broadsideblog

A mini-van?!

In behavior, cars, design, domestic life, life, Style, urban life on December 8, 2012 at 2:38 am
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan photographed in Largo...

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan photographed in Largo, Maryland, USA. Category:Dodge RT Caravan Category:White minivans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you had told me that in this lifetime I would be seated behind the wheel of a Dodge Caravan, I would have said you were mad. Mad!

But this week I was. For those of you not in the automotive know, it’s a fucking mini-van! The sort of thing that soccer moms drive, full of screaming, squirming kids. The sort of vehicle that ends up in heart-warming commercials. (I hate heart-warming!)

We don’t have kids.

We don’t need anything this big.

I’ve only sat in a mini-van when I got into one that is a taxi.

Our ancient Subaru was in the shop for a $3,300 repair. Yes, you read that right. It took longer than our mechanic expected and — which is extremely classy — he paid to rent a replacement vehicle for us. But because of Hurricane Sandy destroying so many cars here when huge trees fell and crushed them, there’s been a local shortage of rental cars. So when I showed up to claim the Chevy Impala they had promised, there were four minivans and a huge truck.

Holy shit. Cars have changed a lot since 2001, the year ours was produced.

It’s new, it’s shiny, it’s huge. It tells me the temperature but I can’t find the clock. The rear visibility is a disaster — the window is too small and all those seats’ headrests block what’s left of it. I finally understand why women driving these things drive really slowly and cautiously and annoyingly. I started doing it too.

My Dad — at 83 — drives a black Jag. When I was 12, he had a gold Jag XKE, sex on wheels! My mother and grandmother drove sports cars into their 60s and I still mourn my beloved red two-seater convertible, a Honda Del Sol, that was stolen from our parking lot and pillaged for parts in 2003.

I saw my first super sexy sports car — a yellow Lotus — in my teens. That was it! I’m the girl who dreams of owning a Porsche Boxster, or maybe a Z4. I’d take a Mercedes or Jag if someone else picked up the payments and the maintenance costs.

But no econo-boxes!

I know, I know, it’s deeply shallow of me to care so much about what the car I drive looks like. Our Subaru is dinged and dented and gray and does its job well, for which we still appreciate it. But I am a total sucker for gorgeous, thoughtful design, whether in fashion, clothing, objects or cars. I was stuck in traffic a while back beside a Maserati — celebrity sighting!

Here’s Wall Street Journal columnist — and a fellow Tarrytown writer I see at Bella’s Diner all the time — Joe Queenan on how boooooring most cars have become:

Bond’s infatuation with his car underscores how little the average man has in common with 007 anymore. When the Bond movies first appeared in the early ’60s, the average guy might not own a Lamborghini or a Porsche or an Aston Martin, but it was still quite possible that he drove a car exuding a certain measure of style: fins, a convertible roof, a two-tone leather interior, fancy hubcaps, perhaps even wood paneling—inside and out. Because of this, he could deceive himself into thinking that there was a little bit of James Bond in all of us. Even if, like me, he was only 11 at the time.

But that was back in an era when men were men and cars were cars. Now all cars look the same. You can see it when the men come pouring out of the multiplex and pile into their automobiles. Honda Civics. Toyota Corollas. An assortment of vehicles that are putatively Ram-tough. And maybe, for the really daring, a Lexus. Which looks like an Elantra. Or a Sonata. Or an Acura.

But it doesn’t look like an Aston Martin.

don’t even get me started on the Priuses.

I myself am just as guilty of this failing as anybody. If Javier Bardem unexpectedly decided to rake my Sienna with merciless machine-gun fire, I’d say, “Be my guest. And strafe the Camry while you’re at it.” I feel the same way about the Nissan hatchback we used to own. A beige hatchback. Torch it, Javier. I’ll lend you the kerosene.

Do you love your ride? Or long for something dreamier?

  1. I LOVE my red and black Mini Cooper. I never considered myself a car person until I bought this zippy little baby. I even bought red driving gloves in Paris to go with it!

  2. Oh, yeah!!! High fiving you for your chic and style. I would expect nothing less! :-)

  3. Whilst my own 4 cylinder is out of action I’m driving my boyfriends V8 Holden Clubsport and although the fuel bill is killing me, it’s somewhat worth it.

    Love the power as well as the looks I get when they notice a female behind the wheel.

  4. Something dreamier, Big Time! I drive a little Ford Fiesta for economy and it’s a great shopping trolley/errand skate, but what I really want, is an R34 Nissan Skyline. A 2002 Subaru WRX would do nicely too. I have a thing for Japanese performance cars.

    Back in uni days I owned an ’88 Honda Prelude (exactly this: http://www.japanesesportcars.com/photos/d/132351-2/1988-honda-prelude-1.jpg). 17 years old when I got her and the best car I was able to afford at the time, and she was pristine. Metallic gunmetal grey and as low slung as they got out of the factory, she drove like a dream – her engine was silky as anything (previous owner babied her like I did) and purred with a sultry, smoky note. She was smooth and light through her gears despite a nice solid gearbox, and all wheel steer meant she handled pretty damned nimbly at speed for a non all-wheel-drive. You could throw her around turns, roundabouts etc and she’d sweep through with grace. Oh and we put a quality stereo in her pretty soon afterwards so that made the whole experience so much better.

    Put 70,000 kms on that car in the first couple of years I had her, she was such a pleasure to drive I simply never got tired of driving. Had to sell her eventually and cried when I did. Funnily enough I still live near the guy who bought her, so I still see her on the road every now and then!

    I still miss that car, even though I sold her in 2004/2005. I felt like a different person in the driver’s seat. There is something about about sliding into the seat of a car that I don’t have the words for. It’s the automotive equivalent of true love i suppose!

    • PPS The second last sentence of the first comment was meant to be: There is something about about sliding into the seat of a car you adore, that adores you back in its own mechanical way, that I don’t have the words for.

    • Indeed!

      I got my red del Sol in the winter of 2005, paying cash. It was the greatest pleasure of my life to drive, and I took some terrific solo road trips. I even compounded it every year to keep the color and finish fresh so it always looked new. They were discontinued years ago, as was the S2000 and even the Pontiac Solstice. The only two-seater convertibles available now are pretty pricey…but I am sooooooo determined to get back behind the wheel of one.

  5. PS, Jag XKE….mmmmmm yummy! I could definitely imagine you driving one of those

  6. Sadly, practicality overcame me, and I drive an 8-seater Toyota Estima. It fits the 6 children, husband and myself. The back windscreen is a good size and I do love the enormous side mirrors. Occasionally I dream of a two-seater sports car…

    • God bless any woman mothering six kids! :-)

      The Caravan does have huge side mirrors, but I find the weight of the vehicle a little much — I am a strong woman and I even struggle to reach and pull in the driver’s door. It also guzzles gas. But I can see why you’d need something exactly like that for a large family.

      • Ah the best thing about the Estima is that it’s light in the steering and handles like a much smaller car. It also has a GREAT turning circle. The guys at work refer to it as the space shuttle, and we’ve used it for transporting banners, tables and marketing materials to many events. It is not, however, in any way a cool car. One day I will be able to go for the impractical! IN the meantime, I enjoy being able to cram my 14 year old and 6 of his friends in the car. Amazing what 14 year old boys talk about!

      • One can only imagine! :-)

  7. Any columnist who writes this sentence “But that was back in an era when men were men and cars were cars.” can bite me. I’m a Prius-driving ass-kicking suburban mom with awesome mileage and insurance. Sorry, that “when men were men” line makes me want to punch someone.

  8. You tell’ em! I normally hate everything this guy writes. Plus I see him all over town all the time…

    I like the combo of awesome mileage and insurance. :-)

  9. I don’t get car love..although I remember the first car I ever wanted–I saw it in the little hick town I grew up in and memorized the make (I’d never seen one before)–It was a Volvo two-seater…When I was a girl, I knew I wanted to drive THAT car.

    Then I started earning money and realized that last thing I wanted to blow money on was a ride. My requirements became “it has to start when I need it to start.” Then I wanted it to start and have 4 doors. Then I moved south, to Kentucky and I wanted it to start, have 4 doors and air conditioning. Oh, and please don’t let it be yellow.

    And that is pretty much where it has remained. I have so many other ways to spend money…

    DH has a Boxster to which I say: Meh. My favorite car of the past few years was the 20-year-old Volvo sedan I got. What a tank. I just loved it.

    Now I drive scooter. I don’t miss worrying about car repairs and such. Groceries are a hassle and I get drenched from time to time (no snow here; that’s not a worry), but…I like not owning a car!

    • Meh to a Boxster??????? Oh, Barb, say it ain’t so!

      I do love a scooter. I’d be delighted to have a Vespa for tooting around Tarrytown — it’s all I need and would sip gas.

  10. Oh, must add, after reading the comments: I would SO drive a Mini if someone decided to give me one!!

  11. I drive a Mini Cooper convertible. Before that I had a bright yellow beetle. But I’ve always dreamed of having what I call a “Dylan Car” (of 90210 fame). My husband frequently reminds me that it’s not a Dylan Car, it’s a Porsche Speedster. Whatever it is, I’ll take it!

  12. Any car that keeps going with the travel we do at the moment and it has to carry stuff too. Dream wheels, a Landrover Defender. As a kid I loved the idea of a Jeep Wrangler. But living in England it has to be a beaten up Defender. For a sports car, a Porsche 911, red, old school styling.

    Jim

  13. I don’t have a license, let alone a car, but I like minivans: my parents drove them when I was young and still drive them, and they remind me of childhood and family and home. If I ever do get a car, it’ll probably be environmental and won’t stand out too much, just the way I like it.
    But first, I’ll need a license.

  14. I drove a mini van for several years prior to having kids. I thought it was great. Don’t drive one anymore because they got too expensive.

  15. My youngest is now a freshman in college so no more driving car pools for me. Therefore I had to laugh at your blog about the minivan. We though just sold it. We had so many great family fun adventures with this van. Thanks for writing this awesome blog!

  16. My choice would be a horse and carriage :)

  17. Very cool post and I love the comments. I’ve always been a Car Girl and can tell the story of my life in my cars and my parents’ cars. Almost a year ago my 20-year-old LeBaron convertible was headed for the big parking lot in the sky. Once you have a convertible, you’ll always have a convertible. For years I lusted after a Toyota Solara convertible. Lo and behold three appeared in town. The siren call. There was a red one, black leather interior, equiped to the gills. DH said, get something more practical, 4-door, standard even. No way. I got the Solara and have never been so crazy in love with a car. I feel like a freakin’ material girl, but that car delights me every time I get behind the wheel. It’s a 2002, but it runs impeccably. It’s beautiful. In an era of ugly cars, mini vans, and SUVs, it’s a work of art.
    I felt really sad driving the LeBaron to the salvage yard, blubbering that I hoped someone would restore it, but damn, that Solara makes me feed good!

  18. I take the subway. Metrocards are efficient ;) When I did drive, living outside of NY, I had a 66 Mustang. What I really wanted was an early 70’s era Lincoln convertible with suicide doors. In my wildest fantasies, a Jag.

  19. My husband is convinced I need a mini-van. I, on the other hand, LOVE (big letters and all) my 2006 Honda CR-V. I have no idea what’s under the hood. I’m unknowledgeable about cars in general, and I can’t get the tire off to change my own oil, but I love my little “truck”. I will never get rid of this vehicle. I have Aspergers Syndrome and this is the only car I’ve ever driven. It took me 9 years, but when I finally got my driver’s license, this was what I took with me to the DMV. It’s the car I learned to drive on and I have a big issue driving anything else. If it ever broke beyond repair, I would, ideally, get another one, just like the one I have. Same color and all :)

  20. I have liked all of my mini-vans because I like sitting up high so that I can seeee. I’ve thought about getting an SUV, but they cost a lot more, and don’t comfortably seat five, and a dog. I can see the day when I won’t need to seat five in my van, but I resist getting a car…I can’t see around all the bigger vehicles.

    • I admit, this was the one thing I actually liked a lot about driving the minivan. But I did NOT like having to clamber up into it, and the door was so heavy. Oy.

      • Hmmm, yeah, those of us who drive “normal” cars can’t see around those who are high up. Hence, the proliferation of mini-vans and huge, honkin’ SUVs.

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