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Africa 03 Journal

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Behind the Rocks

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Blanca Peak

Camel Trophy

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Clayton, OK

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SEMA 2004

SEMA 2008

SEMA 2009


Drive to SEMA

At the Show

Top of the World

Twist Off 1999

Twist Off 2001

Venezuela '03

White Rim Trail

Yellowstone NP




Biosphere 110

Chris Tullmann

Craig Jones

Dan Cronin

Dustin Hindman

Firetruck D90

AEV J8 Sarge

Joshua White

Nathan Hindman

Patrick Scranton

Rover Tracks

Stuart Nance



SEMA 2009

Las Vegas, NV
November 3-6, 2009

Click on any of the images below to view them at full size.


2009 marked Pangaea Expeditions' third trip to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Unlike other years where we have attended to cover the event, this year we also brought our own vehicle, the Bio Bonatti project, a Land Rover Defender 110 which demonstrates the use of green technology in an overland vehicle platform.

As the world's largest automotive aftermarket show, SEMA brings together a collection of some of the finest craftsmanship from all niches of the industry. At this show, everything seems to be modified, including the infamous SEMA Booth Babes who seemed to sport their own collection of "aftermarket accessories". Unfortunately, it also brings out some of the most head-scratchingly bizarre examples of aftermarket product "innovation". Follow along as we bring you some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the show for us.

In front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, Toyota set up a proving grounds where show participants could drive the off road course in both FJ Cruisers and the new 2010 Toyota 4Runner. Both vehicles handled the course admirably with the 4Runner demonstrating an impressive array of new features including a Land Rover-like hill descent control and Crawl Control, a throttle control feature which keeps the vehicle at a constant, adjustable speed both uphill and down for challenging off-road conditions.

Maxxis Proving Grounds
The off-road proving grounds also hosted an impressive demonstration of Baja-style Trophy trucks used the short space available their capabilities. These trucks jumped the hills the Toyota vehices crawled over, getting significant air in the process. For anyone who has never seen Trophy trucks in person, they're an incredible sight. Neck snapping accelearation and ultra-compliant suspension made the jumps seem like mere child's play.

The large parking lot in front of the Convention Center was filled with all kinds of vehicles from SEMA show participants. Some of these vehicles were of unique historical value, such as the original 1978 Bigfoot "monster" truck and the famous Turtle Expedition truck. Other vehicles demonstrated unique craftsmanship such as the Toyota Land Cruiser Icon vehicles and the Adventure Trailers FlipPac found on Safari Pacific's MX2 expedition truck.

The Bigfoot monster trucks (Truck #1, left, #12 replica right).

The Turtle Expedition truck always draws a crowd at the show.

Jerry cans, spare tires and sand ladders are carefully stored.

Icon CJ3B on display outside.

The Icon CJ3B shows off LED auxilliary lighting and Warn RC winch.

Safari Pacific's MX2, nearly ready for its 'round the world solo expedition.

Adventure Trailers Overland Teardrop attached to a Hummer H2

The Storm chaser Jeep got a new coat of paint since last year.

A stinger bar on a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Awning deployed on the retro style Adventure Trailers Overland Teardrop trailer.

Neat Baltic Birch finished interior on the Overland Teardrop.

The Overland Teardrop makes surprisingly effective use of it's unusual shape.

Inside the show, vendors and manufacturers displayed new vehicles, existing products as well as new and upcoming innovations.

4x4 aftermarket pillar ARB displayed not only their classic products such as their bull bars and air lockers, but a number of recent products such as their thoughtfully color coded recovery straps, roof top tents and new Old Man Emu Sport shocks.

Pangaea Expeditions
Our Bio Bonatti vehicle was on display at the show, highlighting green technology in an overlanding platform. This vehicle started life in our hands as a wrecked D90. It has been built from the ground up using mostly recycled vehicle parts, while the diesel drivetrain has been modified to use a variety of green fuels including 100% biodiesel (B100), and waste vegetable oil (WVO). We drove the truck to and from the show completely on SynDiesel.

The Toyota booth this year was lacking some of the "wow" factor it had last year. Although the new 4Runner was on display inside, it paled in comparison to the hands-on experience available outside on the proving grounds. A Brooks and Dunn edition Tundra was on display with custom door handles and a roll out BBQ system in the back. The highlight of the booth however was a concept bike, the Toyota JGRMX bike, featuring a number of unique features including an air start system which uses the bike's frame as a tank.

Expedition One
Newcomers Expedition One had a pair of neat vehicles on display. The first, a Toyota Tundra featured some clever accessories including Sierra Expeditions MaxTrax sand ladders and a new injection molded plastic 4 gallon thin profile jerry can.

Disabled Explorers
Disabled Explorers had a booth at the show highlighting their cause, providing access to the outdoors for those of limited abilities. Their newly completed (just finished days before the show) Sportsmobile WAVE (Wheelchair Accessable Van for Expeditions) van was on display. In addition to being a cool all around vehicle, the Sportsmobile had interpretve signs to show how equipment was selected to ease access and usability for disabled people in the field.

Land Rover
Since Ford sold Land Rover to Tata Motors, they haven't had any official presence at the show. However, there were a number of examples of Land Rovers at the show, including Range Rover, Range Rover Sports, NAS Defenders and even a Series III at the Falken Tire booth.

This "Best 4x4xFar" Range Rover seems like it might even struggle crossing a curb, much less the Rubicon.

Another Range Rover Sport, this one in the Giovana section in front of the show with giant Dub wheels.

A 1997 NAS Defender 90 was on display at the Black Rock Wheels booth.

Urban Offroad had an off-road prepared Land Rover LR3 on display While the vehicle had some nice accessories such as a lift kit, oversized tires and a well made roof rack, we weren't a big fan of the screwed on trim such as the bonnet vents, front grille and rear bumper step.

Equipt Outfitters
Equipt Expedition Outfitters made their first appearance at the 2009 SEMA show. They had on display a nicely set up Jeep JK Wrangler Unlimited, as well as an array of National Luna Products, Adventure Trailers and Front Runner 4x4 accessories.

American Expedition VehicleS
American Expedition Vehicles had a nice collection of vehicles throughout the show. In addition to their booth showcasing new gear. Their JK Heat reduction hood seemed to be the hood of choice on many of Mopar Underground vehicles, while their Brute and Hemi conversion JKs were represented as well.

Jeep seemed to be the most well represented 4x4 marquee at the show. Modified examples of JKs seemed to be at every turn in the show. However, Jeep had a number of concept vehicles on display, made by Mopar Underground. In the Mopar display, there was the Lower 40, a JK Wrangler with 40" tires using stock suspension (ie no lift). There was also the Overland JK, currently on loan to Expeditions West. Mopar Underground also had a truck version of the JK similar to the AEV Brute tucked away in the Superchips booth.

Another surprising find at the Mopar display was a Jeep XJ Cherokee. The truck had a full carbon fiber dash display.

I grew up as a Ford guy (my dad worked for Ford Motor Company) and my first car was a 1967 Ford Mustang, so maybe that's why I have a bit of a softspot for the company. A trip to to the Ford display this year yielded some real gems. Throughout the week, a restomod Mustang was being built at the display.

First up was the new F-150 Raptor concept vehicle. While the truck looked OK, there was a 3D driving simulator with stunning graphics and a wraparound display available for SEMA participants to play on. A drool worthy, rally-derived Ford Focus RS was also on display. This was a tease though since this car doesn't appear headed for the US anytime soon.

However, the highlight of the Ford display to me was the 1966 Ford GT-40 Mk II. This was the vehicle that crossed the finish line first in the 1966 24 Hours of LeMans, where Ford made it's historic 1,2,3 finish as "the car that beat Ferarri" (although first place was later controversially given to the #2 GT-40 since it started further back in the pack and therefore covered more distance).

General Motors
The main focus of the GM booth was the new Chevy Camaro, however the highlight for us was a group of Hummer vehicles. Considering this brands inevitable fate, these trucks made for a nice swan song. First up was Robbie Gordon's racing-spec Hummer H3. Although this truck shares very little with production line vehicle. More based in reality were a the Rob Hall H3 race truck, which went on later that month to win the Baja 1000. There was also an H3T and an H3 in full off-road livery.

In addition to their stock vehicles, Subaru had a collection of unique vehicles including a pair of rally-prepped WRX STis, as well as an STi equipped with MattTraxx for snow conditions.

Street Rods
In the central hall, there was an impressive collection of street rods on display. Some vehicles were a part of the Optima Batteries Ultimate Street Car challenge, while others were on display from various show exhibitors. There were also a handful of examples of "Ratrods" as well, with an interesting change of pace from the shiny perfect examples all around.

House of Kolor
One of my favorite companies to visit at the SEMA show is House of Kolor. While some of their items on display seem a bit over the top, their collection of custom paint jobs is nothing short of amazing, and it's hard not to be in awe of the sheer artistry. Not only do they have painted cars and bikes on display, but also an engine stand converted into a BBQ grill, skate boards, a water cooler. Perhaps the most impressive though was a fridge which had been painted with a Hellboy mural. Regardless of your opinion of the content, the fridge was simply incredible.

SEMA wouldn't be complete without some of the more bizarre unique items that we stumbled across. From a Spongebob square pants "donk" car to sculpted diff covers to 2WD "off road" vans, these are things that just defy explaination.

Custom made diff covers. Surely those serpent heads won't hang up on the bottom of a boulder out on the trail.

A 6 wheeled low rider. Impressive craftsmanship, but a little pointless and confusing to say the least.

Unless this truck is owned by James Bond, there's just no logical explaination for a spiked rim.


And the Rest
A collection of some of the other pics from the show.










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