Best Pickups from SEMA ’17

Posted February 02, 2018

By Dean Larson

Photos by Dean Larson and Jeff Bruss

Defining a pickup at an event like SEMA is no easy task. You have 4x4s, lifted cars, tricked out semi trucks, and the list goes on. So what makes it a pickup, and what does it take to make it on our list of best pickups from SEMA? 

The word pickup seems to convey a sense of utility. The idea that by owning one of these vehicles, you'll be able load large things into the bed and transport them, things mere SUV-owning mortals couldn't imagine stuffing through their rear hatches. However, upon review, this applies to roughly three of our favorite pickups from SEMA 2017, so maybe we need a new definition. How about this; does it have some semblance of a bed? Probably a bit of a stretch, but we're going to run with it.

You'll find all sorts of pickups in this selection from the show, except for one kind: mall crawlers. You know, those brand new trucks lifted 10+ inches in the air with 20-inch wheels, low-profile tires and polished suspension parts. Naturally, that's not really our thing, and we're willing to bet you agree.

If I were forced to pick a favorite pickup from the show, it would be this Ford prerunner built by Kibbetech in Newbury Park, California. I've got a soft spot for OBS (original body style) Ford trucks and I've owned a few now, including the 1997 Powerstroke I drive today. These trucks make awesome prerunners if done right, and they ooze desert racing nostalgia. This truck plays on the current trend for crew cabs though, making it unique an getting it some serious attention at SEMA. There's also a ton of tech and fabrication that went into the chassis, no tried-and-true twin I beam here. The gen III GM LQ9 engine makes sense for building cheap horsepower, but it's the only thing I'd want to change on this truck. Keeping the OBS grounded in its ’90s roots, I'd source a nicely built 351 Windsor like this one from Craft Performance Engines. This small block is stroked to 408 cubic inches and makes some 200 hp more than the stock LQ9 does.

There were a few other trucks that we agreed we true standouts. The ’72 Chevrolet C50 seen above started out life as a single cab truck used to haul mobile homes. It received a comprehensive overhaul at RTech Fabrications in Hayden, Idaho, which included a crew cab upgrade and a custom long box. Powering the C50 is a 5.9-liter Cummins diesel engine hooked to a NV4500 manual transmission. The interior was also tastefully updated with unique upholstery and a custom steel dash. 

Whether you prefer your pickups jacked up high like Daystar's ’41 Dodge Powerwagon, down low like Factory Five's new hot rod truck, or ready to put in a day's work like the Ford F450 plow truck seen below, the SEMA show has it all. 

Have a favorite truck from the show? Let us know in the comments below.

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SEMA Trucks