Top 5 Vehicles Of The 2018 Sand Sports Super Show

The Sand Sports Super Show was one of the biggest events to hit Southern California this season, and we were there to see it go down! Taking place at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, the event was host to thousands of visitors and hundreds of vendors all showcasing the latest and greatest for UTVs, sand rails, and more.

We took the time to visit some friends and then walked around the venue, taking in the sights and checking out all of the awesome builds put on for display. Suffice it to say, there were some wicked rides that would be right at home getting hucked out at Pismo or gliding lazily through Glamis.

Along the way, we found five incredible machines that we think deserve some time in the spotlight. Kicking us off is Nikola and its upcoming NZT/Reckless UTV.

5. Nikola NZT/Reckless

Nikola set up shop at the Sand Sports Super Show and was showing the world what it saw as the next big thing in powersports – all-electric power. Its flagship is the NZT, which was first teased to the world back in 2016; but the one getting all the attention in 2018 (including ours) was the Reckless, a militarized version intended for use in combat operations and done up in a tan desert scheme. Nikola brought the NZT, too, and had it set up to do off-road demos on a custom-made course behind their booth.

At the heart of the NZT and Reckless is a massive 125 kilowatt-hour battery pack called the Powerpack, supplying enough juice to give drivers a 150-mile range, which puts the UTV near the range of the Polaris RZR 1000. The Powerpack itself spreads to four motors on each wheel, all of which are waterproof (as is the Powerpack). Suspension comes in the form of 3.0-inch-diameter shock absorbers, all with 20 inches of travel.

The Powerpack (left) and E-Axle (middle) power the NZT (right) and Reckless with a combined 590 horsepower and 722 lb-ft of torque. The Powerpack can last up to 150 miles on a full charge, making it possible to keep up with the competition from Polaris and others.

There were more features that made the NZT/Reckless an outstanding machine to see at Sand Sports, and can be found on the Nikola website. The UTV represented a glimpse into the future of off-roading that’s cutting-edge and could one day dominate the dunes.

4. SDR Motorsports Custom Can-Am Maverick X3

SDR Motorsports out of Corona, California made a strong statement with this mysterious Maverick they built for a customer. Decked in a black-and-gold color scheme that stood out from the crowd, we stopped by and spoke with SDR’s Kenny McCoid to get the full scoop.

“We built this for a customer,” said Kenny. “It’s got Assault rear radius rods, HCR long-travel suspension, FourWerx carbon fiber everything – center console, rear engine cover – and an SSV five-speaker system.” Other electronics on the X3 included a Lowrance GPS system, PCI intercom system, and a KC HiLiTES 40-inch Flex light bar on top, along with lights on the A-pillars.

It goes without saying that this X3 was lean, mean, and a few other things. We loved it, especially the Simpson Pro seats done in a light brown color, and black Simpson D3 restraints. A PCI fresh air system in the middle supplies clean air to the occupants, which comes in handy when things get dusty. For their part, SDR supplied the X3 with door bags that could hold supplies and essentials.

“We got this X3 finished in six to eight weeks,” commented Kenny. “We’re really happy with this build and how it turned out. A lot of premier vendors came together on this and the completed project came together really well.”

3. Buckshot Avenger

This little beauty is called the Buckshot Avenger. Crafted by the folks over at Buckshot Racing in Camarillo, California, it’s a badass sand rail that shows what a good idea and hard work can do to make for awesome off-roading. On hand was Andrew Buck, who shared some details on what made the Avenger tick.

Interestingly enough, the Avenger seen at the show was still in the testing phase. “This is just the prototype car, so I think it will change up in the future,” said Andrew. “I built up it one piece at a time, adding more and more as I went along and making it look better. It has that ‘completed’ look now that people like to see.”

The wrap on the Avenger was a candy blue attention-grabber, with some metalflake thrown in for good measure.

Powering the Avenger is a GM crate powertrain. “It’s an LS3 Connect and Cruise powertrain,” said Andrew. “Ours is more of a race-ready setup. It’s got a better camshaft so it sounds a little better than normal.” Supporting the Avenger are hefty King 3.5-inch-diameter, internal bypass shock absorbers with 18 inches of travel.

The balance on the Avenger is good, as Andrew explained: “We put the seats toward the back, and the radiator, gas tank, and battery are all in the back. The only thing up front is the transmission cooler, which is there to get all of the airflow, because the transmission is going to generate the most heat out in the dunes.”

The wheels on the Avenger are Douglas beadlock wheels. The beadlock ring is a custom piece made by Buckshot Racing, giving it a unique look.

2. West Coast UTVs Polaris RZR “Sarsaparilla”

With so many Polaris RZRs competing for attention at Sand Sports, finding this one at the Kicker booth – dubbed “Sarsaparilla” – was like finding a needle in a haystack. Its professionally done exterior, immaculate interior, and logo of an undead bandito made us stop and take a closer look, and we’re glad we did. We found out it was the work of West Coast UTVs and sought out the founder, Dustin Pelak, to get his side of the story.

“I was inspired from visiting a friend’s house,” said Dustin. “I was working on his car and I saw he had this Prevost in his massive garage. I saw those colors and thought, ‘Man, it would blow some minds if we did a UTV like that!’ That was about three weeks ago.” Yes, that’s right; in less than a month’s time, Dustin and his team turned this 2018 RZR 1000 Turbo from stock to ready-to-rock, complete with the wrap and interior. “The only thing that didn’t make it was the underglow lighting,” said Dustin.

The UTV has about 300 feet of wiring done up to control lights, speakers, underglow, and more. "Between me and the boys at the shop, I'd say there's a combined 400 hours put into this build," said builder and owner of West Coast UTVs Dustin Palek.

Dustin was especially proud of the work done to get the stereo system wired up. “We’ve got a 1201 KM Series and an 800.8 KM Series amplifier on there,” he said. “We cut the floorboards out and rebraced the chassis to put two L7-8s in super-secure boxes to keep them safe.”

But none of this is to say that Sarsaparilla is built strictly for show – it’s also built to go! “We’re going to go put it through its paces,” said Dustin. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we will break something on here, because that’s part of the game. Even on the doors, we went the extra mile. MDF, fiberglass, sealed, protective lining inside and outside, and then we got it upholstered.”

1. American Sand Association 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Built by Joe Schmidt of Sand Limo, this 1969 Karmann Ghia was at Sand Sports to catch eyeballs, and catch them it did. It’s actually the property of the American Sand Association, a group based out of Tempe, Arizona. Their mission is to “unite, inform, and mobilize” individuals to protect the right to recreate on public lands, and every year, they organize raffles to give away a very special car.

“This Karmann Ghia is going to be the giveaway prize in 2019,” explained Rick Rothwell, vice president of ASA. “It was Joe’s vision entirely, and he built it for us. ‘It’s gonna be long-travel and be red, white, and blue,’ he told us.” It was at this point that Rick beckoned Joe over to talk to us and get the download on this VW.

With its amazing American flag wrap, custom Jettrim interior, and long-travel suspension, there was nothing else at Sand Sports quite like this '69 Karmann Ghia!

“The first thing we did was take a grinder wheel and start cutting all of the guts out of the body,” said Joe. “After we did that, we dropped the body of the car over the jig I built and started twisting the chassis into more of a sand car profile. We did the cage so it would protect the occupants, but it’s still out of the way for easier getting in and out.”

In the span of three months – including a whole month just on body work – the Karmann Ghia was finished. “Rick and I sanded off the white paint, and while it was getting wrapped, we assembled the chassis, and after that, we popped the body on and Jettrim did the interior,” said Joe.

One thing is for sure – whoever wins this Karmann Ghia at the 2019 SSSS is going to be a lucky son of a gun! We hope you enjoyed our Top 5 vehicles from the 2018 Sand Sports Super Show, and we want to know: which one is YOUR favorite? Pop down to the comments and deposit your two cents!

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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