Trucks at Work

You want “hot”? We’ll give ya “hot”!

Who doesn’t think customized trucks are cool, I ask you? From Class 8 tractors on down to pickups, when the customization gets cooking, all sorts of sharp looking rides are the result – the kind of results that appeal to a wide assortment of folks.

Speaking of such customization where light trucks are concerned, check out some of the vehicles displayed at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, held in Las Vegas this year.

First up is a Ford Motor Co. 2014 Transit Connect “Hot Wheels” themed cargo van done up inside and out with a wide range of custom features, including two 18-inch tablets, a 55-inch television screen, gullwing doors and a built-in Hot Wheels drag strip.

For this job, Michigan-based custom builder Ice 9 Group worked with designers from Ford and Hot Wheels, taking a Transit Connect down to its basic elements and rebuilding it from the ground up, creating a one-of-a-kind “dream machine,” in the words of Keith Strong, president of Ice 9 Group.

"We basically re-skinned a new vehicle," he said. "We did all the computer-aided drafting and tooling, removing the old body panels and crafting a whole new look. Every single aspect of the exterior is different, including the roof. The idea was to show just how far out you can take a vehicle like this – a small van – that isn't typically thought of when you go to SEMA."

Here are a few more details about the Hot Wheels Transit Connect: powered by a 2.5-liter Ti-VCT four-cylinder engine, it’s been widened 4 inches in front and 6 inches at the rear. It features functional custom exhaust ports on either side, gullwing doors in place of the sliding doors, new front fascia and bumpers inspired by Focus RS, and custom 20-inch wheels.

[Speaking of “hot” by the by, check out the latest “Gymkhana” craziness dreamed up by stuntman extraordinaire Ken Block, featuring a 650-hp Ford Fiesta. You heard me right: this compact car is fired by an engine that cranks out 650 hp. Oh my!]

You know, “hot” is a word that’s got a lot of connotations in the vehicle customization world, but West Coast Choppers used this word “hot” in the literal sense when it created an 8-foot combination “KitchenAidOven” and white oak chopping block cooking sensation to fit in the bed of a Toyota Tundra pickup for the SEMA show.

This one-of-a-kind Tundra pickup features a Texas barbecue theme, with the ability to sear a Texas Longhorn and defiant “Come and Take it” slogan into meat on the custom iron oven grate. The West Coast team also lifted the truck 4 inches and added a more rugged look through matching black fender flares, N-FAB nerf steps and Method Race Wheels.

Additional featured items include General Tires, a Camburg suspension and OPTIMA batteries to keep power flowing.

Here’s another “hot” custom pickup look from SEMA, this time a Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne concept vehicle from General Motors.

This “performance-oriented” version of the 2014 Silverado regular cab comes equipped with a 420-horsepower 6.2L V-8 , a lowered ride height, a rear stabilizer bar and Brembo carbon ceramic brakes.

“The Cheyenne concept explores the performance possibilities of the all-new Silverado, which is already built on a mass-efficient layout and delivers a greater balance of performance and efficiency than any other full-size truck in Chevrolet’s history,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing at the show.

Unique lightweight features of this concept vehicle include carbon fiber replacements for the bumpers, tailgate and inner cargo box, shaving approximately 200 pounds from the 4,503 pounds base curb weight of a 5.3L-equipped Silverado regular cab with a 6-ft 6-in. box.

Cheyenne designers matched the form of the lightweight components with their low-mass function, Perry noted, with the carbon fiber front bumper includes racing-inspired ground effects styling complemented by carbon body-side ground effects while the carbon fiber tailgate incorporates a spoiler. The hood on the truck also features a Camaro Z/28-inspired extractor vent, he said.

The Brembo carbon ceramic brakes also save more weight because the carbon ceramic-matrix rotors are significantly lighter than conventional steel rotors, Perry added. On Chevy’s Camaro Z/28 sports car, for example, they save more than 20 pounds – and it saves un-sprung weight, too, which enhances driving performance with more immediate and direct handling, he pointed out.

The Cheyenne “diet” also removes the trailer hitch, spare tire, interior center console and some of the sound-deadening material, Perry added, with the truck also featuring a lightweight aluminum driveshaft and composite rear leaf springs.

“’Lightweighting’ is a time-honored method of making the most of a vehicle’s performance which Chevrolet has demonstrated time and again with vehicles like the original 2001 Corvette Z06 and the 2014 Camaro Z/28,” said Perry. “And like those vehicles, the Cheyenne complements its lower weight with more horsepower.”

The EcoTec3 6.2L V-8 that powers this concept truck is rated at 420 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs. of torque but Perry stressed it is unavailable in regular-production Silverado regular cab models.

“With the Cheyenne concept, we’ve taken the low-mass concept to a new level – with exciting results,” Perry said. “It is only a concept right now, but we are continually exploring new ways to give Silverado customers more.”

Fun stuff to contemplate, though, that is for sure.

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