The Truth About Cars » Family http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 03 Sep 2015 13:30:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Family http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com An Unexpected Lesson: Making the Long Trip Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158466 In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it […]

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shelby side

In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it was, true to the author of that essay’s own meandering experience, that I found myself on a sunny, if not entirely idle, afternoon this past June tossing a small rucksack into the back of my well-worn Shelby Charger setting out for Seattle, some 1800 miles away.

That my mother was ill was a fact I had long known. Just how serious the situation truly was, however, took everyone by surprise. One day the doctors were telling my brothers and sisters that our mother had as much as a year left to live and then, almost the next day, were coming back to say that she might have just a few weeks. By the time the news reached me in Leavenworth, the prognosis had been shortened to just days. After an hour or two of hand wringing, I decided I should probably go.

I can say now that the right thing to do would have been to fly, but there were several factors that played into my decision to drive. The first was that I really didn’t believe the news. I had spoken to my mother the previous week and she had sounded healthy and happy, so this sudden turn for the worse didn’t really register with me at the time. She had been sick and then better several times and this was, I reasoned, just another low point that she would claw her way back from. She had done it before and she would, I thought, do it again.

Also, my time in Leavenworth was coming to an end. Graduation was just a week away and, the best year of our life completed, our household goods were set to be packed and shipped almost immediately thereafter. I had a thousand things on my mind — orders, passports, reservations, airline tickets, the kids, the dog, and, added in there somewhere, the disposal of my Shelby Charger. This last thing, surprisingly, was proving to be quite irksome.

Selling the Shelby should have been a snap. It looked great, ran good, and had a raft of new-old-stock replacement parts to go along with it. Someone somewhere, I reasoned, should want it. Originally, I had worried about selling it too quickly. I still needed a second vehicle for our final days in Kansas and so, overconfident that the buyers would beat down my door, I hung too high a price on it. Ultimately, I think now, that helped drive them away.

Shelby front

Looking back, I can see that a Shelby Charger isn’t the kind of car the general public is usually interested in. Most people who buy a car like this, a “near classic” I call them, have to be a model-specific enthusiast; someone who wants a specific car in good but not totally pristine condition, at a good price. These people, it turns out, are in short supply, so after weeks of running fruitless advertisements,I decided to send the car to my brother’s house where he could use it as he saw fit and where it would be when I ventured back to the Seattle area on whatever odd errand would eventually carry me there.

I was considering shipping the car and had already obtained several quotes when the news of my mother’s situation interrupted my planning process. Still not entirely convinced that she really was in her last days, driving the Shelby out to Seattle would help solve two problems at one time. The added benefit would be that I wouldn’t need to rent a car while I was there and, once mom got better, I could just fly home. It was a perfect solution.

With this in mind, I carefully packed the car with the many replacement parts that had been included when I purchased it, packed a small bag for what was sure to be a quick trip, and said goodbye to my wife and kids. It was about 3 p.m. when I put the little car on the road to the interstate and, although I had originally questioned the decision to go, now that I was on my way it felt right. After a stop for gas in Platte City, MO, I caught northbound Interstate 29 and gradually wicked the speed up to just under the limit. Although I had owned the car for several months, this was the first time I had taken it out for more than a short blast. As I rolled through St. Joseph, the town where my mom was born and raised, I was surprised at how smooth the car was running.

Way back in 1983 when the little Shelby had rolled off the production line, the speed limit was just 55 miles per hour and it seemed logical to me that the car had been geared to run most efficiently at right around that speed. To my happy surprise, however, the car wanted to run at 65. Although that was still slower than most of the posted speed limits in the many states that lay west of the Mississippi, it seemed a good pace. I could, of course, have pushed the car harder, but after noticing that the temperature gauge was hanging just below the red zone, I decided not to push my luck.

Nor was handling an issue. The Shelby felt at home on the superslab and tracked smoothly along at speed. The little car might be old, I thought, but it was definitely in its element on the open road.

I passed into Nebraska in the late afternoon and switched over to I-80 in Omaha just after the evening rush hour had cleared. As I ran westward, a line of severe storms plunged the countryside into an early, ominous dusk and soon I was observing lightning with an ever increasing frequency off to my right. At around 8 p.m. the storms that had been staying just slightly north of the Interstate finally worked their way south and began to dump buckets of rain onto the road. The little Shelby’s windshield wipers beat furiously on their high-speed setting, but no matter how hard they worked the driving rain made clearing the windshield impossible and I found it difficult to see. Blinded, I moved the car to the right side of the interstate, found the fog line, and switched on my emergency flashers as I straddled that glorious line at a bare 30 miles per hour like a slot car on a track. At one point, the steady drum of raindrops turned into the pinging of high-speed hail and, for the first time that day, I began to wonder just what the hell I had gotten myself into. As I approached the town of Grand Island, I decided enough was enough and pulled off the road for the night. Although that sort of weather may seem normal to some people, I felt lucky to just be alive.

By 5 a.m. the next morning, the skies had cleared and the raging torrent that had been the road the night before was once again dry. I spent a few minutes looking over the little car before I started on my way and was relieved to find out that the only damage the hail had caused had been to my nerves. After topping off the oil and filling up with gas I put the car back on the interstate determined to reach Salt Lake City in just one Jump.

It turns out that it is almost 800 miles from Grand Island, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. Google Maps tells me that it should take somewhere around 11 hours and, in order to make it, I had to push the little car relentlessly. Although I was confined to the slow lane almost the entire way, I made decent time as the sun rose behind me and about the time it got into my eyes I had noted that the countryside turned from verdant farmland into the drier, more varied terrain of the high plains. Sometime in the early afternoon , I entered Wyoming and, a few hours after, crossed the continental divide. From there, I reminded myself that it was, technically, all down-hill and I found myself relieved to be, once again, on “my own side of the continent.”

Shelby interior

All through the long, hot day, the car beat steadily along at just over 65 miles per hour and, despite their age, the Shelby’s overstuffed, velour seats proved to be surprisingly comfortable. Once again the needle on the temperature gauge climbed and remained dangerously close to the redline and I worried as, from time to time, the slight odor of blistering hot motor oil wafted through the cabin. Still, as car after car screamed by in the fast lane, the little Charger continued to hum merrily along, looking good and, I’m sure, providing a fun momentary distraction to the bored passengers of those faster, if only slightly more comfortable, cars as they flashed by.

I had another run-in with a huge thunderstorm that again left me driving blind and questioning the wisdom of my journey and by 5 p.m. had reached the town of Rock Springs, Wyoming. By now I had been in the driver’s seat long enough to be tired and cranky and, as the day had progressed, left me spending considerable time thinking about my mother’s condition. Now, as I found myself stopped in the back-up for what had obviously been a terrible one-car accident, thoughts of life and death were hitting close to home. My mood was thoroughly dark when I finally rolled past the nearly unrecognizable hulk of what had once been a Jeep Liberty and got back up to speed.

I still had a long way to go and, to make matters worse, the Shelby struggled as I worked my way upward through the gears. The engine seemed to be fine. I had shut the car down during the long wait and it had cooled off nicely, but the clutch was having a real issue as its normally high engagement point had dropped to the final inch of its travel. Getting it to disengage as I ran up through the gears was a problem and, as I worked my way further west, I considered the possible mechanical issues. The car had a non-hydraulic clutch, I knew, and it seemed most likely that an lock-nut or adjustment screw had vibrated loose during the day-long drone. It wouldn’t be especially difficult to fix, I thought, but despite the fact that I had a car full of replacement parts not having any tools would be a problem. I was pondering my options when I passed a billboard for a place called “Little America” and noticed that they had a mechanic on duty 24 hours a day. Problem solved, I thought.

As the desert oasis known as Little America hove into view I worked the car down through the gears with as little grinding as possible and exited the highway. I limped over to a service area only to find that it was intended for semi-trucks, not cars, but by now the situation was obviously so bad that I could go no further. I shut it down right there and went inside.

It took some convincing to get one of the mechanics to come and look at my car, but to his credit, when he finally did, he spotted the issue right away. The plastic housing on the clutch cable was broken and the entire part needed to be replaced. Parts I had in abundance, so I unloaded the back of the car looking for what I needed but came up empty handed. I sat there pondering my luck, if it had been almost anything else I would have been fine, but for whatever reason it had turned out that the one part I needed was the one I didn’t have.

Of course I tried to cobble something together, to make some temporary modification that would make it work in order to get back on the road, but after an hour of rolling around under the car on the still-hot asphalt I realized my journey was at an end. Even if I could get the car back on the road, I thought, there was still a 150 miles of desolate western Wyoming terrain to cross and at least one major mountain pass to clear before I pulled into Salt Lake. Having a breakdown out there in the dark could be fatal and I had already had enough thoughts about death and dying for one day. Enough was enough. Defeated, I called my sister in Salt Lake and she agreed to come and get me.

With the help of a good Samaritan, I pushed the Shelby to the corner of the parking lot and wondered how much of it would remain there in the time it would take to arrange to get someone to come and get it. I couldn’t stay, I had to go on, and so it was likely I wouldn’t see the car again soon, if at all. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, I walked past the gas pumps to the store to get a drink and, as I did so, noticed an almost empty car hauler at one of the pumps. “Are you heading to Salt Lake” I asked.

“No,” the man told me, “I’m going to Kansas City.”

I paused for a second and then asked, “How much would cost to have you take my broken down car to Leavenworth?”

The man thought for a moment and answered, “$500?” We struck the deal on a handshake and within the hour the Shelby was on the truck, headed back the way it came. Problem solved. I was exhausted and repaired to the snack bar where, it turned out, the food was pretty good and I had time to decompress.

Shlby on carrier

It took a couple of hours for my sister and her husband to arrive and we returned to Salt Lake that night. As we cleared the pass and dropped down into the deep canyons that Interstate 80 followed into the city, I realized there was no way I could have made it with the car locked into 5th gear. Safe and relieved, I slept that night at my sister’s house, the steering wheel of the Shelby still buzzing in my fingertips as I drifted off to sleep.

The next day, my sister and I flew to Seattle and on Sunday afternoon, just about the time we probably would have arrived, my mother passed away. Although she was not entirely lucid during the few hours we had with her, I know that she knew my sister and I were there. If we hadn’t arrived when we did ,we would have missed it or needlessly prolonged her suffering while she strained to wait for us.

A few days later I flew back to Leavenworth where a classmate met me at the airport. After stopping at the local auto parts store to pick up the part I had ordered on-line prior to departing to Seattle, my friend took me home where I found the little Shelby waiting in my driveway exactly where the car hauler had assured me he would put it. The next morning, I used the new part to fix the car in about 10 minutes without any tools and then took it for a short test drive. Out on my favorite road the little car shrugged off the days of hard travel and buzzed along as happily as ever. Life, I realized, goes on.

As I worked the car up and down through the gears, noting the flawless action of the clutch pedal beneath my left foot, I pondered the mysteries of the universe and how I have, over the past few years, questioned the faith in which I was raised. God is in everything and every man, people told me; God has a plan but I wasn’t so sure any more. My mother believed but, having fought the good fight every day without reward and having only advanced myself in life through interminable struggles, I had my own doubts. But, after breaking down in a little car filled with every replacement part but the one I needed, and as a result taking the flight to see my mom that one last time when she was really there in the hours before cancer finally took her, I wonder now if maybe I haven’t been wrong.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Kanagawa, Japan with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Piston Slap: The Express’ New Mission? (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-express-new-mission-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-express-new-mission-part-ii/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:11:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067010   TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes: Sajeev, here’s an update to an old Piston Slap that I wanted to share: overall I love my van. My wife and I have used it to keep visiting family together when touring DC (instead of using 3 cars we took one van). As I eluded to, we also used it […]

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Not so Holy Roller? (photo courtesy OP)

TTAC commentator Celebrity208 writes:

Sajeev, here’s an update to an old Piston Slap that I wanted to share: overall I love my van.

My wife and I have used it to keep visiting family together when touring DC (instead of using 3 cars we took one van). As I eluded to, we also used it for a Christmas road trip/road tour through Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati and Evansville (IN). Lemme tell you, attending to a crying child in the back is a breeze in this thing. In less than 10 seconds the wife can be re-buckled a row or two back to deal with a toddler that dropped [fill in the blank]. 

I am most definitely a “van guy” and this van is now going to be hauling my family and toys around for years to come. The van has been awesome but I did need to “invest” in it…

An exhaust manifold gasket leak that would close up when hot turned into a giant noisemaker that needs to be addressed. I could have lived with it for a little while longer but a VA “safety” inspection was the forcing function. The salty roads that the church traveled throughout the Midwest took their toll on the aluminum AC lines to the rear HVAC and needed replaced. Also, as I had expected but hoped wouldn’t be necessary for a while, the transmission sprung a leak around the TCM module plug and upon inspection was TOAST. 185k miles of Holy Rolling, an homage to its former Mission, (puns intended) will do that.

The swapped-in rebuilt 4L80E didn’t last long either when the torque converter started whining a month later at Christmas. The shop rightfully rebuilt it again but said they installed a billet TC to ensure I don’t have to come back, all at no cost to me. Props to HiTech Trans in Merrifield, VA for standing up for their service and doing right by their customers. I installed new shocks myself, a brake controller, and I’ve added a Pumpkin Pure Android 2-din stereo to the rig (see attached). I still need to learn how to mod it and I haven’t setup Torque with a Bluetooth OBD-II plug yet but it’s on my to-do list. I did install a backup camera. That’s nice when hooking up to a trailer.

Speaking of trailers, I went and bought a new-to-me ’05 Crownline 250 CR in Lexington, KY during the ice storm a few weeks ago (see attached). I chose to drive to KY to get this one because it has the 496 Mag HO (425 hp) instead of what every other 250 around me has (the 300 hp 350 Mag). The drive from DC to KY by way of Columbus (to see family) was fraught with very slow going and spun out cars left and right but going light on the gas kept the open diff. rear-wheel drive beast on the road. If people think the empeegees of a 1/2 ton pickup are bad, they don’t know shit. Pulling ~8500 lbs through WV I was getting 8 mpg. Whatever. The L96 was a Bull!!! She passed the 190,000 mile threshold on the trip back from KY (see attached). On level ground I was easily maintaining >60mph and not once did I need 2nd to maintain >50mph climbing the WV hills on I-64.

PS: Props to “beefmalone” who dropped the knowledge like Galileo dropped the orange with the comment about finding a junkyard axle with a “G80″ code. I haven’t had the time/$ to knock that project out yet but it might be soon as that 250 CR is heavy and the tidal boat ramps in Alexandria can get quite slippery.

Sajeev answers:

The other perk to beefmalone’s G80 axle swap is you might get a better rear gear for your needs. If applicable, it’ll boost fuel economy around town (going into overdrive sooner, less throttle to accelerate) and relieve driving stress significantly (less downshifting, less throttle) when towing big loads in the Express.

I look forward to a future with more vanning stories. The full size van market is flush with new offerings from Chrysler, Nissan and Ford, so there’ll be nice offerings hitting the used market in the next 3-5 years. Perhaps they won’t be terrifying to DIY repair like the stereotypical Sprinter Van we read about? Because the old American van is history, so fingers crossed on that last part.

Thank you for the update. This was a fantastic story!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Ur-Turn: Shopping For A Family Hauler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ur-turn-shopping-for-a-family-hauler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ur-turn-shopping-for-a-family-hauler/#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=758329 Reader Daniel Latini is a car guy and has a baby on the way. He’s looking for your advice on a new ride that can carry around his family. My wife is one of those generally temperate souls who has a few firecrackers strewn about her personality. New challenges can spark a little friction in […]

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07-Kia-Spectra5

Reader Daniel Latini is a car guy and has a baby on the way. He’s looking for your advice on a new ride that can carry around his family.

My wife is one of those generally temperate souls who has a few firecrackers strewn about her personality. New challenges can spark a little friction in any couple, and something popped when we saw the ultrasound pictures of our still-developing first child.

Her current steed, a middle-aged Korean compact hatch, lost a lot of luster that day. I’m sure the B&B will pelt me with shop manuals for trading a car with less than 100,000 miles, but I think there are some sound reasons to consider an upgrade.

We’re young, clueless and enthusiastic – click the jump and join us as we begin the misadventure of finding our first family hauler!

As the owner of a 2008 Kia Spectra5, my wife has spent the last few years learning about the difference between “spec-sheet” cars (those that have a lot of listed features) and quality cars (those that do not cheap out on everything else). To be fair, the Kia was almost perfectly reliable during its 53,000 miles of service with us (86k in total so far). It did provide a few ongoing headaches though. The Kia giveth and the Kia taketh:

  • Fuel economy has consistently varied between “marginal” (29 MPG highway) and “disappointing” (19 MPG city)
  • The stereo features a 6-disc changer, but it sometimes withholds the CDs like a stubborn dog playing tug-of-war
  • The transmission appears to be gaining sentience as it is takes more and more time to ponder the four forward gears. To make up for the time wasted during the decision process, it slams home every shift
  • The dash is squishy, but it buzzes like previous owners installed an aftermarket beehive

Annoyances aside, there are more practical reasons to upgrade as well. Space is a big one. A weekend trip for the wife, dog and I fills the whole cargo hold and part of the back seat. Home improvement runs can be a challenge. We also periodically drive elderly family members, so something with improved ingress and egress would be appreciated.

Safety is the larger concern though. Jack’s recent wreck has driven a lot of conversation, and the few parents I know who lost young children in car accidents say they are changed individuals as a result. While the NHSTA scores for the Spectra5 seem okay at first glance, it is important to remember that the test was toughened in 2011. The IIHS metrics are both more current and more critical, especially when concerning side-impact performance. The Kia might be acceptable in a crash, but this is not a treasured sports car or weekend toy.  Because we have the means, I am struggling to justify not providing something more robust.

So while I normally keep cars for most of their useful lives, my wife and I have agreed to see what the market has to offer. I hope to share some of our experiences on these pages, but I want to propose a question first – what is the deal with new moms wanting seven seat trucks?

Daniel: “Any idea where you want to start the search? Crossover? Sedan?”

Wife: [enthusiastically] “Tahoe!”

Daniel: [laughs] “Only if we were going to live in it. Wanna start with the CX-5? I think you might like it.”

Wife: “Tahoe! All my girlfriends want one.”

And that is mostly true. A quick poll of my wife’s friends carrying children (whether internally or externally) indicated a universal “need” for a seven-seat vehicle, usually an SUV. These are all young women in their twenties, so I imagine the SUV boom of the 90s conditioned them to some degree. Some hope to have large families, but they all currently have two kids or fewer.

The situation, to this young IT worker, does not compute. Large seven-seaters like the Tahoe strike me as an unnecessary waste of both resources and money for a family starting out. Small seven-seaters, like the redesigned Nissan Rogue, seem to fall between two stools.

What say you, B&B? Am I overblowing the safety concerns about the Kia? Are these women on to something my Y-chromosome prevents me from seeing?

Daniel Latini is twenty-something with a child on the way. A Millenial without a Twitter account, he was trained as a journalist but now works in IT. His passion for cars was ignited while helping work on his father’s Alfa Romeo Spider and was nearly extinguished when he got to drive it.

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Piston Slap: Daddy’s Daily Driven Droptop? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-daddys-daily-driven-droptop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-daddys-daily-driven-droptop/#comments Tue, 03 Dec 2013 13:44:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=668114 TTAC Commentator furhead writes: Sajeev, A while back I had written in with a question about which is the best wagon to get. The advice was great, but I didn’t follow any of it. We ended up with a 2005 Camry SE simply because it was too good of a deal to walk away from. […]

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saab-convertible-635x309

TTAC Commentator furhead writes:

Sajeev,

A while back I had written in with a question about which is the best wagon to get. The advice was great, but I didn’t follow any of it. We ended up with a 2005 Camry SE simply because it was too good of a deal to walk away from. The car is fine…and I guess that is the problem. That is all it is: fine. Except for the seats, they suck. The front seats are by far the worst seats that I have ever had to travel in. Any ride longer than 1 hour requires a bottle of Advil nearby in order to make it through.

So now, after living with two children for some time now, my wife and I have a better idea of what we need and don’t need, and we are coming to the realization that we don’t need a car that neither one of us likes and makes our backs hurt on long drives.

We have something bigger and likely always will, which is making us start to wonder: could we make due with a convertible? We would like it (whenever we rent a car, it has no roof). The kids would like it (they always request all the windows and sunroof open). We both really like Saabs and miss my old SPG, which has us looking at 2006 – 2008 9-3s as well as first generation Volvo C70s (the new hard top looks great, but eats too much trunk space). I know there are potentially other options, but seating for four and front wheel drive are necessary as we live in the northeast (AWD options are likely out of our price range of roughly $12-$14k). Comfortable seats is also a high priority as we regularly travel 3 – 4 hours to visit family.

I have a good independent mechanic who specializes in European cars, and we are a three car family, so when the convertible is inevitably in the shop, we won’t be in a bind.

So, is there any chance that I could hear from parents who have a convertible (of any kind) as a daily driver? Are the compromises worth the enjoyment?

Sajeev answers:

Ah yes, beancounted seating was so 10 years ago!  Many cars (including the Camry) from this era had pretty horrible seats.  Not sure if new Camrys have better seats, but they are better for a few minutes at a time. But from what I’ve seen in new rental cars (Fusion, Avenger, 300 etc) they are light years ahead of previous iterations.

That said, the best seats in modern family cars are certainly in the domain of the Swedes.  I am sure 99% of human bodies are supremely comfortable in them.

So anyway…about your Swedish droptop fantasy. Your expectations of the potential SAAB-Volvo are spot on, since this is a third vehicle and you know a good Euro mechanic, buy one with an excellent service history. But only after your mechanic gives it their stamp of approval. If you keep the child seats (assuming your kids are that small) locked in the rear and fill them with kiddos with the top down, this sounds pretty simple. Not having a roof makes it seem easy.

My only concern is safety: do you want to daily drive a vehicle with a flexi-flyer body packed full of kids in bad weather surrounded by SUVs?  

Will you hear from parents with a daily driven drop top? Only one way to find out: off you go, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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In Celebration of Fathers: Cars in the Blood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/in-celebration-of-fathers-cars-in-the-blood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/in-celebration-of-fathers-cars-in-the-blood/#comments Thu, 13 Jun 2013 13:12:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477398 As I paused in the driveway and waited for the garage door to open, I felt an unexpected presence by my side. Unbeknownst to me, my six year old son had slipped the confines of his booster seat in the rearmost row and made his way forward past his sisters with surprising stealth. Now he […]

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My son Harley, raised with a love for everything on wheels.

My son Harley, raised with a love for everything on wheels.

As I paused in the driveway and waited for the garage door to open, I felt an unexpected presence by my side. Unbeknownst to me, my six year old son had slipped the confines of his booster seat in the rearmost row and made his way forward past his sisters with surprising stealth. Now he stood between my wife and I as we prepared to travel the last few feet of our journey.

My first thought was annoyance. Little kids are supposed to remain in their seats with their hands and arms in the vehicle at all times. Yet for some reason here he was walking around inside our van in bold defiance of everything that he had been taught since we first strapped him into a car seat as a squalling, red faced infant. Didn’t he know most car accidents happen close to home?

Caught off guard I opened my mouth to say something harsh, but before I could an old memory clawed its way to the surface. Reaching around behind my son, I swept him onto my lap, “Take us in.” I told him. My wife gave me a surprised look but said nothing as my son gripped the wheel with eager anticipation. While I handled the pedal work and gave the wheel an occasional assisting nudge, my little guy brought us into the garage with amazing skill. He was absolutely delighted with himself, and in that moment my life came full circle.

The clan Kreutzer circa 1972.  I'm the youngest, my father, Harley, is on the right.

The clan Kreutzer circa 1972. I’m the youngest, my father, Harley, is on the right.

Almost 40 years earlier, at around the same age, I too had been between my mother and father in the front seat when I also tested the bounds of good sense in the last few feet of a family journey when I innocently asked if I could drive. My own father, not one to brook any back-talk from any of his 5 kids looked at me hard, but instead of a quick rebuke responded with the unexpected. Setting me in his lap, he let me guide the our car, an Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, into our garage.

It was a moment for the ages. I can still feel the Oldsmobile’s thin plastic wheel in my hands, the back side scalloped to fit my fingers and the vibration from the mighty V8 under the hood, as we slipped smoothly into the garage. The experience changed my life and from that day forward, no matter how far we traveled, those last few feet were always spent on my father’s lap the two of us bonding over the joy of driving.

As car enthusiasts, we’ve all heard talk about how the new generation of kids lack a real interest in our hobby. We’ve all read about hot the cell phone and social networks have usurped the role of the car in the transition to adulthood, too, but I see other reasons for this generation’s attitude towards cars. Belted in the back seat with a DVD player to occupy their time, most little kids view the car as a sort of mobile living room. Prohibited by law from the front seat until they become “tweens,” kids don’t get the opportunity to see what is happening up front and, as a result, they never fantasize about what it must be like to slide over one spot and actually sit behind the wheel. Without the fantasy, the seed doesn’t take root.

My daughter Maiko in the big seat.

My daughter Maiko in the big seat.

Not on my watch. I love everything about cars and, much to my wife’s dismay, I have been programming all three of my children to be motor heads from the day they were born. Due to my efforts, my son Harley wants to be a race car driver and my oldest daughter, Maiko, wants to be a doctor-princess.

I won’t give up on her though. I want all my kids to feel same the joy I get from driving and, as much as I hate little footprints all over my nice leather seats, I let my children play in my car whenever I am cleaning it. I let them crawl behind the wheel, roll down the windows, open the sunroof and crank up the tunes. I let them sit in the big chair with the wheel in their hands and the gearshift under their right hand and I let them imagine what it must be like to be in control. Then I tell them that it isn’t a fantasy, it’s a preview. It’s only a matter of time until the seed takes root.

The circle complete, my son Harley and I pose for a picture with the last Oldsmobile my father, also Harley, ever bought.  A 1984 Cutlass Supreme.

The circle complete, my son Harley and I pose for a picture with the last Oldsmobile my father, also Harley, ever bought. A 1984 Cutlass Supreme.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Sales Chart: The “Big Six” Midsize Sedans In 2010 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/sales-chart-the-big-six-midsize-sedans-in-2010/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/sales-chart-the-big-six-midsize-sedans-in-2010/#comments Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:34:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360146 These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But […]

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These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?

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