My dad has owned a lot of cars, not because he can afford to buy whatever happens to catch his eye but because he has always opted for used cars. [For crying out loud, the guy is in his 80s and I don’t remember a single new-car purchase.] Since even Mr. Fixit couldn’t save every reclamation project that found its way into our driveway, the cars came … and they went.
Imagine how difficult it was for me to choose a favorite—the one car that most reminds me of my father. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. We took to Facebook and asked you to pick your own “dad car.” While you were more than happy to wax poetically about your father and the car you remember best, many of you also struggled to pick just one.
For the record, I sifted through a number of station wagons, sedans, and compact cars—including a Chevette with rusted-out floor boards that wreaked havoc on Dad’s shoes whenever it rained. Then I finally settled on an orange-and-white 1973 Volkswagen bus that my family drove from Michigan to Texas during the Bicentennial summer of ’76. It had a yellow “racing stripe” that unfortunately didn’t make it go any faster. But we saw a lot of this great country and made it back in one piece. Dad also managed to keep the peace, which was an amazing feat considering seven of us were shoe-horned in there without air conditioning.
I’m not the only one who connects his father with a VW bus. It became a common theme. Mark Unruh Sr. wrote, “I grew up in a ’67 VW bus. I learned to shift gears sitting in the middle of the front seat. My dad would push in the clutch and tell me what gear he wanted. He later got a ’72… I took my driver’s test in that bus about four years after this picture was taken.”
Andrew Bauer remembers his dad’s 1963 VW bus, and how could he possibly forget it? “He bought it new and put an interior in it that the dealer thought was a Westfalia interior. He so over-built it that it blew two engines from Arizona to Pennsylvania and two more going back. VW replaced everything, all under warranty.” Sam Kriger’s father bought a white 1966 VW bus new and drove it for nine years. “But this is the car he enjoyed in his retirement years,” Sam wrote, posting a photo of a 1950s Chevy wagon. “It’s still in the family.”
Rob Dillon also went with a Volkswagen bus. “There are actually three that remind me of my dad: a rubber-bumpered MG Midget, a VW Baja Bug convertible, and a VW microbus. I guess if I had to pick just one it would be the microbus. He had it the longest, and we used to take a lot of road trips in it and stack it full of wood to heat the house in the cold New Hampshire winters.”
Sticking with VWs, Tim Green shared a photo of his dad and his ’67 Beetle in front of Giants Stadium in New Jersey. “The old man had a few of them.” Eric Turner’s father drove a 1973 VW Thing.
Many of your dads owned iconic cars—Mustang, Corvette, Camaro, GTO, Trans Am and Cadillac, to name a few—and how lucky were those folks? Jim Larson’s father owned “a stock white/red interior ’54 Chevrolet Corvette. He was a new car salesman, and I still remember him bringing one home when I was two years old.” Tim DeLong remembers his dad’s “black 1974 Series III Jaguar E Type roadster. Of the six Jags he had, that was my favorite.” Paige Marshall’s pops drove a Lotus Elan, and Hugh-John Fleming’s father drove a Bentley.
That wasn’t the case for most of our fathers. Orion A. Bennett wrote, “To my dad, cars were a tool to get from point A to point B, to carry his family on summer vacations—and his instruments (as he was a semi pro musician). He bought a new 1957 Ford station wagon in late 1956, replaced by a new 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon he bought in late 1962. About 10 years later he bought a Pinto station wagon. I sure didn't get my gear-head interests from my dad.”
Erik Gertsen’s father sounds a lot like mine. “Dad drove whatever was available, whenever. The car that most reminds me of him is an AMC Hornet Sport Wagon with an inline six. It was fast, but when that Carter carburetor was on the fritz it barely ran.”
Paul John Holland “learned to drive” in his dad’s wood-trimmed 1967 Pontiac Grande Parisienne Station Wagon. “Between dad and my oldest brother, who inherited it, it had close to 400,000 miles before dying.” Charles Page best remembers his father’s 1963 Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass, which was “maroon with white bucket seat interior.” He cherishes a 1968 photo of him and dad standing next to it. And Mathias Hastedt remembers his father’s no-frills Opel Manta. “I am from Germany, and it was a typical German car from the 1970s… 4-cylinder … 90 hp. I never saw this car but he always talks about it.”
Jon Thrasher’s father was a salesman, so he “always wanted to look successful (which he was), but not so much that his customers resented his success. His answer was the Buick Electra 225 Limited. I remember every one he had. They were land yachts, for sure. The Limited Editions always had the deepest, softest velour interior available, and a back seat large enough for an entire baseball team!”
Bill Swiss remembers “my dad’s 1956 Persimmon-and-white flo-tone Mercury Monterey 2-door hard top. One cold Sunday morning in 1957 when I was 11, he came back into the house, sat down with great disbelief and announced: "They are gone!" It turned out that ’56 Merc spinner hubcaps were quite the attraction for the youth of our northern New Jersey town. He ‘lost’ three sets before he gave up and went to the plain disks.”
Ron H. Mann will never forget his dad’s 1954 Pontiac Star Chief, although his mother has a lot to do with that. “In an attempt to avoid a wooden sign that appeared in my mom’s way when we got a blow-out, she drove off an embankment at highway speed thinking it would jump like you’d see on television. It landed squarely on an eight-foot boulder and buckled the car like a boomerang. That's why I carry a scar between my eyes.”
Jessie Allred saw two sides of her father through the vehicles he drove. “When I think of my dad, I think of trucks. He always owned a full-size Chevy … a couple Fords too. He had one cool car, a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am T-top. It was blue with the (screaming chicken) on the hood … 6.6-liter engine. That car was fast and super cool.”
Then there’s Vincent McCleod, whose father is either shaking his head in disbelief or smiling proudly—or both. “My dad drove a 1975 Ford Granada. I always told him, ‘I’m buying the same car when I'm old enough,’ and he always replied, ‘Son, when you’re all grown up you’re driving something new.’ So Dad, as you look down from heaven right now … I still have the car and still love it each day.”