By Craig Hastings
So which of the two are we most likely to become attached; ours pets or one or more of the automobiles we might own in our lifetimes? Don’t stop reading just yet if you’re thinking you’re reading another one of my long winded car stories. No, this car/human connection tells another tale of a relationship between a motor vehicle and….my mother.
In 1996 my dad decided it was time for he and mom to become part of the minivan craze that had swept America. Not only America but Canada and many parts of Europe had also become infatuated with these eight passenger marvels. The minivan had evolved into the one vehicle do it all for every family regardless of the number of people it was to serve. I’ve owned two of them myself. The first one I bought back in the mid nineties; a Mercury Villager I purchased for the sole purpose of being able to accommodate one stepson and two German Shepherd Dogs. It was perfect.
My parents decided to try one of these people movers in 1996 and promptly waltzed into Phil Lamb Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth here and bought a new, white Chrysler minivan. They really didn’t have anyone other than themselves to move around, but the newest minivans were every bit as luxurious as most luxury sedans of the day. My parents liked that the minivan sat the driver up higher in traffic making seeing what was going on ahead of you much easier. My dad hung on to his 1994 Buick Roadmaster to maintain an image of macho male but was most often seen driving the minivan. Let me make it clear, there was nothing mini about the given name. The only reason it was labeled “mini” was because it was smaller than the monster Hippie vans that were party houses on wheels and their brethren equals, work/construction vans.
My dad was only able to enjoy the new van for a short time. He passed away in May of 1996 leaving mom with both the Roadmaster and the Chrysler minivan. Which to keep was an easy decision for her. She still has the minivan today but…she shouldn’t. It’s Sunday when I write this story. Earlier today my younger brother Eric called me and told me I needed to come over to mom’s right away and take a look at the van. Eric told me a back wheel looked to be bent when looking at the van from the back. How serious could that be I thought? Not very; maybe some suspensions bushing worn out or maybe even the wheel Eric spoke of.
This van has been proclaimed a total loss by insurance companies twice, but my mom kept the thing through negotiations with the insurance company in both events. She had the thing repaired! One was a front-end crash and the other our infamous hail storm that wreaked havoc on Tuscola properties and vehicles a few years back. Her van has 100,000 miles on the odometer, rusted rear wheel wells, no paint at all on the top, torn seats, dents everywhere from the hail storm, and is overall in disrepair. So why has she kept it? She has grown attached to that van not only because she enjoys driving it, enjoys the vans company if you believe these things, (I very much believe as most who know me know), and mostly because this was the last vehicle her and dad traveled in together.
So what is wrong with the wheel? Oh the wheel is fine, but much to my horror I discovered today that the hollow rear axle shaft (front wheel drive van) that runs from side to side has rusted apart in several places and has collapsed on itself causing the left rear wheel to appear bent inward. This van is literally trying to pull itself in half. Both rear shocks are almost completely rusted apart as is the rear-centering link that attaches to this same hollow axle shaft. In a word, this thing is toast. No reasonable fix exits either, part finding or financially. Time to replace it.
The more difficult task now is to find mom something an 83 year old would except as a replacement. The equivalent minivan is much too complicated to operate for her today. Mom doesn’t want any touch screen anything. She wants knobs and slid controls. She drives four miles a day six days a week, she shouldn’t need much right? So I’ve taken on a new role as car salesperson and agent for my mom. Fortunately this is something I have vast experience, but my mom can be a handful when what she needs isn’t exactly what she thinks she wants. Ughhhh! I’ll let you know how this ends. Right now she has the company pickup truck to drive, and I’m working with Ford of Tuscola to figure this one out.