Are you embarrassed by your minivan? Don’t be. There are many ways to accessorize your ride to make it the coolest one out there. Paul Hochman, “Today” gear and tech editor, was invited on the show to share some ideas for how you can pimp out your set of wheels.
A minivan is so practical: fuel efficient, roomy, and stable. Based on car frames, minivans have smoother rides and are more nimble than SUVs. But they do have their drawbacks. Most guys don’t want to be seen driving one. And most women don’t consider the phrase “soccer mom” to be a compliment. So if you love your minivan’s practicality, but wish it were a bit flashier, here are some options to customize it.
Removable magnetic flamesJust like Invisalign braces for kids’ teeth that can be removed just before their big dance, FastFlames.com has created an inexpensive and removable custom feature: magnetic flames. Suddenly, and inexpensively, dad doesn’t look like such a dork pulling up to the school. Designed by the world-renowned car detail artist, Art Himsl, the magnets won’t harm the car’s finish, they’re soft and flexible, have 90 pounds of pull and won’t peel off unless you drive faster than 110 mph.$32.95 for a set;
Custom wheelsOne of the best ways to change the look of a car is to start at the bottom — the wheels. Simply put, much of a car’s character is derived from how they look, which is one reason why over $3 billion was spent on custom wheels last year, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association.Assortment at various prices;
Stereo upgradesKenwood KSC-WD250 subwoofers are nothing more than big speakers that intercept the lowest frequencies coming out of your car stereo before they can get to the car’s smaller speakers. The result: your entire system sounds better. The smaller speakers don’t have to reproduce bass sounds (which they’re not usually very good at) and can focus their technology on reproducing the higher frequency sounds. Kenwood’s KSC-WD250 can handle 200 watts and has its own, integrated amplifier, which means it won’t tax your car stereo’s ability to put out big sound.$249;
Portable DVD playerMost parents traveling long distances with their children have heard the common refrain: “Are we there yet?” And there’s only so many hands of license plate poker you can play. To the rescue: a portable DVD player. Insignia’s 7-inch portable DVD player is inexpensive, comes with a player and two screens, and a useful carrying case. It also includes a remote control and an AC car adapter.$159.99;
Global positioning system (GPS)With Garmin’s portable GPS device, the nüvi 350, bikers can ride anywhere in the world – and no exactly where they are. The playing-card-sized nüvi 350 is one of the smallest, most powerful portable GPS systems. Easily stored in the back pouch of a biking jersey, the USB-equipped nüvi also works in a car. The battery-powered device has an MP3 player, 700MG of memory and is accurate to within 30 feet. It even records average and maximum speeds.$799;
Air freshenersBlue Q has a totally different, highly irreverent approach to air fresheners that hang on rear view mirrors. Instead of a pair of plush dice, one has “Fuzzy Dice” written on it in bold, black lettering. Another proclaims “Fragrant Gnome.” Blue Q uses high-quality essential oils superior to those found in conventional “tree” ornaments.$2.99
LuggageAl Roker once told me his minivan is a “iving rooms on wheels,” nd he’s absolutely right: you’ll find the remote for the in-car video stuck behind the seat, alongside the soccer cleats that were lost last fall. ut what Al’s idea also means is, decent carrying cases for your travels have often been replaced by less formal stuff — like shopping bags and ratty totes. Samsonite has created a new line of luggage called “Black Label,” which can dress up the hatch or luggage area in the back of a minivan. Designed by Marc Newson, who once designed for Louis Vuitton, the bags are lightweight, colorful, and well-engineered.$120 to $240; For more information on high-tech gear and accessories, check out Paul Hochman’s Web site,