It seemed that overlanding was just a passing fad, unless you were at this year’s SEMA show. It has surged back over the last year and half, partially due to the pandemic where people wanted to travel and be outside. As such, a push in the auto industry toward more rugged offerings has begun.
That same craze was quite evident at this year’s SEMA show. From rooftop tents to snorkels to trucks converted to campers, these overland builds really bring out the explorer and adventurer in everyone. Well, maybe not me (I’ll take a hotel bed any day).
Since there was a staggering amount of overland builds at this year’s show, we figured we’d call out a few that caught our eye.
You don’t often associate the Volkswagen Atlas with off-road adventures. But, at SEMA Volkswagen teamed up with travel trailer company, Enduro, to create a VW Atlas that is ready to hit the dirt, thanks to H&R suspension clearing Maxxis AT tires wrapped around Black Rhino wheels. The Atlas itself is fitted with KC Hilites Flex lights. Extra storage comes from the Front Runner Slim Line II roof rack equipped with Front Runner storage boxes. In the rear, a Truma dual-zone fridge-freezer keeps things cool.
The Atlas is hitched to a 2,700 pound Enduro camper that sleeps up to six people with a king-size bed and equipped with a Roofnest Falcon XL roof-top tent.
With the Instagram handle Tacodust, you might think that Jason Denney likes Toyota Tacomas or tacos. You would be right on both, but Denney recently ditched his overland Toyota Tacoma for a Ford Raptor. Wanting to combine the go-fast capabilities of the Raptor with the camping setup of his Tacoma, Denney merged a prerunner with an overlander to create a prelander.
Raptors are capable in stock form, but a Camburg long-travel system with King shocks dramatically increases the speeds in the bumps. A host of KC Hilites lights allows the party to continue after sunset, with 37-inch General Grabber AT tires wrapped around KMC wheels providing traction. The bed of the Raptor uses an SDHQ Chase Rack to secure a full-size spare, a Dometic fridge, and a Pro Eagle jack. Once at camp, Denney can pop open the Go Fast Camper, hop in his jammies, and be ready for bed in under five minutes.
The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the original vehicles that ventured into the “wild” with overlanders behind the wheel.
Crew cab FJ-45 Toyota Land Cruisers are not easy to find, and the Bandeirantes are even rarer. Toyota ceased production of the venerable FJ-40 Cruisers in 1984. But, Brazil didn’t get the memo and kept producing the FJ-40 and 45 all the way until 2001, calling them Bandeirantes.
This FJ-45 Land Cruiser Bandeirante is ready for any overland adventure with an Old Man Emu suspension clearing 35-inch Maxxis Razr MT tires. In the unlikely event that it ever gets stuck, a Warn Zeon 10-S winch is ready to pull the big Cruiser free. A Nomadic roof-top tent mounted on a Freedom Bed Rack from Overland Vehicle Systems provides a comfortable place to sleep. The Bandeirante also pulls a Goat Overland Trailer for extra room for gear and bikes.
A second Land Cruiser was decked at SEMA. The Land Cruiser FJ-75 Troopy has a Mulgo Pop Top conversion. Instead of simply mounting a tent on the roof, the Mulgo replaces the entire roof. With the top popped, there is plenty of room to stand up, move around, and change clothes making for a comfortable camping experience (or as comfortable as you can get in a converted Land Cruiser). A lower profile also produces less drag for better fuel economy.
Toyota’s overland presence was strong at SEMA as a 2020 4Runner was showcased in a more realistic way, outfitted with everything you might need for remote travel and camping while still being clean and functional. This more realistic build features a slew of modifications that include a AluCab roof-top tent equipped with low-profile Sunflare XPLOR solar panels mounted on a Prinsu roof rack.
KC Hilites Pro 6 lights illuminates the darkest nights from atop the 4Runner. Protection comes from an ARB Summit front bumper, CBI rear bumper, and Westin sliders. Handling the bumps is a Total Chaos suspension system with Radflo shocks that clears the way for the 33-inch Firestone tires on 17-inch Mayhem wheels.
You can’t talk overlanding without mentioning Jeep. And if it’s a classic Jeep from the 1960s, that’s even cooler. Only 500 of these Jeeps were made for the military, making this the most unique overland build at SEMA.
This build was almost a complete overhaul and it is even powered by a Chevy 350 cubic-inch V8 engine with a Holley fuel injection system. Custom leaf springs with Sway-A-Way shocks make enough room for 37-inch Falken Wildpeak tires on Raceline wheels. The original interior was junk and replaced with a new one using seats from a Jeep JK. Giving the M677 overland cred is the mandatory roof-top tent and awning from HIT.
This may look like a classic, rare 60s-era Jeep, but it’s as modern as you can get and ready for the wilderness.
Ford has added the Tremor package to the Super Duty line which includes the F-250. The larger truck is conducive to some overland modifications.
From the popular YouTube channel Last Line Of Defense, Matt Pfieffer is well-known for his Toyota Tacoma, but super-sized his latest overland build with this Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor.
Instead of lifting the truck, Pfieffer went with a Fab Fours fender system making enough room for 39-inch BFGoodrich Mud Terrains on Black Rhino wheels. Bumpers from Fab Fours protect the nose and tail of the big Ford and hold a full-size spare in the rear.
There’s something fun and interesting about taking a hard-core, rugged truck or SUV out into the remote and sleeping under the stars. Testing the truck’s off-road abilities seems fun (for about one night or two).
For those with that adventurous spirit, the SEMA show was a great showcase for how you can modify SUVs and pickups for such open-air getaways.
Me, I’ll take driving the trucks and having fun during the day, but give me the comfort of a bed and indoor plumbing any day.