HOME ARCHIVE 2018

There may come a day when we won’t have minivans

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I was going to follow up last week’s column on how I wound up driving a push-button transmission car, with a piece lamenting the days when the family car was the station wagon.

I was ready to write all kinds of anecdotes about those years, how we stuffed all the kids in there, including in the back, and what fun they had as we hurried down the road.

I’d love to get my hand on one of those 1970s Buick Estate wagons with the wood-grain side panels. The V8 engine sucked up the fuel almost as fast as we could pump it in there, but back in those days, gas was cheap.

With all the kids in there, and the baggage tied to the top, we pulled out of the driveway, much like the Griswolds.

I was going to spend the whole column on this, taking you back to the days when there was no such thing as computer boards in cars, but they were just about indestructible, as witnessed in the 1983 hit movie, “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation.”

That’s how family vacations used to be taken, and I was going to write about all of that. Until I found out that minivans are now in danger of going the way of the station wagon; its role being taken over by the SUV.

There will come a day when you won’t be able to buy a new minivan, which is perfect for just about anything, being just a box with an engine.

I read on the Internet (so you know it’s true) that the minivan is being phased out due to lagging sales. So, to save them, buy one next time. Let’s get those sales up, even though the other styles of vehicles look a lot sexier.

Then put your whole family in it and go off on vacation like Clark Griswold. Just try not to smash it up like Clark did his station wagon. In the movies, you can do that and still have it running down the road, except for the wheels being a little crooked.

Our first minivan was a 1993 Dodge Caravan (a car and a van). I bought another one a few years later. That was a 1995 Caravan. That’s the one you have been reading about all these years. An update is in the works.

Then I bought two more because they are the perfect run-around car and great for business purposes also. They don’t get the best mileage, but can they haul stuff or what? I could fit an entire bedroom (a small one) into the 2001 Grand Caravan. After that year, they started slimming it down some.

I drove the oldest van to Orlando and back when the kids were little. Then I used it as a distribution van during the week and to pick the kids up from school.

The first time I bought a minivan the salesperson told me it drives like a car. Then I test drove it, and it drove like a van. But that’s O.K., because I used to drive a VW minibus for a while in the summer, and it also drove like a van, except it had a standard transmission and made a lot of noise.

I still wouldn’t mind owning a VW minibus, the older kind, not the new ones coming out in 2022 with electric motors. If I buy a VW minibus, it will have to be noisy and ride like a truck with bad shocks, just like the one I used to drive.

And, like the kind I rode in after getting picked up while hitchhiking in the New Hampshire mountains one summer. That VW only had two front seats and a bench seat in the back, where the motor noise seemed deafening.

The two young ladies who picked me up also could not hear me. It was like a noise wall between us. When I got out, I thanked them for the ride.

“What?” one of them said.

I yelled louder. “Thanks for the ride.”

They smiled as I left, and I was thinking an opportunity was wasted because of that darn loud VW.

But I was a teen-ager. There would be more to follow. I know, it was a different world. I wish it would have stayed like that, parts of it, anyway.

And now the minivans will be gone, eventually replaced by some slick-looking SUVs. I’ll keep mine, though, just in case I need to move another bedroom of furniture somewhere.