His name is “Big Tex,” he’s 55 feet tall, and he welcomes every single visitor to the annual Texas State Fair in Dallas.

Tex – a statue installed by the fair entrance, to be clear – towers over the midway and weird food concession stands (deep-fried beer, anyone?) as well as over the largest automotive exhibit at any fair in North America. The highlight at this auto-park? Trucks.

Texans buy almost 400,000 pickups a year—that’s twice the number we buy in the whole country. So it stands to reason the biggest fair in Texas would host some of the biggest pickup marketing events in the USA.

Frankly, that’s why I often find myself in Texas at this time of year; ’cause, like it or not, what Texans want in their trucks is often what we get here in Canada.

In fact, the Texas State Fair has become ground zero for the majority of new pickup reveals, and this year was no different.

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General Motors showed off the next generation of its highly successful Duramax diesel, while Ram unveiled its Raptor-fighter, the TRX. Over at Ford, the 2017 aluminum-bodied Raptor was also shown—again. Nissan had the Titan line on hand, and Toyota made the most of its built-in-Texas – San Antonio, that is – Tundra and Tacoma.

As for what we’re getting in the North, let’s start with the Duramax. The original Duramax has sold over two million copies since 2001. Now we get the updated version.

This new 6.6-litre V8 turbo-diesel has been redesigned with a new cylinder block and heads. Oil and coolant flow capacity has been increased, and the turbocharging system is now electronically controlled.

Horsepower has increased to 445 and torque now reaches 910 lb-ft. Ninety percent of both numbers are achieved at just 1,550 rpm.

A new patent-pending feature is a redesigned air intake system. This setup uses an integrated hood scoop (available on 2017 HD Silverado and Sierra) with a trap for snow, sleet, and rain, allowing cool dry air to get to the engine without clogging up the intake.

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A new two-piece oil pan makes the Duramax quieter, and also houses an integrated oil cooler with 50-percent greater capacity than found on the current engine.

Of particular interest to Canadians will be the new Duramax’s cold-weather performance. Thanks to microprocessor-controlled glow plugs, the engine requires less than three seconds to preheat in temps as low as -29 C. These new ceramic glow plugs adjust current to each plug based on outside temperature.

This new engine still comes coupled to the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission, which has a stellar reputation.

At the Ram display, a large sheet covered an obviously muscle-bound truck, and the crowd laughed as a stray wind almost blew it off prior to the reveal. Jim Morrison, new head of the Ram brand, joked that the TRX just couldn’t wait to get running.

The Ram Rebel TRX has been dubbed a concept by FCA; however, there is no doubt in my mind they’re building it. Based on the Ram 1500, this is not a show truck. It is a fully-engineered and -designed pickup meant for extreme off-roading.

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It starts with a 575-hp 6.2-litre HEMI V8 coupled to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Front and rear axles are built for severe duty, and the truck sports 13 inches of wheel travel at all four corners. The use of bypass performance shocks at the front and rear should mean impressive damping ability.

The truck body is six inches wider than a standard Ram 1500, mainly to accommodate the large fender-wells that house the aggressive 37-inch tires. They are all bead-locked, and the bed carries two spares.

The 4WD system is sourced through Borg-Warner and employs different computer-controlled modes, including Normal, Wet/Snow, Off-road, and Baja. The front axle uses an open differential, while the rear has a selectable locker that works at any speed.

The look of the TRX is macho-aggressive, an overall impression that is enhanced by the specially tuned exhaust note that blasts out of the short five-inch pipes just ahead of the rear wheels. Its design cues borrow from both the Rebel and PowerWagon—good company to be in.

Stopping the truck is a Baer six-piston monoblock caliper mounted on 15-inch rotors. Ram says this TRX is easily a 100-mph off-road machine, and that it should be available early in the new year.

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While the new Ford Raptor is not technically new, it hasn’t gone on sale yet, so it’s worth having a look at again.

Completely re-engineered using the new F-150 aluminum body, the Raptor is now 500 lbs lighter than its predecessor, and uses the second-generation 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine with a 10-speed transmission. The new EcoBoost gives the Raptor 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, all routed through its six-mode terrain management system.

All the underside components have been re-engineered to work with the aluminum alloy body and fully boxed high-strength steel frame. The 4WD system is a clutched all-wheel drive setup that optimizes traction options as required.

It was leaked that a virtually stock Raptor would be competing in the upcoming Baja 1000 desert race. It will be interesting to see how it fares.

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The unveiling of the “Texas Titan” special edition

An interesting side note: manufacturers offer some special trim packages on trucks here—but only to Texas customers. Ram has offered a “Lone Star” version for several years, and this year updated it to the “Lone Star Silver Edition.”

Chevrolet offers a “Texas Edition,” while Nissan, too, has a “Texas Titan” package (on the old Titan, anyway). Ford and Toyota both have Texas Editions, and Ford’s King Ranch trim is named after one of the largest ranches in the state.

Toyota took a page out of Ford’s book by naming its Tundra’s top trim the “1794,” the year when the ranch outside of San Antonio where the assembly plant now stands was established.

The best we get is the “True North Edition” by GM. Certainly speaks to how important the manufacturers consider the Texas market, eh?

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