A special place in our hearts for minivans

John Kelly
Columnist January 25, 2012

Why is it that Corvettes get the hot babes sprawled across their hoods in music videos and not Dodge Caravans?

Well, probably because minivans are the opposite of sexy. They’re cold showers on wheels, motorized saltpeter. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

After my column Monday bidding farewell to our battered 2000 Mazda MPV, I heard from dozens of readers who will always have a special place in their hearts for their minivans.

“From the moment I was pregnant there was absolutely no doubt we would accept the minivan as part of parenthood,” wrote Allison Orlina of Silver Spring. “For our friends hesitant about giving up on any semblance of car swagger, we respond, ‘Parents who buy a car without sliding doors just haven’t admitted that their lives have changed.’ ”

Rockville’s Michael Marks said he chose an ugly color when he bought a Honda Odyssey, figuring it would be the most hideous vehicle he would ever own. “Honda refers to this color as ‘Granite Green Metallic,’ ” Michael wrote. “I refer to it as ‘phlegm.’ ”


The family minivan took Allison Orlina everywhere from ballet lessons to the beach. (Courtesy of Allison Orlina/COURTESY OF ALLISON ORLINA)

When the minivan needed a suitable name, Mark and his wife settled on Mulva, from the “Seinfeld” episode.

“I prefer Mulva to driving our newer Accord,” Mark wrote. “The seating position is higher and provides a greater view of the road; and being in my upper 40s, its easier ingress/egress is much appreciated. . . . I have removed the middle seats so it’s easier to maneuver inside, and the rear-most seating position now affords its occupants limousine-like leg room.”

Jennifer Deering’s Mazda MPV is called Big Green. “Our daughter when we saw it kept saying, ‘Wow, this a big, green car, mommy,’ ” Jennifer wrote. “Our dog will fly into it any time the door is open because of what must be an alluring scent of Goldfish, old french fries and the occasional Oreo crumb. . . . It is still going strong at 170,000 miles. I hope to drive child #1 to college in it.”

Abby Brunks of Shady Side said her daughters — now 19 and 23 — dubbed the family’s 1998 Mercury Villager the Loser Cruiser. The family doesn’t have it anymore, but “sometimes when I see one driving down the street that looks just like ours, I tell our girls, ‘Hey, maybe she wants to come home.’ The girls scream back at me ‘Noooooo!’ ”

Ernest V. Falke doesn’t agree that driving a minivan means you are no longer carefree or cool. “I am 69 years old and love my 2009 Sienna,” he wrote. “It holds all of my model airplanes, my kids (if you can call 33 and 36 kids) and spouses when they visit, and a pile of mulch in the spring. It is the most comfortable car I have ridden in and the engine is so powerful I have to clutch the steering wheel if I floor the pedal.”

That’s powerful, but not as powerful as the minivan that an online commenter named “bc” built. He took a nondescript ’89 Plymouth Voyager, removed the interior save for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, improved the suspension, then installed a nitrous oxide system to beef up the 2.2-liter turbo engine. “It would smoke the front tires like a top fuel dragster on straights and when we dialed it in at the drag strip, it pulled a 12.0-second quarter mile.”

Finally, an online commenter named “alta2” brought a tear to my eye. The last official “kid duty” for her 2000 Toyota minivan was moving her son into his new post-college apartment. “Now the only thing left of the kids in our van is the school decals all over the rear window,” she wrote. “I know it’s time to say goodbye. But I keep holding on because the van is the last vestige of the years that we were a full-time family: mom, dad and the kids. It’s been years since I’ve woken up early on a snowy morning to check on school closings. I packed my last school lunch five years ago. When I wake up in the middle of the night I no longer glance out the window to make sure the cars are in the driveway, knowing that means the kids are safely home. I’m used to setting the table for two every night and not seeing my kids every day. But the van . . . the van is all that’s left of all those years of being an active-duty mom.”

Show your van some love! Share photos of your minivan by going to wapo.st/minivanpics.

Two things...

A correction to Wednesday’s column: Vincent Gray was never an honorary trustee of the World War I Memorial Foundation, though he did sign the D.C. Council resolution in favor of its aims.

I’m taking a little break. “John Kelly’s Washington” will return Feb. 5.

For previous columns by John Kelly, go to postlocal.com.

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