Chevy Colorado Chrome Tubular Assist Step. Click image to enlarge
by Tony Whitney
Nobody, it seems, dresses up their vehicles quite like pickup truck buyers – and automakers answer the call with almost endless lists of accessories to personalize a new rig.
If you buy a high-end pickup truck, it’ll come with all kinds of practical and cosmetic features, but even if you top a $50,000 price-tag, there’s a whole world of add-ons out there to make it even spiffier.
Of course, buyers have different reasons to exploit the (usually lengthy) options list and add a few more bucks to the sticker price. For some, it’s simply a matter of what’s needed for demanding work duties, while for others, it’s a quest to create the coolest truck in town. Either way, there are lots of choices in truck manufacturers’ options lists (some include several hundred) but I’ll look at some of the more popular add-ons typically offered by Big Three makers who dominate the market.
One of the most practical items to order right from the start is a bed liner. If the truck is going to be subjected to any serious hauling duties, a bed liner is essential in preventing scratches to the paint finish that will eventually initiate rust. Bed liners are usually moulded from a composite material and are produced to fit specific truck models. Once installed, the liner will enable the buyer to load all kinds of normally damaging material into the bed without damage – including gravel and broken concrete. When the time comes to trade in the truck, a battered bed liner can be discarded and a pristine bed is revealed for the new owner.
2005 Nissan Frontier factory applied spray-on bed liner.Click image to enlarge
Spray-on liners are also available and at least one truck maker offers this as standard. Spray-on liners involve a thick layer of rubbery material that covers the bed and does the same job as a moulded liner. Interestingly, Chevrolet offers what it calls a “Bedrug” – a carpet-like material that helps protect fairly delicate loads like furniture. It will handle quite rugged cargos too and is moisture-resistant.
Buyers who don’t have to load their truck with large items on a regular basis often opt for one of the bed tonneau systems most makers offer. These tonneaus may be of pliable vinyl material or of lockable hard shell design. Either way, they protect loads from inclement weather and provide security (especially in the case of the hard units) for tools, sports equipment and similar items. The best of the vinyl units allow the tailgate to be opened without disturbing the cover and have metal frames clamped to the bed walls to prevent sagging when it rains or snows. Hard tonneaus usually raise on a pair of gas struts, much like a sedan trunk.
Cargo storage containers are another way of securing tools and other valuable items that just have to be kept under lock and key. Several truck makers offer storage containers – which may be constructed from composite material or metal and are usually secured to the bed up by the cab. At least one automaker offers an interior storage container that is detachable and can be carried from place to place. Moulded in colours to match vehicle interiors, it’s probably a good way of getting a little extra security when carrying valuables around on the truck.
2005 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Crew Cab with Bed Extender. Click image to enlarge
In recent years several pickup manufacturers have introduced bed extender systems, usually made from tubular steel, which expand the cargo capacity of the truck simply by lowering the tailgate and flipping the extender over. This accessory is particularly useful for buyers of “crew cab” type trucks which often have a fairly short bed to keep the overall length of the vehicle within reasonable limits. If the extender cage is left in its “foldaway” position, it creates a contained cargo area which can sometimes be useful.
GMC Sierra Extended Cab with Assist Steps and Bike Carrier. Click image to enlarge
Of course, not everyone who owns a pickup truck finds it easy to climb in and out – especially if larger wheels and tires have been opted for on full-size trucks. To help people of smaller stature, or perhaps older and less mobile users, truck makers offer a variety of side step and “running board” options. These units make it easier for anyone to hop up into the cab regardless of height, using the grab handle just about all pickups have as standard. Side steps are usually fabricated of sturdy tubular steel and have textured rubber pads to prevent slippage. They also provide a “premium” look and dress up the truck nicely.
Truck manufacturers are always looking for new ways to win customers in what is the most competitive of all auto industry segments. For 2005, General Motors is offering tent units that convert its compact pickups – GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado – into rudimentary easy-to-setup campers. The tent sleeps two and even has a roll-out awning. It folds into a small pouch for carrying and to make the conversion complete, GM will sell you a matching air mattress.
While manufacturers of pickup trucks do offer huge rosters of accessories which can be opted for at the time of purchase, the aftermarket does a pretty wide-ranging job too. There are entire magazines (mostly from the US) devoted to truck accessories and modification products and many of them are worth a look – especially prior to a truck purchase. Manufacturers tend to lean towards practical modifications and “sensible” dress-up add-ons, but aftermarket suppliers have no such restraints and offer all kinds of weird and wonderful pickup accessories.
Certainly, life is never boring for a pickup fan with money to spend and the whole business of truck accessories makes for one of the most fascinating of automotive scenarios.