QOTD: What Was Your Family Car When You Were Young?

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
qotd what was your family car when you were young

This Monday, I sat among a herd of journalists and executives waiting for the Honda Odyssey press reveal to begin. While nominally I was there to cover the event on behalf of this fine publication, I was also considering my next family car purchase.

Jack wrote at length yesterday about the relatively recent phenomenon of at once coddling and ignoring the spawn relegated to the stern of the family vehicle. While I don’t intend to completely answer the questions raised, I’d like to consider what might affect our choice of family conveyance.

Many of our beliefs, desires, hatreds, and dreams develop at a surprisingly young age. I stumbled upon a description of this a few years ago on an excellent food blog, Serious Eats, where the writer describes Sam Sifton’s “Pizza Cognition Theory:”

There is a theory of cognitive development that says children learn to identify things only in opposition to other things. Only the child who has learned what is not brown, the theory holds, can discern what is “brown.”

Pizza naturally throws this theory into a tailspin. The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgoood, thanks-mom level), becomes, for him, pizza. He relegates all subsequent slices, if they are different in some manner from that first triangle of dough and cheese and tomato and oil and herbs and spices, to a status that we can characterize as not pizza.

Thus, while a kid growing up in Brooklyn might wretch at the thought of a deep-dish Chicago pie, another kid raised on Lou Malnati’s would turn up his nose at the thin, greasy slice at Original Famous Ray’s (not affiliated with Famous Original Ray’s). Just like a kid who first rode in a Camaro might spend his life savings on those awful “Calvin pissing on the Blue Oval” stickers.

Of course, the contrarian might prevail as well — thus the slow death of minivans, the symbol of mom-ness in the ‘80s and ‘90s — as most current drivers of child-rearing age won’t even consider the best utility box ever.

While my dad’s frequent sportscar purchases enthralled me, the drives in those were merely a treat for sunny, salt-free days. Whether by his own restlessness or the whims of the corporate fleet manager, dad never kept a daily driver for more than two years. Once he escaped retail sales around 1987, our driveway was constantly in flux.

I recall his first sales job when he had to buy his own car — a stripped down, DX model pop-up headlamp Honda Accord in which I was tasked with installing the dealer add-on center armrest. He quickly moved on to a firm that provided him cars to be turned in upon reaching a mileage threshold. GM A-bodies were the norm for many years, followed by second-gen Tauruses and Crown Victorias.

But my most memorable ride was my mother’s car — a 1990 Toyota Corolla. Painted light metallic blue, equipped with a five-speed manual, and stripped of nearly any feature (while I think it did have AM/FM and a cassette player, it did not have a clock), it was her first major purchase after the divorce. We drove that car everywhere. The tweed-like cloth interior wasn’t plush, but it held up well. Neglected maintenance doomed it, but mom replaced it with another Corolla, and another. I think she’s up to number six or seven with her current 2014 model. Only the last two have been automatics.

Which of your parent’s cars made a major impression on you, and how is that reflected today in your automotive passion? Mom’s Corolla explains my love of cheap and cheerful cars of the ’80s and ’90s, including Toyotas. The cars were simple and fun to drive, and made a lasting impression.

Oddly enough, I drove a (rented) Corolla to Detroit.

[Image: By IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jan 25, 2017

    When I was small, my dad drove a '68 Beetle and my mom drove a '72 Buick Riviera. After that came a string of Chevrolets and Buicks until we got an '86 Ford Aerostar. As I began driving, I had Buicks and Oldsmobiles until I got a Volvo. To this day, I think mom's Riviera and the General Lee are the two reasons I love classic cars.

  • Jaycampy Jaycampy on May 10, 2017

    1995 Chevy Suburban LS (Mum) 1972 Chevy C-10 Pick-Up w/ a 454 (Dad) 1968 Chevy Camaro w/ a 327 1997 Mazda 626 (sister) 1995 Acura Integra GS-R Sedan (sister) My parents just recently sold the Suburban for a 2017 Suburban. My father's pickup was totaled in front of my house by some teenager and he replaced it with a 2005 Silverado 1500. My sister's '97 Mazda was eventually replaced with a 2003 Mitsubishi Galant GTZ then other vehicles. My sister's Acura was given to my mom after her family grew and she purchased a 2003 Chevy Trailblazer and a 2002 BMW 325i. Sadly, the Integra, was stolen from my driveway. I miss that car dearly and learned how to drive stick in it.

  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.