudly intermingle with the hot rods and muscle cars because they, too, can be built with horsepower in mind.
We tried our best to cover the entire show and still came away knowing there were great builds that we missed. We’ll highlight nine that stopped us in our tracks, but don’t forget to take a look at the gallery on the bottom of the page for even more amazing pickups and 4x4s.
Wolfpack Garage in Riverside, California, showed off an ’86 GMC Sierra Classic. Previously restored and modified, its latest iteration is the most extreme yet—although from a distance it just seems like a nice restoration, because the body remains unmodified and the paint is Unripened Green Metallic, a factory GM color.
Under the sheet metal, however, the truck’s all-new. A custom 2×4-inch chassis uses radius arms in the front and four-link in the rear with Fox 2.5 coilovers at each corner.
Inside, the pedals were pushed forward and the seat was trimmed to give as much interior space as possible. A custom center console houses the shifter for the 4L80E transmission, a burly four-speed automatic up for the challenge of handling the 650+ hp from the twin-turbocharged LS3 E-Rod crate engine. One of our favorite touches is on the light bar in the bed. A touch of a switch rotates the lights down 180 degrees for extra garage clearance.
Jay Leno’s latest build was a collaboration between the Custom Truck Shop and Kincer Chassis. We had a chance to speak with Theresa Contreras from the Custom Truck Shop to find out a bit more about the 760-hp, manual-transmission beast. You can learn more here.
Mike Copeland, owner of Arrington Performance, built this wicked, mid-engine Rampage over the course of 10 weeks, just in time for SEMA. Copeland is only the second owner, and the ute only had 13,000 miles on the odometer and a body in great shape, which sped the build process. Though it did get flares and a slightly massaged tailgate before its new paint job, the big change is the powerplant: replacing the transverse-mounted 2.2-liter four is a Gen-III 392 Hemi with Borla stack injection producing 650 hp. It’s mounted just behind the driver’s elbow and it did require some modifications to the car’s bulkhead and firewall. The engine is linked to a Mendeola transaxle and the chassis came from a Factory Five GTM that was lengthened three inches.
One of the most popular rides parked outside of Central Hall, “Brown Sugar” is the product of a tremendous amount of work by River City Rods & Fabrication. The ’70s graphics and colors are perfect for this LS-powered, air-bagged camper—and inside, the décor is just as fitting, with cedar paneling and copper accents.
We don’t have much information on this maniacal 1959 El Camino build, but it deserves to be in the Hot Wheels Legends section. We can hardly imagine the amount of metal shaping it took to get this wildly raked custom from pen and paper to rubber and steel. The shortened bed holds a nitrous bottle for even more punch from the supercharged small-block that juts from the hood like an Ed Roth creation. Perfection!
This Roadster-Shop-built Bronco is powered by a 4.2-liter EcoBoost V-6 that was built by RMB Motor Works. The stroked V-6 produces 1000 horsepower and fits nicely in the engine bay. It is lovingly detailed and wears a custom plenum top… that looks like an air cleaner housing. It reads “256 Twin Turbo.”
The “El Campino” is a great alternative to a rooftop-tent-equipped Jeep. Built by Jerry Harding, the LS-powered ’65 ute has a power-lifting tonneau that turns the bed into a cozy, hard-topped tent.
Of course, we had to include a Jeep with a roof-top tent. SEMA was packed with Jeep Gladiators in all sorts of off-road configurations, each one of them begging to hit the trail. Any number of them would make for a fine family campster, but not all of them had a camp kitchen that was better than any of our staffers have at home. Decked used their bed-mounted drawer system to put a slide-out kitchen in the bed of this Gladiator that included a Traeger smoker. Salmon beware, we’re coming for you!
Rtech Fabrications builds behemoth Chevy and GMC trucks with heavy-duty front ends and wheel openings. This K50 proves the look works on “smaller” variants. It’s a similar paint scheme as a crew cab we spotted at Off-Road Expo, but this one has the Highlander tartan interior. It’s muscular and short-nosed, like a bulldog, and boasts diesel power.
Which one of these creations would you choose to go explore the wild or a back road? Let us know below.