SEMA 2014: LOOKING FOR A FEW GOLD NUGGETS IN A SEA OF BAD IDEAS

SEMA and Las Vegas both represent everything that is wrong with the automotive industry: a mad dash to the bottom of the pyramid of taste and common sense, a cacophony of the uneducated shouting “More and More and More! More bling, more fries with that, more crap we really don’t need!”And the masses are snapping it up ravenously.

We dove headfirst into this year’s cesspool of glittering truck wraps, neon body lighting, and LED-everything, with a single mission: to find those few great products worth talking about.

Cooper Tyres AT3 and ST Maxx – new sizes just for Australia
Cooper tyres announced that additional sizes are coming out for the AT3 and ST MAXX, including four sizes for the AT3 that will be exclusive to the Australian market. It’s nice to see an American company like Cooper recognising the great support they are getting from their Australian customers.

The new sizes for the AT3 are:

275/65R17

285/65R17

265/60R18

285/55R20

Bushwacker colour-matched flares for Toyotas – new prototype product
Bushwacker have always made great fender flares but, perhaps understandably, they always wanted to show them off more than the rest of us. That all changed this year with the introduction of their colour-matched fender flares. Their SEMA booth featured a new US-spec Toyota 4Runner, one side sporting the traditional bushwhacker dark fender flares, and the other side with their new colour-matched flares. We think the new colour-matched flares are an obvious choice and we are looking forward to seeing them popping up on vehicles across Australia.

Dynatrack Aluminium Axles, iPhone-controlled e-lockers, and Dana 60 for independent suspensions
Everything Dynatrack does is either bulletproof or bombproof, or both. So we were extremely excited to see two innovative new products from them. Their aluminium axles reduce weight without reducing strength and were paired with AAM iPhone-controlled e-lockers. A little gimmicky perhaps but we actually like the idea of being able to not only control but also monitor the performance of the lockers and the axle from an intuitive graphic interface, as long as we still have a manual backup system.

Dynatrack also introduced a Dana 60 specifically designed for independent front and rear suspensions. With a proper Dynatrack D60 diff in your IFS/IRS truck, a modern drivetrain will no longer equal a weaker drivetrain.

Rigid LED Light Bar with built-in GoPro Casing
Any photographer will tell you the secret to great photography and film work is good lighting. The folks at Rigid are the first ones to truly understand this, based on their innovative and fairly amazing new product. The Rigid Industries Capture combines high-power LED lighting with continuous power for a GoPro Hero camera. This means unlimited battery life and unprecedented lighting allowing you to capture wildlife, adventure scenes, and anything else that happens to you on the trail in amazing HD. It’s waterproof, shockproof, and seriously tough.

Milemarker ES9 Gater winch (9000lbs pull at the drum)
The name Milemarker is not new to 4X4 enthusiasts. Their hydraulic winch is still the only one approved for use on the US Military Humvee. With that kind of reputation to live up to, they decided to over-build their latest electric winch, just to show that they can. The Gator ES9 is a limited edition winch, comes in a hand-numbered wooden crate, and has fantastic attention to detail. But the special part about it is that it will pull a full 9000lbs from every layer, yes even from the drum, yet the size and weight is comparable to other 8000 and 9000lb winches on the market. As it is brand new we haven’t been able to test it yet, but the Milemarker engineering team insist the pulling speed, long-term reliability and power-draw are industry-leading. We can’t wait to try it out.

Icon Vehicle Dynamics Shocks for 200 series LC
Icon Vehicle Dynamics doesn’t make silly kits for someone who wants their ute to tower over traffic, but for the person who wants a moderate lift, with perfect balance and poise, Icon is the name to turn to. They’ve recognised the importance of the Australian market and had success with products for the HiLux and the Ford Ranger T6. At SEMA they announced an advanced setup for the 200-Series LandCruiser. Add in everything you need for a week in the bush, the fact that people think Toyotas are indestructible, and the fact that you hardly notice the washboard in the plush interior, and those poor OEM shocks are taking a serious beating. The Icon setup starts with a billet upper arm in the front, complimenting a new remote-reservoir coil-over with compression adjustment. In the rear, billet trailing arms are paired with a 2.5-inch bypass shock. This system should handle anything the Outback can throw at it, yet will still outperform a factory suspension on the bitumen.

New Rhino-Rack RLT600 Quick-Release
Rhino-Rack just released their new RLT600 quick-release track-mount leg, and it’s a game-changer. Gone are the days of fumbling with Allen keys and tiny bolts in the driveway, of wind-noise on the daily commute to the office, and of gear disappearing in the car park overnight. The RLT600 is lockable, and to remove it you simply turn the key to release the faceplate, squeeze the locking tabs inside, and lift the whole assembly off the roof. Dead easy. It even fits competitors’ roof-rails. And while it might look like simple plastic, it’s actually made of glass-injected nylon for strength and security. Available in any colour as long as it’s black.

Premier Twin-motor winch
Our friends at Premier (aka ComeUp internationally) have introduced a high-speed, twin motor winch. Designed to compete against offerings from Gigglepin and other competition winch manufacturers, it’s being released just in time for the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge. We are looking forward to seeing how this new winch performs in the heat of competition. It will likely be sold in Australia under the ComeUp brand name.

10. Napier SUV tent with side-room

The problem with SUV tents (those tents that latch onto the back of your car) is that they can quickly become a vomitorium for the contents of your car. Napier, a small Canadian company, has created an SUV tent with a separate room attached to one side. Now you can stand in the shelter of the main tent, sorting your gear or cooking dinner, while your sleeping area remains clean and uncluttered.

Mopar Crate Axles (Complete with Dana 60s and 40s)
You’ve heard of a crate engine? One that arrives in a box, fully built, and ready to install? Well Mopar just released crate axles for Jeeps, so now it’s easy to upgrade the complete axle with Dana 40s or 60s. No drilling, no tapping, no cutting, just bolt it in and drive away. This should be huge for owners of the Jeep JK.

Superwinch Roam Command system for smartphones
The Superwinch ROAM Command System is more than just an app to control your winch, because that would be stupid. The true value of this system is being able to monitor the critical parameters of your winch’s performance in real time. Temperature, battery draw, and duty time are important to keep track of, but difficult for the average weekend warrior to judge accurately. The Superwinch ROAM system now makes it easy and intuitive to know exactly what your winch is doing, all the time.

Hi-Lift Exterior Locking System
Hi-Lift jacks are big, cumbersome, dirty, and heavy. They also look pretty cool. For these and other reasons many people like to bolt them to the outside of their vehicle. One problem with that is that they all look the same, so it’s easy for someone to nick yours and bolt it to the back of their truck. Cable locks, bike locks, and a host of homemade solutions have been around for years, but Hi-Lift just released an elegant keyed-locking system that adds zero complexity or weight to your vehicle. Now you can bolt your Hi-Lift to your bumper, roof rack, or roll cage, turn the key and forget about it. Until you need it of course.

Canvas Hi-Lift Bag
Another way to secure your Hi-lift is to simply keep it inside your vehicle. The downside of course is the mud, sand, and oil that will get over everything else you own. To address this, Hi-Lift have released a simple, form-fitting canvas bag that will completely encase all the sharp and dirty parts of your Hi-Lift jack. Just remember to strap it down so it doesn’t become a missile inside your car in an accident.

Rigid Industries Hilux Grill
One could be forgiven for thinking that Rigid only makes LED light bars. Indeed that is what they’re most well-known for. But they also make some incredibly detailed accessories to complement their lights. One of these is their new CNC’d grill for the Toyota Hilux. It allows you to discreetly and securely mount your LED light bar down low where you need it.

New ARB BP-51 Shocks
ARB and OME just released what may be the most advanced shock available to consumers in the world. The BP-51 high performance shocks use bypass technology and are adjustable both for rebound and compression. Manufactured from hard anodised aircraft grade aluminium, they look as good as they work. We were not allowed to take photos of the internal workings of the shock for proprietary reasons, but the attention to detail throughout their construction is second to none.

Ironman Foamcell Shocks
Ironman released their new Foamcell premium shocks simultaneously in Australia and the USA. An innovative valve design reduces aeration (foaming) under heavy use, especially under extreme washboard conditions. This allows the shock to run cooler and more efficiently, for greater comfort, vehicle stability, and longer shock-life.

By Ray Hyland

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