A look back at some favorite aftermarket accessories

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

‘Raindrops on roses” and “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” may have been the favorite things that Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers selected when they wrote the score for “The Sound of Music.” And “whiskers on kittens” and “warm woolen mittens” are nice, but as we end this more than a dozen-year score of automotive aftermarket product stories, it’s my turn to share some of my favorite things.

I’m guessing that over the course of our time together, I’ve profiled more than 600 products and detailed dozens of customized vehicles that provided templates for what you might want to do to your own car, truck, crossover or SUV.

Although the products were diverse, they tended to have one thing in common: Someone encountered a problem, devised a solution and three people who saw that solution said they wanted one and a new company was born. That was the case with one of my first stories.

Grandfather bought a new pickup, but with a short bed. He loaded his fishing boat into the bed and headed for the lake. As he drove up a hill, the boat slid out of the bed and onto the road. He called his son for help. Son arrives, helps get the boat to the lake and then goes home and welds together what looked sort of like a football goal post, except its base could fit into the standard pickup’s trailer hitch receiver.

Next time Grandpa went fishing, the front of his boat rode in the truck bed but the rear was supported and secured a few feet behind the open tailgate.

Oh, Grandpa had to stop again on his way to the lake, but this time it was because he was flagged down by others who asked where he got this unique boat carrier, and thus the Darby Truck Extender and the birth of Darby Truck Accessories.

It’s a story I’ve heard and reported many times: Problem; problem solved; new company born. I never tire of hearing such stories from problem-solving entrepreneurs, many of whom never intended to become entrepreneurs, but their solutions were so clever that they simply had to start their own businesses. It’s the American Dream come true.

I’ve also tested many products in the course of writing these reports, and some of them I’ve liked so much that I use them on my own pickup.

■The Fuel Efficiency Adviser is a small device that plugs into your vehicle’s OBD-II port (usually located just below the dashboard on the driver’s side) and presents you with all sorts of real-time data about your car.

My truck doesn’t have an onboard computer readout that provides instant fuel economy or distance to empty or such, but this device does all of that, and more. You can set the four windows to show a variety of data. Mine shows speed and rpms, instant mpg and average mpg for the drive I’m doing.

Since driving a few Porsche test cars, I’ve become a huge fan of digital speedometers, which give you a precise number and don’t force you to guess your speed from a dial.

■Michelin tires may be a little more expensive, but I’ve become confident in the product and have gotten more than 70,000 miles — and still have good tread left — on my last two sets.

■Not all of us with pickups want a cap or even a tonneau. I’ve found a great alternative, the Tuff Truck Bag, a rubberized and lockable waterproof bag that holds 26 feet of gear (it measures 40 by 50 by 22 inches) and still leaves room in the truck bed for a tool box, cooler or golf clubs.

■To keep stuff in your bed, try a Gorilla Cargo Net from SafetyWeb Products Inc. It’s a heavy-duty cross between a tarp and the typical truck-bed net. It’s much like the tarps used on big semi-pulled flat-bed trucks.

■You need to be able to see where you’re going and I’ve found that Invisible Glass from Stoner does a great job, both on the inside and outside of a vehicle’s windows. Spray on. Wipe off. Plus the spray can fits in an empty cup holder.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.