Total Dad Cars: Happy Father’s Day


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My dad used to call me Roy; he never could remember my name. A drywaller for more than 30 years, my father hung gypsum, taped walls, and textured ceilings for homes big and small all across northern Michigan. His business card read: “Gary Irwin, Drywall. Orgies Organized, Assassinations Plotted, Tigers Tamed, Computers Verified, Wars Fought … And Drywall Work.” During a traffic stop for a cracked windshield, a police officer walked up to the side of his 1991 Ford F-150 Custom Cab and asked, “Painter or drywaller?” before asking for his ID. My father, like so many hard-working dudes, deserves a Father’s Day. As children, we were thoughtless in our childish ways. We believed it our duty to leave the refrigerator open to cool the house. We made better doors than windows. But today, as something of an adult and as a way to say thanks, we’ve put together a collection of dadmobiles. What Dad drives doesn’t define him as a father; it’s more a part of the way his kids, friends, and spouse would describe him. There is no one car, truck, or SUV that accurately depicts who they are, but like the soccer-mom van, dads have a stereotypical vehicle, too.

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Dodge Caravan: Fun for the Whole Family

By 2000, 17 million Dodge Caravans had been sold in the United States. That’s when Dodge announced its third-generation people mover. C/D‘s Patrick Bedard called them “unashamed to be boxes on wheels.” The unspoken truth about van ownership is that if you see a dad behind the wheel of a rug-rat shuttle, they deserve a break. They have enough going on. Tap the brakes and let them merge this time. Of course, they’d rather be driving a full-size pickup or something sporty, but they’re too busy fighting the good fight. Every child past the second row is probably their kids’ friends. That’s the type of pressure they’re living with. We rate this dad ride two white New Balance sneakers out of three Coleman thermoses.

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Jeep Cherokee: Camping Is “In Tents”

In any neck of the woods, the Jeep Cherokee is a traditionally good mix of outdoorsy and fun. A peppy 4.0-liter inline-six with a kickin’ 4WD system and a maximum towing capacity of 5000 pounds. Everything is hunky-dory until Frankie, the family’s chocolate lab, finds a skunk, but thanks to the factory-equipped roof rails, it’s possible to throw everything but the dog up there for the trip home. If there was a Big Dog T-shirt for body-on-frame SUVs, the XJ-generation Cherokee would be on it.

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Chrysler Crossfire: Have You Been Checking the Oil?

To the dad who refers to the nurse at dialysis as the waitress or waiter, this coupe’s for you. The Chrysler Crossfire was the cheapest way to purchase the outgoing Mercedes SLK roadster of the time, and its price tag started $11,000 less than the SLK320 it mirrored. Sadly, the product of a DaimlerChrysler merger couldn’t fit America’s wider and taller dads due to its confined two-seater cockpit. But for those who fit, getting to 57 mph and watching the retractable rear wing rise and fill the rearview mirror was the name of the game. A pithy midlife-crisis buy at $34,495 ($48,067 in today’s money), the Crossfire became a ceasefire in 2008 after falling victim to Chrysler’s restructuring plan. It remains Dad’s favorite Stevie Ray Vaughn tune.

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Toyota Prius: Now That’s Using Your Noodle

When Toyota launched the Prius in 2003, sales projections were modest, but as gas prices rose toward $4 a gallon in 2008, the gasoline-electric hybrids began to move, eventually surpassing the 180,000-per-year mark. It immediately became the mascot for environmentalists, and its eight-year/100,000-mile warranty was a bet any dad would be foolish not to take.

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Pontiac Vibe GT: Sporty Yet Unsophisticated

Between fartin’ around town and galavanting to the hardware store and back, the Pontiac Vibe GT is the perfect temperature for dads who are into hot hatches. Sold from 2003 to 2006, the Vibe GT used a 180-hp engine developed with help from Yamaha and paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Plenty of room inside for whatever half-finished project or third set of extra components anyone would never need. The plastic interior makes it a utilitarian answer to everything. Like Dad, the Vibe GT is quirky, and it will register 299,999 miles or kilometers but no more, thanks to faulty odometer design that prevented it from counting any higher. Dad thinks he can fix that, too.

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Chrysler Sebring: Division Manager

Two doors, four seats, and three words: Ask your mother. The Chrysler Sebring took over where the LeBaron left off in the mid-1990s. It died as a Chrysler 200 in 2017. Unfortunately for the Sebring, it wasn’t so much the life of the party as it was the chaperone. Sure, it’s there, but it barely moves its hips to a few songs. It was wildly more expensive than its sedan variant, making it a weird choice against more exciting options like the Ford Mustang GT or Volkswagen Eos. Dad still calls it his fun car. It’s what he takes to grab pizza on summer Fridays when the minivan is low on gas. It was offered with both a cloth and hardtop retractable roof, but don’t you even think of touching that button, kiddo.

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Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Hey, Chief

Every year he memorizes the IMSA WeatherTech racing schedule. When it comes to Formula 1, he knows who Fernando Alonso is racing for before Alonso knows. Remember when Moto2 racer Marc Márquez started the race in neutral and went from second to 12th before crossing the start line in Japan? Dad does, and he remembers the end of that race when Márquez won. The Acura TSX Sport Wagon is a channel not included in the normal cable TV package. Like the 3 percent of TSX sedan owners who bought a manual in 2010, Dad would rather do what he loves than follow the crowd. He’s a righteous dude.

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Chevrolet Corvette: I’m a Fun Guy

When you’re done playing 52-card pickup, jump into Dad’s “supercar” for American flag-fueled fun. You thought waking up for school was an early morning? This car gets Dad up before the sun to get things just right before Cars and Coffee. What’s so special about his Corvette? Well, this one’s a limited edition with special paint, unique badging, and painted wheels. They only made about 10,000 of these.

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Ford F-150: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

The eighth-generation F-150 was as dad as dads get. Its cassette-tape stereo played both kinds of music: country and western. It was offered with a 4.9-liter inline-six and five-speed manual transmission. That’s why trucks are the subject of 75 percent of the lyrics in today’s country music. (The other 25 percent is about dirt roads and beer.) This F-150 shared its looks with the Ford Bronco of the time. Yeah, that Bronco, the truck Dad used to have but couldn’t keep running. That’s a story for another time, though, because he has a Weber to attend to. The burgers are almost done. Did you want any cheese on yours?

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Toyota Camry: Because I Said So

Dad’s taste in cars is as simple as his wardrobe. There might be a T-shirt in there that reads, “A Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem,” but it’s buried under a tower of white Van Heusen long-sleeves because a white dress shirt goes with anything. It’s a smart choice. The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 22 years. Its best year was 2007, during the debut of its sixth generation, when sales hit 473,108. Maybe you’ve heard Dad say it a couple hundred thousand times, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD: Out Standing In His Field

The interior smells like dust and McDonald’s, but Dad’s got the trailer hooked up, and the whole family’s good to go with this 7610-pound everything mover. The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD’s interior gives Dad about the same space he takes up in the finished basement at home. What’s sweeter than AC/DC’s “Back in Black” at full blast? The chug of the Silverado’s 397-hp Duramax. From job site to boat launch, Dad is getting it done.

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