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Remembering the Ride: Dad Cars

Chris Kaiser

For some of us the tale is all too familiar; a young man, fashionable and savvy, drives a fashionable and fun car. This car, a clear indication of virility and financial prudence, eventually helps attract a mate. Birds and bees descend upon his formerly unencumbered life and this young man soon finds himself trading in that old hotrod or sports car for something more domesticated.

I’ve heard it rumored that it’s not the stresses of parenthood or the lack of sleep that initiates the retreat of one’s hairline or the slow and steady inflation of a conspicuous potbelly. Rather it’s this quite literal loss of horsepower that is the true culprit. Horsepower once powerfully concentrated under the hood of a two-door vehicle, now parceled out across various home and gardening equipment and a sad-sack mini-van that has taken up residence over that old oil spot in the garage, the last bit of remaining evidence that dad was once, low these many years ago, a “cool guy”.

As I asked around the office, it became abundantly clear that many of our dads traded the engine for the baby carriage. As dozens of stories surfaced, I was called to collect and share a few as a tribute to all those dads who loved us more.

From 1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z to Astro Van

The Cool Car

Tanner: My dad, so the story goes, once drove a truly magnificent ’88 Camaro IROC-Z complete with a red paint job, the must-have T-tops, and the go-big-or-go-home 350hp engine. What, you might ask, could possibly compel him to part with this machine?

Camaro IROCZ
Chevrolet Camaro from Carsforsale.com

The Dad Ride

You guessed it, the birth of my older sister in 1992. Out went the I-ROCZ and in came the Buick Le Sabre for a family car and an ’84 Chevy C/K 10 pickup. Bad, I know, but it gets worse. Years later, with the addition of a 4th kid, my poor dad was forced to find a (gasp!) Chevy Astro van (shudder) just to accommodate us all. Interesting post-script, my dad actually kept a set of keys from his old I-ROCZ as a memento, keys he still has. As if some day, somehow, beyond all reason or hope, he and the Camaro might again be reunited.

Blue Chevrolet Astro Van
Chevrolet Astro Van from Carsforsale.com

From ’77 Triumph TR7 to Jeep Cherokee

The Cool Car

Luke: Even though it was just over text messaging, my dad seemed to light up when I asked him about his old Triumph, “Handled great, so much fun to drive, really miss it.” The TR7 Triumph not only handled well, more importantly it featured super stylish “tartan” cloth and leather seat covers, with the “tartan” being basically a fancy word for green plaid checkering (the things we learn from our fathers).

Triumph TR7
Triumph TR7 from Carsforsale.com

The Dad Ride

But as with most dads, all that high fashion and sporty driving had to come to an end someday. That day came somewhere in the mid-eighties, near my arrival on the scene, and the acquisition of a Jeep Cherokee. Gone were the days of the British two-seater. I grew up rather fond of the rough and ready Cherokee, never fully appreciating how much my father had given up in favor of a “family” vehicle. All, however, has not been lost. Now that his kids are grown, my dad has managed to recapture some of that old black-top glory in his turbocharged Audi A4.

Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Cherokee from Carsforsale.com

From Motorcycles To Ford LTD Country Squire

The Cool Car Bike

Toby: That’s right, my dad had a thing for motorcycles. These small Japanese sports bikes came and went long before my time, with my dad trading off the two-wheelers for something better equipped to lugging around five kids. While my father still speaks wistfully of his long-lost motorcycles, it sounds like getting rid of them was probably a good thing. After two separate accidents, including one involving a bee in his helmet, the cosmic message was pretty clear, all it took was a few extra kids to tip the scales in favor of a ’74 Ford LTD Country Squire.

Honda 350
Honda 350 Contributed By Motorcyclespecs.co.za

The Dad Ride

This thing was a boat among boats, a hulk capable of accommodating mom, all five kids, and all our luggage for long road trips. Incidentally, as the fifth and therefore youngest (and yes, smallest), my dad figured the most logical place for me was back in the wayyy back. For those of you who haven’t had the singular experience of enjoying multi-state road trip from the far back of a station wagon, allow me to fill you in. It’s hot, stiflingly hot; those big, long windows seem to produce a sort of greenhouse effect (and they don’t roll down!), and the A/C vents in the front seat might as well be all the way back in Nebraska. Despite avoiding the Lord of the Flies situation of sitting in the back seat with my brothers, I still got my share of bumps and bruises from all that luggage jostling and sliding with every swerve and pothole. Which takes us to the ride. Smooth though the Country Squire may have been for my blissfully oblivious parents sitting up front, back at the tail end of that beast I was tossed, literally tossed, up and down and side to side. And remember, even though the Ford seemed intentionally designed to induce car sickness, I couldn’t barf if I wanted to because, again, the windows didn’t roll down. Lord knows what this must have looked like to passing motorists. A very green, sweaty looking 6-year old briefly peering out from between suitcases and camping equipment before he’s swallowed up by the shifting stacks of luggage.

Weird Car Art You Can't Look Away From
Ford LTD Country Squire
Ford LTD Country Squire from Carsforsale.com

From 1993 Ford Mustang to Dodge Neon

The Cool Car

Caroline: This might contend for the greatest leap between vehicles for any of the dads on this list. My husband Dan was, once upon a time, the very proud owner of an early 90s white Fox body Mustang. Heavily modified for speed, Dan had even traded out the stock 4-cylinder engine for a turbocharged 3.0 2JZ. Covering a quarter mile in less than 10 seconds, the car had become something of a local legend. But by the time I met him, Dan had already sold the street racer and was driving a rather less inspiring ‘97 Honda Civic. When I told people we were dating they would say something like, “Oh, Dan, the guy with the Mustang, right?” To which I’d reply, “Maybe…?” And, while Dan did get a brief reprieve from the dad car doldrums with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the fun had to end eventually.

Ford Mustang
Ford Mustang Contributed By Carsforsale.com Staff

The Dad Ride

So, when we got married and needed a down payment on our house Dan swapped the Lancer for…wait for it…my Dodge Neon (YEAH! Firecrackers! Confetti!). However, Dan’s new pickup, a 2015 GMC Sierra, proves that some degree of vehicular redemption is possible for dads, no mid-life crisis necessary.

Dodge Neon
Dodge Neon from Carsforsale.com

From 1973 Datsun 240Z to Toyota Prius

The Cool Car

Datsun 240Z
Datsun 240Z from Carsforsale.com

The Dad Ride

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius from Carsforsale.com

Chris: My dad has a long history of driving practical vehicles. With the exception of a Taurus SHO, nearly all have been decidedly dull, with next to no pick-up and deeply deficient in the style department. Take the Ford Aerostar van for instance. Practical? Yes. Cool? Nope. Nissan Altima? Staid. Mercury Mountaineer? Boring! Toyota Prius? Can it get less exciting?!

However, my father’s garage was not always like this. It wasn’t really until I was born that my dad started settling for dull automobiles. Before I was on the scene, my pops was rocking a red ’73 Datsun 240Z, a slick 2-seater with a straight six and a four-speed manual made for, get this, having fun. Yes, that’s right, my dad once knew a life of excitement behind the wheel that I will never, ever understand. By all accounts my parents loved this car. But apparently not enough to prevent them from leaving it parked on the street where it was t-boned by a teenager who had swerved, so the story goes, while reaching down to retrieve a cassette tape. The Datsun remains the stuff of legend in my parents’ house, a key piece of evidence that there was indeed a world prior to my existence (pure conjecture if you ask me) and in this world my dad had been quote, “cool” (also conjecture).

Clearly, our dads made some serious automotive sacrifices on our behalves. We can only thank them for all they’ve done to raise us and shape us into the next generation of dads ready to give up our rides.

Let us know in the comments what car you or your dad gave up once the stork arrived.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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