Sending the Lorson vehicle fleet to the automobile graveyard

By JOHN LORSON Columnist Published:

After serially outgrowing first a tiny, two-door hatchback; then a four-door sedan; and eventually even an average-sized station wagon; my family ultimately settled into traveling the planet in the mother of all station wagons -- a Chevrolet Suburban. Now, 12 years and 5,000 gallons of gasoline later, a day I once only dared but imagine has arrived -- the trend toward bigger has finally begun to reverse! My family is contracting!

In reality, there are just as many of us Lorsons as ever, but the need for a vehicle capable of carrying all of us at once has diminished. Four of the five people in our house are now entirely capable of driving themselves around, and frankly it seems as if they prefer to do just that. Consequently, the utility of owning and maintaining a vehicle capable of carrying seven people, two dogs, a dozen bicycles and a standard ton of camping gear has been largely erased.

We knew it would someday make sense to say goodbye to our beloved family vacation machine, but the ceaselessly loyal beast (long-ago dubbed "the great, white people-hauler") refused to give us a truly compelling reason to do so. And even though she's spent the vast majority of her time the past few years stabled quietly in a warm garage, she's leapt to life and rumbled down the road each time duty has called. Most recently she'd carried the lot of us to a beach a thousand miles away and delivered us safely home again without so much as a burp. Great White has been loyal, dependable and true for the duration of her career and may have remained with us forever, eventually pastured happily out back and trotted forth for parade duty and the occasional classic car cruise-in had her fate not been tied to that of her diminutive stablemate, Zippy.

It has never been my intention to live in a home where cars outnumber licensed drivers, yet mysteriously that's exactly where we've ended up -- four vehicles for three drivers -- with Charlotte away at school in her own ride. Mind you, only one of these cars (Kristin's, of course) was built in this century and the average age of the entire bunch is an impressively road-salt-defying 15 years. Kristin's car is also the only one that boasts a fair market value beyond what I might pay for a decent mountain bike.

In order to explain how a simple pair of cars blossomed into a fleet, we'd need to step back through decades of family history. I really don't have that kind of space here. Let's just say that people kept turning 16 around here and I kept finding bargains -- perhaps the greatest of which was a little, red Neon. "Zippy" was well up in years when I bought her from my sister-in-law for a song. She was intended for our soon-to-be 16-year-old daughter, Charlotte. However, on the very first drive home I fell in love.

Charlotte never drove Zippy -- not even once! I picked up a ratty little S-10 for a couple hundred bucks just to shut her up, which worked out wonderfully for me, as Charlotte eventually bought her own car out of sheer embarrassment. Her less narcissistic brother still drives that truck.

Zippy became my every day runner and the Suburban became essentially an RV, rolled-out only for camping trips, vacations and the like. Once those types of adventures became fewer and further between, Kristin and I agreed that it would make sense at some point to replace Great White and Zippy with a single car positioned somewhere between the hulk and heft of a Suburban, with the sprite and spunk of a Neon. That moment arrived as Zippy fell to the vehicular equivalent of a catastrophic aneurism just after the New Year.

After a grieving process that lasted somewhat less than a day, I found myself behind the wheel of an altogether new type of creature. We'll talk more about that next week!

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