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I love my minivan. Apparently no one else does, because Chrysler is going to stop making them. Photo by Matt Ward

 

 



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Cars

by Phil Houseal
Oct 26, 2011

 

To me, all cars look alike.

I can’t tell a coupe from a sedan from a cabriolet. I guess a two-door has two doors, and a four-door has four doors. But a three-door?

I used to be able to tell the difference between a car and a pickup. But then they invented that Avalanche thing that converted from a car to a pickup.

I can sometimes differentiate vehicles by looking at the logo on the grill. Some have a billie goat head, some have three loops that look like the Venn diagrams we learned in New Math. There are three “H’s” - one plain, one slanted, and one that is a block letter “H.” There’s an “M” car and an “L” car, and one that has three letters: “GMC.”

The ability to tell makes and models apart is like the ability to not mix plaids and stripes or to discern tasteful decor from gauche: these skills elude me. I can identify a car by its color, but that is only when we are dealing with primary colors like red and blue, or black and white. Get into the mauves, taupes, beiges, and maroons, and they blur in a pasty palette.

I am impressed by individuals who can tell a Taurus from a Toyota. My son is one of those people. I once waved to a woman driving a white van, thinking she was my sister-in-law. “Dad,” my son said drily, “That’s an ’02 Sienna. She drives an ‘01 Sonata.”

Another time some friends of his were maliciously cut off by a couple of guys in a pickup. My son got the description of the vehicle, and knew immediately who the culprits were, tracking them down and carefully explaining the rules of the road.

How does he do that?

To him, the world of autos is just like the movie Cars - that Pixar film where cars are alive. “I’ve always seen cars as people,” he explained. “I can just look at them and know their personalities. Every car has a face.”

Proof of my lack of car knowledge is the fact that I drive a red minivan. And I am not embarrassed. I love my minivan. It is my turtle shell (my last van was actually green). Inside I can carry every item I might possibly need in the course of a typical day. Taking inventory as I write, I find this: blanket, pillow, duffle bag of basketball clothes, a melodica, violin, laptop, camera, suit, six dress shirts, spare tire iron, spare iron, Gatorade, mixed nuts, granola bars, roll of toilet paper, pair of running shoes, snare drum, gallon of water, novel, magazines, iPod, Halloween costume, flashlight, tool box, paper cups, and a piano. It is more stuff than I had in my first apartment. I can go for days without having to restock. And I’m prepared if a basketball game, bowel movement, or jam session breaks out.

Before we got a pickup, we actually used the minivan to haul our goats to auction. I have to admit when I lifted the tailgate and two goats jumped out in that lineup of duellies, diesels, and W-W stock trailers, even I felt a twinge of embarrassment.

I just read where Chrysler is going to discontinue manufacturing my minivan. This bothers me greatly. I don’t want to drive a crossover or sport utility vehicle, even if I could pick either one of those out of a car lot lineup. I might be convinced to go back to a station wagon, which I drove, slept in, and hauled my band equipment in before Chrysler invented minivans.

But I don’t think they make those anymore, either.