If you’re crazy about lifted trucks, hot rods, and incredible mods, then you’re probably familiar with SEMA. The Specialty Equipment Market Association assembles gearheads, crews, and exhibitors into the Las Vegas Convention Center each year for one purpose: to showcase some of the hottest, newest, and most outrageous modifications for cars, trucks, SUVs, and, well, basically anything that has gears, wheels, and a motor. This is where the dreamers converge to outdo each other by making last year’s “what ifs” come to life. Watching lifted truck fans’ and off-roaders’ faces light up when reviewing the latest and greatest at SEMA is not too different from watching a kid walk into a candy shop. Some of these mods and lifts seem to accomplish the unbelievable, defying gravity… and more than a few laws. There are probably more than a few exhibits at SEMA that aren’t street legal in all fifty states, but that’s not the point of an exhibition like this. This is about imagination, possibilities, and daring to do what seems impossible! There are a few trucks that have really made the grade at SEMA, and stand out with enthusiasts today. Let’s take a look at some of the lifted trucks that have inspired us, and what it took to make these mega-dreams a reality!
The ESAB Welding Truck
This particular vehicle has been all over the internet since its introduction at SEMA 2019. Obviously, welding is a huge part of the package when lifting a truck. This truck has a six-inch lift kit, but the front leaf springs are replaced with Radflo shocks and coils. Under the hood is a 7.3L diesel engine that offers up to 550 horsepower. What started off as a 2001 Ford F250 has ended up being a star of the show, with a completely rebuilt motor, transmission, suspension, and a custom flatbed, all the brain child of ESAB Elite member James Flatman. Inside the canopy of the flatbed are the tank, compressor, refrigeration unit, and slide outs for the welding machinery this truck is meant to carry. Flatman has confirmed that he plans on using this as his regular work truck… but that he also plans to hit the trails from time to time. Who could blame him
Jay Leno’s 1968 Ford Bronco
It’s no secret that the former late night host and comedian is a huge auto fan, so seeing something like this restored and customized Bronco come out of his collection is not a surprise. What is amazing is how very, very cool it is. The engine is a 5.2L V8, which typically offers over 700 horsepower. The transmission is a Tremec off-road five-speed, and the addition of coil-over shocks and 18-inch wheels allows this Bronco admission to nearly every trail. Given its celebrity status, this truck was treated to a complete makeover, including chassis, axels, and frame, all of which are meant to accommodate its new power and height.
Roadster Shop Bronco
Vintage Broncos are amongst some of the most popular lifted trucks, and with their rugged personalities and boxy exterior, it’s easy to see why. From Illinois, the Roadster Shop Bronco has turned a lot of heads. Details of its restoration and overhaul can be found on the shop’s website, but this blue beast has got to be loads of fun to drive. It includes a 4.2L Eco-Boost V6 engine for 1000 horsepower, custom chassis with 4WD, and independent suspension.
The Duke made his royal debut at SEMA in 2017, so he’s not new to the scene. However, it’s hard to talk about SEMA beauties without mentioning him. The Duke started life as a 1972 Chevy C50, but after Randall Robertson of RTech Fabrications in Hayden, Idaho got a hold on this older vehicle, inspiration took hold. Three years later, the truck dubbed as a “K50” made a splash on the truck scene when it amazed the crowds at SEMA. The process has been well documented and is obviously not for the faint of heart.
The cab may be a C50, but the bed is a C20. The engine is a 5.9L Cummins 6BT that Roberston sourced from a 1996 Dodge Ram. Those are one-ton axles, with 20-inch KMC XD829 Hoss 2 wheels. The dash is custom steel, but all of the gauges are original.
What Does It Take to Be SEMA-Ready
It goes without saying that not anyone can show off their truck at SEMA, or just about anyone with a lifted truck would be headed to Las Vegas each year.
SEMA is sadly, not for the general public. You must be in the trade to exhibit or attend SEMA. The team at the show verifies employment, as well. However, that includes a lot of the aftermarket car industry – not just creating the lifted trucks dreams are made of. Exhibitors converge from all parts of the industry, including collision repair, electronics and technology, tools, equipment, tires, and more.
There is, however, SEMA Ignited. The official after party is open to the public, allowing anyone the chance to check out some of the vehicles that stole the show at the main event. There’s even a Battle of the Builders competition that allows new talent to the scene to demonstrate their skills, live. This includes the Young Guns category, in which builders under the age 21 are invited to share their craft.
Lifted Truck Show
Of course, SEMA is only one of the top names when it comes to showing off that custom lifted truck. Groups such as the Nasty Truck Network and Street Trucks Mag’s online following organize several lifted truck shows each year. Daytona Truck Meet is another huge show for those who have the need for the most mods.
If lifted trucks are a passion, checking out the shows is a must. Whether it be SEMA Ignite or one of the many shows across the nation, this is a great way to meet people within the industry and learn more about the seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to lifting a truck.
For most of us, the idea of lifting a truck is much more feasible than the process itself. To safely get that height, you’ll need plenty of equipment, welding skills, and a knowledge of the differences between various body and suspension lift kits. It’s not something you can easily do in your garage over a long weekend, so taking the time to learn more about lifts and remodels will definitely help in the planning and execution stages.
Lifted trucks are definitely cool, and there’s no doubt that these beasts of the road are here to stay. While fans and crews alike gather to celebrate and innovate, it’s easy to see how the lifted truck “bug” might be passed down through generations of gearheads. We’d all like to create the next “Duke,” and it would be great to have Jay Leno’s Bronco budget, but every effort starts small, gains skills and experience, and eventually becomes the next big thing- in the case of lifted trucks, literally big! While most of us will only read about SEMA on the internet days after the event closes, it’s possible that anyone could be the next remodel super-star, with a famous lifted truck of their own on a list like this!