What You Make Of It
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September 16, 2013
Reprinted on DriveWrite Automotive on September 25, 2013
A car, regardless of what it was intended to be by its designers and manufacturers, is what you make of it.
A new friend, Geoff, wrote to me about how boring it was being assigned to review a van. I recalled my first time watching Top Gear. It was a white van test, and amongst broken things being thrown around and much mocking of the "white van man," the highlight of the episode was when a masked thief was invited to break into each van. The van that kept him out longest, won.
What might I do given a Ford Transit Connect, the nearest American market equivalent? Give my wife a video camera and browse Craiglist's skeevy free stuff listings for adventures in unusual cargo! Take it to a track day and see who we could publicly embarrass, you'd be surprised how basic modern technology compares to performance cars of years gone by (when left in stock form, of course).
So what happened when I really did get stuck with far less than dream car material and a very limited budget? My 2003 Pontiac Vibe was showing the signs of never having been kept in a garage, its owners for a few years not having money for anything but gas and oil, and 100,000 of Chicago suburban winter "battle damage." So instead of trying to cover up the scars and go Ghetto Fast & Furious on it with a Walmart budget, I went rally car with it. Names on the window, extra driving lights, carpet removed and green paint to cover over where salt-induced corrosion was ground off of the wheels, and it looks like its supposed to have all those chips knocked out of the paint on the hood.
Doze a little while driving on my way home from working night shifts and scrape a wheel on a curb? Hey, that scratch looks like it's supposed to be there! Glad it wasn't a thousand dollar chrome rim I gouged!
Hell, I'm even a fan of minivans. Zero masculinity, coolness, or car guy street cred whatsoever, what could you do if you were stuck with the Family Truckster three kids into life? Oh, what can't you do with a car that shares so much running gear with cars popular with guys who modify them? A Honda Odyssey driver at my son's school has chrome 18" wheels on his lowered minivan. That van already came with remote open power sliding doors, which would be right up there with gullwings and Lambo doors if it wasn't on a vehicle where juice box holders was a selling point. DVD entertainment systems are another nice feature of the genre, but if yours didn't come with one you could install one yourself pretty easily. With a power inverter you could fit a 32" flat screen in it and a PlayStation 3 in the back. With a big enough screen, possibly borrowed from the living room, you can play "drive-in theater" at a local cruise night. Then you can say all the muscle car owners were gathered around your Hyundai Entourage staring, even if they were technically staring at Angelina Jolie in Gone in 60 Seconds. Or how about an A-Team paint job on a Chevrolet Uplander?
No matter what sad piece of transportation you find yourself behind the wheel of, having fun with a car is just a matter of imagination and perhaps a few trips to Menards.
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