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People Are Transforming Pickup Trucks Into Desert-Runner Trophy Trucks

Every time I visit California, I’m reminded of a fad that’s becoming unusually popular out there and spreading to other areas of the country: modifying regular pickup trucks so they look like crazy, off-road, desert-runner pickup trucks.

The pickup above is an extreme example of what I’m talking about. I saw it in Newport Beach, California, just driving along on the pavement as if it wasn’t a ridiculously modified Toyota Tundra that now looks like it could bound over desert sand dunes at 80 miles per hour. As you can see, it has off-road tires, off-road wheels, massively wide fenders to allow for huge suspension travel and the tailgate removed so spare tires could be installed. It looks like it’s ready to do battle.

Lest you think this is uncommon, I suggest you turn to Google. I recently discovered the off-road fender thing — undoubtedly the most extreme part of this modification decision — is becoming so popular that dozens of companies are sprouting up, selling bolt-on fiberglass fenders that give this “Trophy Truck” look and allow for greater suspension travel. It seems ever since the Ford Raptor came out, truck owners wanted to do this themselves, to their own pickups — and they decided to take things much further than the Ford Raptor.

Proof of this is in a few pictures above, where you can see an actual Ford Raptor dressed up to take on this “desert-runner” persona. You’ll notice the wide fenders and the rear-mounted spare, but look closely and you can see the suspension come up through the bed in back for truly insane off-road capabilities. This exists for when the Raptor simply doesn’t cut it — or for when the Raptor just doesn’t stand out anymore.

Spend enough time in California, and you’ll start to see a handful of these trucks every day, but I still stare at each and every one: Never in my entire life did I think people would pay big money to convert, say, a 2000 Toyota Tacoma into a desert-runner look-alike, and then use it on pavement, but that’s exactly what’s going on. And as an observer who enjoys seeing weird cars on the road, I must say I kind of enjoy it, and I can only imagine the further possibilities: the Chevy Traverse Desert Runner. The Range Rover Desert Runner. Or maybe I can make a Trophy Truck out of my Mercedes-Benz station wagon. I just need some wide fenders and a good imagination.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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  1. Next time you are in California Doug I can arrange to take you out in some of these trucks.  We do 6 or 7 off-road runs a year with 20+ trucks (mostly Raptor’s and trucks capable of keeping up with a stock Raptor).  You can see more of what we do here… and you can send me a message patrick @ raddrives . com

  2. The Raptor really accelerated this trend and now here in Texas the Raptor is the new Jeep. It’s the go to wannabe cool ‘kid’ car for the 35 to 50 year old who is never ever going to use it as designed. All while spending $10k plus on accessories. 

  3. I have my fair share of complaints about people who drive pickups but oddly this isn’t one of them. As long as it’s not rolling coal, these kind of look, dare I say, cool!

  4. I may be the first to say this;  ‘welcome to the southwest’
    this trend did not start with the raptor…it is a 2-3 decade long tradition……and not only they look ready to battle, most of the time they do battle and are used on the weekends for desert prerunning. quite the opposite, the raptor was a response to this trend.    however, reading the last part of your article, most likely you will never see many unibody suv`s dessed up as prerunners.   most of the builders prefer full chassis trucks/suv`s.    (the ford ranger has been the preferred donor vehicle for decades now.)
    I would strongly suggest taking a quick trip south of the border to ensenada around novebmber, to watch the baja 1000, its a couple of hour drive for you and worth the time, you literally will see hundreds of prerunner style vehicles

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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