Every year, the world famous SEMA show is held in Las Vegas to highlight the best innovations and new products in the aftermarket automotive world. When most vendors and attendees take a flight to the show, we take the scenic route. For 2019, 14 off road enthusiasts, Youtubers, Internet TV stars take on 10 days of hardcore off road wheeling in heavily modified Jeeps/4x4s that spans 4 states and over 1800 miles in this endurance-testing adventure. Join us where the pavement ends on PowerStop’s Trail To SEMA.
Trail To SEMA: Florence, Arizona
The home of cacti and desert heat is coincidentally the home of some of the best wheeling the country has to offer. That is why we find the new season of Trail To SEMA kicking things off in Florence, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. Florence’s off road trails feature hard, sharp, desert-floor rocks that are not only difficult to maneuver, but can cause some serious damage. Whether modifications were installed last minute or well in advance, they were put to the test early on the 10 day endurance-oriented adventure.
We meet Ian Johnson first. With more years of experience wheeling than some new enthusiasts have even been alive for, he was an easy choice to bring along and we thank him for being the “voice” of this season. Many returning players brought new builds to play with and Ian is the perfect example of that. His aptly named and freshly built Jeep LJ “racecar” is a full on Ultra-4 machine with a Jeep body wrapped around it.
The racecar isn’t the only rig on this year’s adventure with an identity crisis, though. We hope you missed Ian and Matt’s (Bleepin’ Jeep) friendly rivalry from last season, because it picks back up in episode one when Ian calls out Matt’s Jeep Cherokee for being a Tube Buggy. Whatever it is, it’s named the Scorpion Crawler, and it’s back with a tune that gives it a whopping 2 more horsepower (or horsepressures, as Matt calls it).
During our first pre-trail debriefing of 2019, Jeremy Clanton of Rigid Industries gives us the scoop on our first two trails: Upper Woodpecker & Highway To Hell. While there are many optional lines available, Jeremy made sure to remind us that the obstacles we were to encounter are known for doing some 4×4 damage no matter how good the driver is. With this warning and challenge freshly in mind, we aired down and lifted our dust masks, setting off from the trail head to embark on 10 days of hardcore wheeling.
On our way to our first obstacle at Woodpecker, Florence gave us a nice shakedown of what’s to come. Underneath our tires were long stretches of flat desert floor we could open up on and narrow, jagged rocks that could only be crawled through. The terrain was very-buggy friendly, which is why Matt from Busted Knuckle Films had no issue sending his MegaRZR over the first obstacle. His 2017 Polaris Turbo 4-seater is incredibly capable and was voted on by the fans to be brought on this year’s Trail To SEMA over his Jeep. The fans wanted to see if the RZR could hang with Jeeps with 40in tires… it didn’t disappoint.
At PowerStop, we pride ourselves on empowering adventure as well as experiencing it ourselves. Our Z36 Truck & Tow upgrade brake kit is constantly tested and improved in real-world applications like Trail To SEMA. Also, we just like to get out of the office and on some obstacles. We know HP Tuners shares that same DNA. For another year, Alyssa and Jay Payson join us representing Trail To SEMA partner HP Tuners to test the MPVI2 engine/transmission tuner and most importantly, crawl over some rocks. With Jay’s 2018 SEMA build “Lil Booger” and Alyssa’s Hemi-powered JKU, variety is the spice of life for the HP Tuners team and we’re excited to show you what they conquered this year.
Highway To Hell Trail
Moving on from Woodpecker, the crew tackles the rocky road un the trailhead of Highway To Hell. Upon arriving at Highway To Hell’s welcome sign, a shrine made out of previously broken 4×4 parts, the crew tightened their boots and scouted out what was to come. The first real obstacle pitted us against a hard line through a v-notch into a series of ledges with a 6ft waterfall at the end. This nasty stretch of challenges gave even Ian a pucker-moment before wedging him in. The waterfall was the highlight, though. With so many drivers of different experience, vehicles, and backgrounds, many different lines were taken up the Highway To Hell obstacle. Most notably, while trying to preserve a fresh paint job that was to be featured at the SEMA show, Marvin Stammel took an unconventional line that allowed him to show off just how many “Horsepressures” his Jeep had when he gave the skinny pedal the beans. The roaring sound gave our ears the automotive-equivalent of ASMR.
Unfortunately, we didn’t escape Highway To Hell unscathed. Hollie’s machine, MischiefMaker, is known for being one of the most strong and capable machines out there. It came as a surprise when she experienced a break just 3ft from ascending the waterfall. Her brake line got caught in her shocks, leading to a broken line, a soft brake pedal, and brake fluid leaking on the rocks below. Luckily, the Trail To SEMA crew looks at an obstacle the same way they all look at a break: excitement. Everyone instantly jumped in to help repair Hollie’s JKU and ultimately got her over the obstacle.
The Trail To SEMA Crew Visits Rigid Industries
Realizing the day was quickly escaping us, it was time to head back to the highway and over to Rigid Industries. The leader in aftermarket 4×4 lighting accessories graciously invited us to their Arizona headquarters to learn how to make lights that proved to help us “own the night” on a future Trail To SEMA episode…stay tuned. Thank you again to everyone at Rigid Industries and especially for Jeremy Clanton for leading us on our first day of the new season.
In many ways, episode one is a shakedown of what’s to come on the 10 day, 4 state off road adventure where the pavement ends on the Trail To SEMA.
Be sure to check back next week for Episode 2 where we arrive at Big Bear, California!
- Optima Batteries
- Mile Star Tires
- Aero Lidz
- HP Tuners
- Lucas Oil
- Vision Wheel
- Rev Kit Co
- Retrax Bed Covers
- IVD Suspension
- RCV Performance Products