I didn't like his arrogance. I didn't like that he had Optimus Prime. I didn't like that he thought he could draw cars better than me. Thankfully for Minolo, I did, however, really like his parents car:

A 1989 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.

The truth is, I didn't really hate Minoli. I just didn't like that he was a show it all. His mom and my mom were friends too. And when winter came in Collingwood Ontario off Georgian Bay, in 1995, as I was in Grade 1... I really appreciated their Custom Cruiser.

You see, my mom didn't have a lot of money, and she raised me by herself. So it was with a little bit of shame and a whole lot of guts that she asked Minoli's mom to carpool 1 more kid (in an already full car) to school, come that winter spell.

So I got tossed in the back. Facing rearwards. With guess who... Minoli.

Every morning, fights would ensue from the rearward facing seats, as the older kids and their friends sat up front. Every morning, the requisite "Shut Up Twerps!" would be heard from the front. And every morning, Minoli and I would hang on for dear life as we made faces at the people in the cars behind us, as his mom would drift that huge Custom Cruiser through the edge of a snow bank.

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Times were good.

I remember the car was really warm. That car could provide heat to the North Pole all year round and still have enough heat left over to bake a cherry pie.

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Not that it was a good thing.

Because every time us two would get stuffed in the back, we'd be bundled in so many scarves and layers and snow pants and boots and mittens and all that shishkajazz that we could barely move let alone remove it all for the ride to school. And God knows, if we did, Minoli's mom would have the eyes of the hawk and we'd hear "DON'T YOU DARE TAKE THOSE OFF. IT'S COLD OUTSIDE!".

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With her eyes always on us, it's no wonder she knocked that tail end into snowbanks every once in awhile.

The radio was good too. You could hear it all the way in the back. Every morning, we'd hear "CKCB Radio with Dan the Man in the mornings!" Every morning was filled with Dan playing back a segment he did where he would go onto the streets of Collingwood at around 5PM the previous day and ask them about their day and plans. I remember I was aired once, to a much jealous Minoli. I had been asked "What will you do when you grow up?"

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My response was "Race car driver!"

At which point he asked my mom "What do YOU think your boy will do when he grows up?!"

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To which she said "Hopefully not drive a race car"...

But boy oh boy, that Custom Cruiser was nice. Real nice. Baby blue outside, with wood paneling, wire hubs, and a navy blue velour interior with bench seating all round. Always covered in slush, and always reliable, it was a 12 ton hunk of a seemingly now lost America that felt like it never wanted to die, and likely could have lived on forever.

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Thankfully I know it'll live on forever in my mind and heart.

It pains me to see that America has forgotten how truly great, big, strong, dependable woody wagons can be. They were a gateway to a time of adventure and fun. They were what a lot of us were taught to drive in. And many were named by their family, as a homage to their significance as a member, which was provided by the memories left behind on its deep, cushy, velour seats.

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If I could have one car to drive my future family around in, all the time, it would be a pristine example of the Woody Custom Cruiser, with a Corvette LS1 (old school) engine under the hood and a four on the tree. There's something about a Father who can appreciate lost adventure... Just enough to want to create one with his own family, and to get to it fast.

Minoli would never see it coming.

What about you? What's your dream family car?