From Toyota's Tacozilla to Chevrolet's V8 Beast, 2021 proved a vintage year for speciality equipment
By Matt Bird / Wednesday, November 3, 2021 / Loading comments
The Specialty Equipment Market Association show couldn’t happen anywhere but Las Vegas. It’s often a bit over the top, a little gaudy, with no relevance to the real world… yet it’s hard not to be intrigued. The effort that the US manufacturers go to for the show – likely heightened this year with 2020 having been cancelled – shows they’re very keen on SEMA as well. As they should be, given the size of the aftermarket in the States. Consequently, as a venue to let their imaginations run wild, there isn’t anywhere better.
Ford, as always, has pulled out all the stops in Vegas. Seemingly not content with revealing the Bronco Desert Racer this week away from SEMA, the manufacturer has used the show to introduce EV concepts. The most intriguing of those is the Eluminator, based on a 1978 F-100 truck but powered by the Mustang Mach-E GT powertrain. So that means a twin-motor set-up, four-wheel drive, 487hp and 634lb ft. Big deal, you might say; sounds like a lot of overpowered EV restomods. The notable bit of the F-100 Eluminator, however, is that Ford has now added the Mustang Mach-E motor to its Ford Performance Parts catalogue. It’s become a crate motor like all those old V8s, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for classic projects.
Available at Ford dealers or online, each 285hp/317lb ft motor (don’t forget there are two in a Mustang) costs $3,900, is legal in all 50 states and is aimed at “builders looking for a transverse-oriented powertrain to electrify a range of vehicles from modern to vintage cars, trucks and SUVs.” Naturally, Ford has gone the whole nine yards with the F-100, dropping in the Mustang Mach-E interior, avocado-tanned leather and 19-inch billet aluminium wheels, with predictably stunning results. And while not every EV build will look like this, the appeal of replacing a wheezy old V6 with a box-fresh motor for a few thousand bucks, all while keeping the retro look, is clear to see.
Keeping a Mustang Mach-E powertrain in a Mustang Mach-E is the Shelby concept. Which is far more than the obvious colour scheme and a dubious bonnet scoop; not only have the Magneride dampers been overhauled, this Mach-E also has carbon fibre springs fitted. Along with the forged 20-inch wheels, they promise a bit of dynamic edge that hasn’t yet been found in the Mach-E GT. And, more broadly, show a future for companies like Shelby in the electric world. This is a Shelby Mustang that’s more attention grabbing and (hopefully) more exciting to drive than standard, without a combustion engine in sight. Which is encouraging.
But if it’s a V8 or nothing, you’ll want to know about the Chevy Beast. Powered by the 650hp, LT4 V8 (the same 6.2 used in the old Z06), the Beast is a “concept vision of the ultimate in high-performance desert running.” You can’t help but feel Chevrolet knew something about the Bronco Desert Racer, and decided the only way to usurp a V8-powered rally raid car was another one. With 50 per cent more power. Though the Beast, unlike the Ford, isn’t slated for production, it isn’t as far-fetched as you might imagine: built from a modified Silverado chassis and using both engine and brakes from the Chevrolet Performance catalogue, it’s certainly an adventurous build – but not a completely unrealistic one. Albeit with bespoke suspension, it should be noted. With fully adjustable struts and remote reservoir dampers. But, you know, if an electric pick-up isn’t your idea of a DIY build, then maybe a Beast homage might be more appropriate.
Or, finally, those who prefer their off-road adventures a little more sedate might be interested in Toyota’s Tacoma concept. Derived from the well-known pick-up, ‘Tacozilla’ is a “backwoods overlanding-ready ‘micro-house’ rig that pays tribute to Toyota campers from the 70s and 80s.” Which is just what we would have called it as well. Alongside the best name at the show, Tacozilla gets sauna-style flooring, a full bathroom with hot shower, cooking facilities and even a “3D-printed dining table that converts to a backlit piece of wall art.” Plus the finest set of graphics ever applied to a concept car. We did say the manufacturers take SEMA seriously – Tacozilla is one of three unique trucks built by Toyota for the show, as well as a whole new range of accessories. There are even a couple of Supras for SEMA but, when Tacozilla is in town, there’s only one Toyota we’re interested in.
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