Roundabout: Why I don’t get rid of my dilapidated green van

By John Toth
The Bulletin

A few years ago I wrote a column about my 1995 green van, about how I didn’t want to trade it in because it has too many good family memories.
Well, it’s time for an update.
I still have it. For a long time it just sat around getting rusty, paint peeling, barely running, unreliable and not in any shape to be taken on a long trip (or any trip).
I ran a photo of it in that earlier column, but I won’t do that this time because it doesn’t look all that good. The old van has weathered a bit over the years as it accumulated 190,000 miles. I need to get it spruced up some before it’s ready for another photo op.
A few months ago, I decided to give it another chance. I took it to my trusted mechanic, Jesse Manning in Brazoria, and had him keep the car for as long as needed to get it back in shape mechanically.
It was quite a project, but he managed to get through it without breaking the bank (my bank). The old van came out of the shop humming, with cold air conditioning to boot.
Why do car ads say cold air, or cold a/c? What other type of a/c is there – warm a/c? Of course it’s cold. That’s why it’s an a/c. How about “super clean?” No duh. Who has ever tried to sell a trashed up car?
But I digress. Now the van is running so good, and I use it so often that I need to get it painted. But that’s not as important as having it in reliable, sound mechanical condition.
This old van has taken the family camping many times when my kids were little.
It took us to Orlando once, a trip that I extensively videotaped to make sure that I’d be able to bore the family with it many years later.
That was our third trip to Orlando and is memorable because Bobby, my younger son, got sick and threw up. I had to run out late at night and buy some vomit-be-gone.
Then, our older son, John, hit a baseball through the windshield at a Little League game.
My daughter, Stephanie, painted part of the new windshield purple when she got bored during another Little League game. A small part of this artwork remains visible in the lower right hand corner.
Bobby drove this van at age 14 after he kept begging me to let him drive. We were on a long country road, so I let him just for a few minutes. Then a problem popped up. The road started to curve.
“What do I do?” he asked as he gripped the steering wheel.
Turn the wheel.
“I don’t think we’ll make it. There is not enough room,” he said.
Then another problem popped up. A car approached in the opposite lane.
He made it just fine. I knew he would. The car passed uneventfully. Bobby’s hands were frozen to the steering wheel. He has since gotten better.
There are hundreds of stories in the van. Now you see why I cannot get rid of it. However, I do need to get it a cheap paint job and have a few more things done to it so that it gets a little respect on the road.
Meanwhile, if you see a green ghetto van with peeling paint running down the road, that’s me inside.