A mini-van?!

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?

Here's A Car I Want — A 1950 Nash

... Nash + babes = Fun!
Image by x-ray delta one via Flickr

I am crazy about great automotive design. I love the chamfered edges of recent Volvos, the dashboard of the Mini Cooper, the swooping curves of the Allard, a British car made between 1936 and 1966. I love the deep bottle green of early MGs, the nuttiness of Karmann Ghias and Deux Chevaux.

My first car, when I finally learned to drive at 30, was a used gray Honda Accord, not sexy, but a great vehicle for rural New Hampshire, where I bought it and lived for a while.

But, no, not my dream car.

At 12, I wanted (still do) a yellow Lotus. My Dad, then, drove a gold Jaguar XKE, sex on wheels. He’s now 80, on the road as I write this, driving from Toronto to Madison, Wisconsin in his black Jag (used, dirt cheap.)

I mourn the loss of the Solstice, which I first saw at the Manhattan Auto Show as a concept car —  I never even got around to test-driving one. They killed the Honda S2000 and I am pissed to read the the Boxster is slipping in its ratings. If I ever have money again, it was top of my list. I’d still like to test-drive a Corvette, Z3 and Z4 and maybe even the Audi convertible.

For a while, I owned, ecstatically, a red Honda Civic del Sol, long since discontinued. Almost nothing I have owned, before or since, made me so damn happy every time I touched it. (It was, of course, stolen from my suburban parking lot, pillaged for parts and written off by the insurance company. Yes, I cried.)

So, geeky girl that I am, I read The New York Times automotive section every week and this week they featured a man and his 1950 Nash. What a gorgeous automobile!

From the Times:

The Ambassador Custom has several distinguishing characteristics. First, there’s the big and bulbous shape. Nash gave a name, Airflyte, to the look. Introduced for the 1949 model year, it was Nash’s first postwar design, and it featured enclosed front wheels for improved aerodynamics.

Nash also increased the turning radius. “When you make a U-turn you kind of have to phone ahead,” Mr. Conaty said as he tried to execute the maneuver on a wide, quiet street. “I’m not going to make it,” he said before resorting to a three-point turn.

Inside, the rumble of the car’s in-line 6 echoed through what Nash brochures promoted as the “Sky-Lounge safety interior.” The seats recline like first-class airline seats. There’s not much to the dashboard. All the dials, the speedometer included, are in a bullet housing on the steering column. The radio occupies the center section of the dash behind a metal roll-up door.

I love its fully-reclining seats — and wonder how many 60-year-old men and women were conceived in one.