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From the Armchair – Of Wives And Wagons

I got a phone call this weekend. It was a friend from high school. He’s doing well these days, living in upstate New York, about to get married and looking for a good all-wheel-drive second car to complement his Boxster S and keep the miles off his leased Land Rover Discovery. Naturally, I suggested a station wagon.

“Can’t do it”, he replied. “She won’t let me buy a wagon.”

“She” in this case is his fiancé, and her attitude about the wagon is pretty common among the significant others that came along and changed holidays like New Year’s Eve from a night of debauchery and delinquency into an evening of deterrence and dependents. Unfortunately for most of my buddies, the opinion of a given “she” is that a station wagon is decidedly declasse and suggestion of one automatically elicits a “no.”

I imagine their aversion to wagons started in the ‘70s. I’m sure it started earlier, but for my generation weekends on the way to vacation or the grandparents’ house in the back of the Country Squire, Parisienne, Cutlass Cruiser or any other big station wagon, slab sided with wood-grain vinyl, was a way of life. For some reaon, the females of our generation decided the station wagon wasn’t for them and, in fact, was decidedly uncool. Don’t ask me why, but most of my buddies and I never held the same negative impressions as our female counterparts.

My first automotive access was a Caprice Classic Estate in the ‘80s. It had a tape deck and would have handily seated 8 female companions, if only my skills with the ladies been described as more pimp than pimple. Circumstances being what they were, I instead cruised around the small Pennsylvania town where I grew up with a couple of buddies and our skateboards tossed in the back.

My station wagon memories are fond, so I find myself perplexed at why my friends’ wives are so quick to write them off. Those same friends’ wives find minivans acceptable and SUVs preferable, but wagons are strictly off-limits. How can cars like the Audi S4 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Volvo V70R be undesirable, yet the Honda Odyssey is Odyssexy? I’m lost and no navigation system is going to find my way out of this one.

I may have outgrown that Caprice and that small town in Pennsylvania, but I still haven’t grown out of MTV. Yup, I have a bad MTV habit and I recently caught my first episode of “Meet the Barkers”, a new reality show following the married-parent life of Travis Barker, the mohawk-wearing, tattooed drummer of Blink 182.

Consider it Nick and Jessica meet the Osbournes. Barker’s a car guy though, so while I had no time for either of the other shows, I figured I’d at least give the new show a try. In it, you can see Barker rolling in everything from a pimped 7-series to a Range Rover, but when his wife picks him up at the airport and he asks with the energy any self-respecting auto enthusiast with a new portolio of rides would ask, “What’d you drive?”

His wife responds, “the minivan.”

Huh? What is wrong with these women?

Then there’s my wife. We’ve owned several station wagons, from the “wagonest” of all wagons – the Volvo 240- to our current A4 Avant with S4 body kit and 18-inch wheels. Some wives will grudgingly admit the Audi is “okay”, but still won’t let me whisper the “w” word into their husband’s ear. I just don’t get it.

My wife actually prefers the wagons. She would throw anything and everything in the back of the 240 and though I’m a bit pickier about what goes in the Audi, she still thinks it’s her favorite of the cars we’ve owned. I’m not sure how to explain it, except that maybe her dad never did the wagon thing. He had a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and come to think of it, she never really did warm up to that Grand Cherokee I owned. Hmmm, I think I’m seeing a pattern.

I told her about the Travis Barker show and she said she would have taken the minivan to the airport too. No love for the pimped 7-series…. I’m perplexed.

In my mind, there needs to be a schema change. I doubt Travis has a wagon, but even if he did his wife would still probably opt for the dreaded minivan. My feeling for minivans is basically an automotive enthusiast’s equivalent of saying, “I give up.”

Sure, there’s probably nothing more utilitarian to young parents than the minivan, but I have yet to see any manufacturer make a performance minivan. Either wives need to learn that wagons are cool, or a manufacturer better come up with some 300+hp all-wheel drive minivan with Recaro seats and sequential gearbox. Until there can be some sort of equitable solution to all of this this, I’ll stick with my wagon.


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