Party of six with room to ride, a different kind of midlife ‘crisis’


I’ve been thinking a lot about cars lately, but this is no midlife crisis. Well, it is midlife, though I don’t feel any particular distress about it.

It’s quite the opposite, actually. I’m not thinking of a sporty little convertible built for two but a minivan built for a small army. A troop transport, that’s what this family of six requires.

These thoughts are prompted by my recent purchase of a car for my 16-year-old son and my wife’s involvement in a traffic accident. She’s fine, as is the other driver; the only casualty was our insurance rate. Good health is the most important thing, good coverage the next.

So we’re in the market for a gently used, low-mileage, low-cost vehicle capable of moving this many people across town and, on occasion, out of town.

As we browse the infinite-seeming online listings, I find myself recalling cars we had when I was a child — the Ford Pinto and Granada, the AMC Gremlin my aunts and uncles all shared and my grandmother’s station wagon.

My father once came home from work to show off the new Spitfire he’d bought on a lark from a colleague. It was small and foreign and a beautiful hunter green. My sister and I squealed with delight as we held our arms up to catch the onrush of air the open convertible allowed. In the end, it probably wasn’t the best choice for someone with two children and a pregnant wife. But then, neither was the Porsche 914 he brought home another day years later, or the Renault Le Car (OK, the Le Car wasn’t a good choice for anyone, regardless of station in life).

It isn’t these toy cars I’m nostalgic for, anyway; it’s the family cars. The big ones, the heavy ones, the steel dinosaurs that roamed the land with doors that took two hands and all the leverage a boy of 10 could muster to slam shut. I miss the dials and bench seats, the window cranks and plastic floor mats, the smell of gasoline that pervaded everything.

I’d like my kids to have such an experience. I’m in the market for a 1978 Buick Nostalgia LTD. It won’t be for everyday commuting, mind you, but maybe we’d take just a quick trip to the Emerald Coast of Florida with no air conditioning and no CD player. I’d buy a gallon of gas with pocket change and punch the buttons on the FM dial.

It would be a vinyl-seated time machine. I can almost hear the vibrato voices of the Bee Gees over the wind through the open windows.

On second thought, maybe it could just be a one-way time travel adventure. I’ll bring the minivan home, the one with multiple air vents and controls, mp3 jacks, a DVD player with headphones and doors that open with the push of a button from the comfort of my home.

I do get nostalgic from time to time, but I think 500 miles in my mother’s Buick would drive me into certain crisis.
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