Toyota Tundras at 2009 SEMA Show

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Toyota produced two special edition Tundras for the 2009 SEMA show last week. The first was the “Tailgater” – a fancy tribute to country music duo Brooks and Dunn that doubles as a tricked-out mobile BBQ platform. The second was a call-back to the hot rod days of the 50’s, a regular cab short box Tundra with a flame job, moon hub caps, and a 50’s era Toyota logo.

Toyota's custom Tundras shown during the 2009 SEMA show.

Toyota's custom Tundras shown during the 2009 SEMA show.

While they’re both cool, neither truck demonstrated a new concept or an attempt to establish the Tundra as a great canvas to work from. Still, there were a couple of neat ideas, and you have to give Toyota for trying in a down market:

The Tailgater

The Brooks & Dunn Tailgater edition of the Tundra

The Brooks & Dunn Tailgater edition of the Tundra

This was the show-piece – the truck that Toyota really sunk some time, effort, and energy into. The stand-out features are the engraved silver door handles, the pull-out grill assembly attached to the tailgate, and the various hand-tooled leather elements in the interior.

The pull-out BBQ grill on the tailgater.

The pull-out BBQ grill on the tailgater.

That's real silver engraving - very sharp.

That's real silver engraving - very sharp.

What’s missing? Well how about the fact this truck has a 3″ lift with tires and wheels that are too big for such a small lift. What about the fact that this “show” truck doesn’t even have a TRD exhaust (that’s a stock pipe sticking out).

The Hot Rod

The retro call-back Hot Rod Tundra

The retro call-back Hot Rod Tundra

Wood paneling in a truck bed? It's been done...many, many, many times before.

Wood paneling in a truck bed? It's been done...many, many, many times before.

This truck almost seems like an after-thought. A flame job, some retro hub caps, and a wood-paneled bed are cool, but all these features can be found on a classic show truck at any good-sized car show. Frankly, what’s the point of tapping into a history that Toyota had absolutely no presence in?

No disrespect to the creators and artisans who built this truck , but the bottom line is ‘meh.’ This truck doesn’t even sport a TRD lowering kit, despite the fact hot-rodders were cutting springs and removing leafs to get lower back in the day.

The retro Toyota logo is cool, and the interior has some cool aspects…but if the words “slapped together” don’t apply to this interior, when do they apply?

Retro 50's Toyota logo.

Retro 50's Toyota logo.

The problem with SEMA trucks is that auto manufacturers have nearly unlimited resources…taking a stock truck and doing it up is always cool, but we expect a lot more from an auto manufacturer. Either demonstrate a new accessory concept or package that could make it into production, show a potential styling cue, or use all your resources to make something awesome. Last year, Toyota recycled the diesel dually concept they showed in 2007. This year, they made a couple of rather tame trucks. Next year, how about one of the following:

  • Show us a working Tundra with a jury-rigged hybrid synergy drive in a goofy Prius color. THAT could get people talking.
  • Show us a Tundra with a full complement of TRD performance accessories and a custom-designed ground effects kit that might just be available someday…either from Toyota or a friendly after-market company.
  • Take a Tundra short box, chop the frame, and make some sort of toyish monster truck that doesn’t look even a little bit real.
  • Show us a military version of the Tundra – see if the Army might participate somehow…they’re always looking for recruiting opportunities.
  • Make a special edition production version of the Tundra that taps into a popular movie or video game, then announce at SEMA it will be available on a very limited basis nationwide (sort of like the special edition Scion xB concept crossed with the Terminator Tundra from back in the day). Even 100 of these trucks would be enough to get a lot of attention from the movie’s fan base.
  • Attack Ford’s Raptor F150 and make a one-off TRD Tundra that one-up’s all of the Raptor’s features.
  • Turn a stock Tundra into a half-size semi truck, complete with a set of half-size semi trailers in tow.

Whatever you do, do it right. No more “show trucks” with fewer accessories than your customers are installing on their own vehicles with their own limited resources.

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  1. mk says:

    well said. Not much on either tundra for the WOW factor although a grill, etc. in the back of the bed of the tundra would come in handy on Sundays.

  2. TXTee says:

    100% agreement with this statement: No more

  3. Mickey says:

    Brooks and Dunn truck is way overdone. Not to mention my truck’s name on TT is Midnight Rider and they used it on that overdone truck. Jason you had a better idea of a grill on the back. I don’t lose no bed space with that. The sound system maybe nice but that’s all she wrote. I like to look at new idea’s but SEMA should try to keep it within the realm of what the average person can afford. At least try a hybrid or diesel. Flame job with a woodie? I’m not hard up for the woodie look. Those hubcaps are great on an old Merc but not this truck. Oh well thanks for the info Jason.

  4. says:

    Lame trucks not impressed at all!

  5. – Like the new site! Your truck puts those trucks to shame.
    Mickey – You bet. I don’t understand why Toyota tried really…those trucks looked like last-minute attempts and/or poorly funded ideas.
    TXTee and mk – It unanimous.

  6. Here is an idea, Yoda. Make a full blown drag truck with the 5.7 in it to show what the full potential of the 5.7 is. That would interest me. not exactly SEMA stuff but it would be better than the gaudy belt bucket truck and his cousin, the teen with a can of spray paint and a flame stencil, truck.

  7. Jeremy – I like it. A drag truck is always a good idea. Racing slicks, a wheelie bar, parachute, gutted interior, fiberglass bed. Lots of stickers, fire extinguishers, and a stock powetrain with TRD supercharger…cool. Throw in some actual drag slips and you’ve got a real-world example of Toyota performance.

  8. Think more evil. Actual One off TRD blower sticking out the hood, chrome and butterflies. Running fuels so volitile it makes nitro glycerin seem tame.

    Something like this with drag slicks and a blower sticking out the hood:

    I’m not crazy, we prefer to be called Eccentric

  9. I like that pic man – did you draw that? I forgot all about it.

  10. No, I found that a few years ago on the interwebs (HA ha ha ) and haven’t been able to find it since.

  11. Mickey says:

    How about this one then…

  12. Well I like it…and the cups one too.

  13. Mickey says:

    Jason it takes two hands for those cups I have.

  14. TXTee says:

    They should get in touch with Toyota marketing. Now THAT might blow some people away over the trucks shown at SEMA!

  15. Mickey says:

    Jeremy I got it off of ebay. Had to get two so I would always have a cup to drink the coffee.

  16. Very interesting subject , thankyou for posting . “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” by Herbert Spencer.

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