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By James Tate of MSN Autos
While you might think the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas is just about cars and aftermarket parts, kits and assorted upgrades for cars, you'd be mistaken. Sure, the pavement shredders take center stage. But there's a huge 4x4 and off-road contingent here in Las Vegas, as well. The rides on display will make even the most docile, timid men want to head to the mountains for some serious rock crawling. Here's a look at the highlights from this year's off-road exhibition. Calling these machines macho doesn't do them justice.
So you've "pwn'd all the noobs" (obliterated your opponents, in gaming terminology) you could find on Xbox Live. In fact, you're the baddest online soldier you know. You even threw down some serious coin for the Mopar accessory-laden Call of Duty Black Ops model 2011 Jeep Wrangler; it looked so hard-core you couldn't stop yourself. But this takes the hard-core factor up a notch. This one-off from Texas custom mod shop Xtreme Outfitters is one of the baddest-looking things we've seen in some time.
Here's the kind of thing you would never imagine wanting until you find yourself at a SEMA show, looking at it up close. This Toyota is rigged up to tow the Wrangler — presumably to and from whatever excursions deemed too rough for the former, though we can't think of any — and both share the white/black spikes aesthetic. The beauty of this setup is in the details. Those little spikes are everywhere — we saw some in the headlights, on the ball joints, etc. — and the overall attention to detail on both is magnificent. What could too easily have been gaudy and garish is instead the right touch of ridiculous for how well-turned-out it is.
It's easy to see why the Rally Fighter has become an obsession for so many — well, commuters anyway. The open-source-designed all-terrain all-weather everyman monster is more than a little striking in person, and is endlessly customizable, depending on the buyer's wants, needs or whims. The vintage fighter-plane look we saw at SEMA is among our favorites, giving a menacing old-school touch to a vehicle that is both supermodern and classic at the same time.
This is the ultimate in niche marketing and design, which makes it perfect for SEMA. It will have a presence at all of the Oakley surf competitions this year, so it at least will live a leisurely life. Lucky drivers will find storage for multiple surfboards, along with a built-in overhang, barbecue and ice chest. With its TRD-supercharged 304-horsepower V6 engine and lift kit, you can take the party anywhere in this Tacoma. Endless summer, indeed.
Any time a ground-up builder of off-road racers wants to throw 600 horsepower on a chassis and dress it up in a modified Ford Raptor body, we're happy to take notice. Yes, the first thing you'll notice about the Stewarts Raptor Pre-Runner is how cool it looks. The second will likely be how clean and civilized the interior design is — leather, MP3/satellite radio/iPod audio system, GPS, Garmin Streetpoint and Race Radio/Comms. It's like a dream come true. This one was built for racer Mark Weyhrich, so you can't have it. But Stewarts do come up for sale on occasion. Start saving now.
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trendand European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.