Growing up, I was lucky to be surrounded by a slew of small European cars, ranging from BMW 2002s to VW buses. This revolving door of cool cars worked well — right up until I turned 16 and my parents opted for a Dodge Caravan. And thus began the curse of my high-school years: There’s nothing that stings your manhood quite like rolling up to a date’s house in something with sliding doors.
Naturally, in college I immediately seized on my newfound freedom to snag my very own cherry-red 1975 BMW 2002, and I’ve been lucky enough to follow that up with my own revolving door of small European cars. These have ranged from a slightly awkward but beloved Mini Clubman, complete with suicide door, to the even more awkward yet beloved BMW Z3 M Coupe (a.k.a. the Clown Shoe).
But it’s at the announcement of that third kid that any self-respecting gearhead starts to question things. I think most folks these days, when faced with the prospect of a family bigger than four, immediately start looking at SUVs. But for me, these overly rugged, rarely off-roaded gas guzzlers didn’t fit the bill. Then I remembered my curse of yesteryear… and the adventures we had in that classic Caravan.
We made the minivan jump. Feet first. No looking back.
The play on words always kinda made me chuckle: Caravan. It’s a car…and a van! But in a lot of ways, that is the draw: decent gas mileage, better handling than most SUVs, and the added benefit of sliding doors that won’t dent the hot hatch nuzzled into the next spot over. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned about having a van full of kids, it’s that they love to yank car doors open like they’re starting a lawnmower.)
Adventures ensued. Roof box. Road trips. Bikes on the back. Yosemite. Zion. Beaches. Badlands. Literally not crying over spilt milk (well, spilled milkshakes). It’s extremely liberating having a vehicle that’s meant specifically for hauling the hatchlings. Date nights in the hot hatch became even more special — an escape from Kidlandia in more ways than one.
The play on words always kinda made me chuckle: Caravan. It’s a CAR…and A VAN!
Not too long ago, we added a fourth rugrat and moved our family from the West to the greater NYC area. We drove the fam in the van from coast to coast, hitting 100,000 miles in the process.
Staring down the barrel of a mass-transit commute into the city meant we could conceivably consolidate down to a single vehicle: an #adventuremobile, with automatic sliding doors, tinted windows, maybe even a way to watch a movie from time to time. So we traded in our trusty transcontinental Caravan — along with the black Mk6 GTI I was driving at the time — for a lightly-used and exponentially nicer minivan: a 2012 VW Routan, also black.
I told myself again and again that I was fine with it. But as a lifelong car guy, I lasted…oh, about three months before I found myself buying a beat-up BMW 3 Series wagon with a manual transmission and the potential to become the perfect sleeper one day. It’s a fun car, and I love to drive it.
But on date night, when it’s time to go and my wife says, “Let’s take the nice car,” I know which one she’s talking about. And it still stings a little.