Top Tech: 2017 Off-Road Expo

We made our way out to Pomona, California this past weekend to see what the off-road aftermarket was up to. As it turned out, the industry is brimming with radical ideas that are sure to change the four-wheeling landscape.

Manufacturers brought out their latest and greatest to the Off Road Expo. It was a real feast for the eyes.

We were there to collect the best of the best and bring them to you. Without further ado, here are our top tech picks of the 2017 Off-Road Expo.

ARB: 63-qt. Elements Fridge Freezer

When ARB first rolled out its fridge freezer a few years ago, it was a big deal. Running off of either 12/24-volt DC or 120-volt AC connections, the fridge freezer was a great idea for off-roaders and outdoorsmen. It provided constant cool to its contents, in exchange for negligible draw to the electrical system.

Now, ARB has the successor in the Elements fridge freezer. Made from stainless steel, weatherproof, and lockable, the Elements has more than just a few token upgrades. We talked with ARB’s Scott Frary to find out more.

The Elements fridge freezer has a 63-quart capacity. Alternatively, as Frary pointed out, this equates to “90 12-ounce cans.”

“We made the Elements able to bolt into the back of a pickup truck, hence the name,” said Frary. “It can be locked with a combination code, so nobody can mess with your temperatures or steal your food.”

With the lid shut and locked, the controls to modify temperature or power are sealed off. The user has to know the combination to get inside, let alone mess with the temperature. This shows what a great design the Elements is.

JKS Manufacturing: JK Bolt-On Coilover Conversion

Converting a Jeep to coilovers can be done a number of ways, but JKS Manufacturing wants to cut down on the difficulty. We spoke with Justin McLean to learn more about JKS’s new bolt-on coilover conversion for Jeep Wrangler JKs.

“The kit comes with a Fox 2.5-inch coilover with a remote reservoir,” said McLean. “It’s adjustable and has a JKS-specific spring rate. Last but not least, this is bolt-in. All you need to do is remove the factory shock tower and bolt this into place.”

The JKS coilover conversion kit comes with a JKS-specific spring rate for its spring. The 2.5-inch adjustable Fox shock absorber supplies damping prowess.

McLean believes the conversion kit is great for many Jeep enthusiasts. “If you have a 1.75-inch to 4.5-inch lift, and you want to go fast in the whoops and crawl in the rocks, this is the product for you,” he said.

J.E. Reel Driveline: Driveline Systems For Trophy Trucks, UTVs

Jim Reel of J.E. Reel Driveline was at the Expo to teach us about his company’s latest innovations. On display were drivelines for both Trophy Trucks and UTVs, showing J.E. Reel’s ability to handle multiple markets.

The Trophy Truck driveshaft was certainly intriguing. Next to it were broken pieces of hardware, which Jim explained. “These broken parts clued us in on where to make improvements,” he said. “We used heat-treated chromoly or a higher-grade steel where necessary to prevent breakages.”

Breakages on other driveshafts (Neapco or Spicer) gave Reel clues on what to beef up for his trophy truck driveshaft. "We've made this driveshaft bigger, heavier, and stronger," he said.

On the UTV side of things, a driveline system for Polaris RZRs was laid out next to a stock RZR driveline. “Compared to stock, our system uses a 40-percent larger U-joint and carrier bearing,” said Reel. “The carrier bearing uses a conical, two-piece bushing. This allows the driveline to get about eight degrees of motion and absorb jolts better. The stock version is hard-mounted, so ours is a big improvement.”

Reel confirmed that similar drivelines are in development for other makes. “We have a Yamaha version in the works right now, and we’re disassembling a Can-Am Maverick to see if we can do those, too,” he said.

Reel's other big development was this driveline system for the Polaris RZR. With bigger U-joints and a two-piece bushing on the carrier bearing, the driveline was improved in both its structure and shock absorption capability.

Wilco Offroad: ADV Rack For Tacomas

The folks at Wilco Offroad are the ones answering the question – “How much more can I load onto my rig?” Their answer for the 2016-present Toyota Tacoma is, “More than you might think.”

At the expo, we spoke with Wilco’s Paul Wilkins to better understand the new ADV rack system. Made out of an aluminum alloy, the rack is full-height, tent-capable, and comes with mounts already included for items like RotopaX and MaxTrax.

The ADV rack is made from an aluminum alloy. Despite its light weight, it has ample mounting points and supports up to 2,000 pounds.

“For the Tacoma crowd, we became weight-conscious,” said Wilkins. “The entire rack weighs less than 60 pounds, but it supports a static load of 2,000 pounds, or a dynamic load of 300 pounds.”

The Tacoma also displayed a Tiregate PreRunner. "It's a single-pin latch, it's lockable, and the swing can be mounted on either side to extend or reduce the cargo area of the bed," said Wilkins. "We also used polyurethane for the pivot and latch block, which dampens vibrations and makes for an ideal off-roading experience."

Total Chaos: Tundra Front End Suspension Systems

Total Chaos’ history of support for Toyotas is unparalleled. At the Expo, we got to see what TC had cooking for the Tundra: mid- and long-travel systems for 4×4 Tundras.

“We’re excited to be showing our new stock-length and long-travel boxed lower control arms,” said Nicole Patel. “Our stock-length upper and lower replacement kit is designed to bolt in a coilover and still use the factory coil bucket, and will allow for 11 inches of travel while retaining four-wheel-drive. Our other kit will offer 12.5 inches of travel.”

Total Chaos' stock-length and long-travel kits for Tundras use boxed lower control arms.

Something interesting about the kits is that both retain not just four-wheel-drive functionality, but the factory sway bar as well. “If you like the ride quality and the corner stability with your factory sway bar, you’ll get to keep it,” said Patel.

Even with the kit installed, the Tundra can still use its stock sway bar.

Addictive Desert Designs: Raptor Bumpers

Keeping pace with the latest in the off-road market, Addictive Desert Designs was proud of its multitude of bumpers for the 2017 Ford Raptor. We spoke with Ryan Yates at the Expo to learn more about the sleek, steel units, starting with the Pro Series.

“These are full tubular, .120-wall, mild steel bumpers,” said Yates. “They’re cut-frame, giving drivers an excellent approach angle. A universal lighting system is built-in, so you can run any light setup you like.”

The Pro Series bumpers are made from mild steel with a .120-inch wall thickness. Their cut-frame design offers a great approach angle, and the built-in mounting system accommodates practically all aftermarket LED lights. "This is geared toward a racing-style customer," said Yates. "Someone who doesn't need a winch or D-ring mounts up front."

Other Raptor bumpers on display included the Race Series R, Stealth R, and Stealth Fighter. “The Stealth Fighter is our number one seller by far,” said Yates. “The Stealth R has our EcoFlow technology, with venting built into the bumper to direct airflow to the intercooler. The Race Series R can run a 30-inch light bar in the center, as well as a 40-inch light bar up top.”

From top to bottom: the Race Series R, Stealth R, and Stealth Fighter bumpers.

Cognito Motorsports: Adjustable Radius Arms For 2017 Super Duties

Cognito Motorsports was handling the diesel side of things at the Off-Road Expo. Their white 2017 Super Duty had its goods underneath. Justin Lambert took the time to tell us more about what all was hidden on the truck.

“This F-350 is our mule for a lot of our lift kits and suspension systems,” said Lambert. “Right now, it has our new adjustable radius arms. You can modify the camber and caster with these arms, and they adjust from the bottom, which give the wheel more clearance from the cab.”

Also on the F-350 was a two-inch leveling kit, a dual-rate spring, Fox Performance Series shock absorber, and an adjustable track bar.

And not only does the truck gain more clearance for bigger wheels and tires, but it also retains great caster to keep it going straight down the road. Lambert was definitely proud of the radius arms, and said, “At Cognito, we don’t aim to be the first to market. We aim to be the best to market.”

What was your favorite of our top tech picks at the 2017 Off-Road Expo? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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