Ah, the humble minivan—the mercilessly mocked soccer mom-mobile. When I got my driver's license in high school, I had to cart my siblings to school each day in our family's navy-blue 1996 Ford Windstar minivan. And let me tell you—if you're looking for a way to rip the joy over getting a driver's license out of teenager's heart, making him drive a minivan to high school is a guaranteed way to do it.
Since you've come to this website, I'm guessing you're the kind of person who, if given the choice between driving a minivan and a swift death, would at least take a few minutes to consider your options. So, it might surprise you to learn that once upon a time, minivans were considered the hot new thing. It's true—Chrysler debuted their minivans in 1984 and promptly created an entirely new market where minivans replaced station wagons as the vehicle of choice for families.
Sales of minivans increased until they peaked in 2000 with 1.4 million sold in the US. Since then, things have been getting steadily worse for these humble little vans. In 2013, only a half million were sold in the US. The New York Times even wrote, "They're uncool at any speed."
Given that statement, it's no surprise that people try to mod their minivans in an attempt to regain even a little street cred. Here are 20 pics of people who tried just that. Did they fail? You be the judge.
19 Chrysler Town & Catastrophe
From an evolutionary standpoint, the main goal of all life on Earth is to reproduce, and so animals (yes, including humans) spend a great deal of time marketing themselves as desirable mates. But the LA Times wrote that "a minivan, however, sends out the opposite signal, that the driver is older (old enough to already have offspring) and spoken for—off the reproductive market, so to speak." Since this is the case, you really have to wonder why someone would go out of his way to do this.
Well, at least it's... interesting. It's hard to say whether or not it's a total failure because I can't quite make up my mind on what the owner was trying to do. Is it a parade float? Did the owner lose a bet? It's a little bit like a Christmas wedding had a baby with an undersea-themed prom, and that baby spit up all over this 1990s Chrysler Town & Country (which was once considered a luxury model, by the way). What happens if this comes across low-hanging wires or a short underpass? Even the pigeons in the picture are just walking around and asking each other what the heck it is that they're looking at.
This may come as a shock, but minivans aren't generally fast. Yes, Mercedes did produce the R63 AMG (which had a sub-five-second 0-60 time) from 2003 to 2007, at which point they discontinued it due to low demand. Seriously, people just stood up and said, "No thanks, Mercedes. We'll stick to our boring minivans, thank you very much." Okay, I don't really know whether they said that, but considering most of the other options out there, it's kind of mind-boggling that the soccer moms didn't flock to a fast minivan when they had the chance.
So, considering that stability at high speed isn't going to be a problem faced by most minivans, it's difficult to see a reason why a body kit might be worth the money. But to be fair, this is clearly more about looks than speed. This person also has a spoiler, vortex generators, and few choice decals. He even took the time to paint his windshield wipers red. Is this a good-looking mod job? In all honesty, no. But it kind of seems like the owner tried really hard, so it's difficult for me to call that a complete fail. I'll give it an E for Effort.
17 Drive Like An Egyptian
Time for a history lesson. Don't roll your eyes—history is important. Hieroglyphics were used as the writing system in ancient Egypt. Combining alphabetic, logographic, and syllabic elements, the writing system boasted over 1,000 distinct characters that were every bit as effective at communicating complex thoughts and ideas as any writing system currently in use today. Knowledge of how to read hieroglyphics was lost in the medieval ages, but with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, scholars were given a huge boost in their work of trying to decipher the system.
Truly hieroglyphics are incredibly fascinating. But let's be real—do they really belong on the side of a minivan? Someone put real money and effort into this. He even painted the rims gold to match. Maybe if we were able to read it, the reasons behind this mod would make more sense (hey, scholars... mind if I borrow the Rosetta Stone for a sec?). Perhaps it's an ancient curse upon any who'd dare let their grocery cart put a ding in the side of this van? Or maybe it's his regular Starbucks order—you know... in case he goes through the drive-thru in Egypt?
16 Excessories Oddyssey
You have to admit that when it comes to the cool factor, minivans kind of shoot themselves in the foot. They're like the vehicular equivalent of a middle school vice principal. Bland exteriors in beige or burgundy mix with equally underwhelming performance and a hopefully stain-proof interior, making minivans seem like the last stop on a one-way train to giving up all hope. Would it really be that difficult to give them some personality? Even if the minivan market doesn't necessarily want Merc speed, who's to say they don't want any style at all?
I guess this is a classic case of "be careful what you ask for."
This minivan kind of looks like the owners got a Bedazzler gun on sale and decided to cover their vehicle in whatever they could scrounge at the beach. There are sunglasses, tote bags, seashells, rocks, and an entire shoe department's worth of sandals. The side of the van, although it's difficult to read, says, "Excessories Oddyssey," which is an extremely accurate (if questionably spelled) moniker for this, um, let's call it "unique" mod job. But honestly, this thing looks like it'd earn you an angry letter from your HOA if you tried to park it in front of your house.
15 Mandala Minivan
Right now, you might be asking, "If minivans are so terrible, why don't parents get SUVs instead?" And this is a legitimate point. But any way you slice it, minivans are the superior choice when it comes to young children. For starters, they're closer to the ground, which makes it easier for short legs to climb in. They have the same seating and cargo capacity as many crossovers and SUVs, and many newer models now come with one-touch power-sliding doors, which is a must for parents with their arms full. Plus they're cheaper and more fuel-efficient than SUVs, so what's not to love?
Okay, there's a lot not to love.
That's why I'm writing this article after all. But if you got your minivan primarily for your small kids, I guess it makes sense to paint it in a way that would amuse them. Let's face it—a bland beige exterior isn't going to help a child's neural development the same way that being exposed to bright, interesting colors is. The main problem here is that it kind of looks like this minivan's owner borrowed his kids' finger paints for the job. I get that budgets are tight, but still...
14 The Optimist
Body kits have a long history with car enthusiasts. Their principle application is to improve your vehicle's performance. Parts like spoilers and splitters improve downforce, while others, like hood scoops, can funnel more air to your engine and help it run cooler. Typically, all the parts within a body kit are designed to work together to achieve a certain performance result, but people also like to mix and match elements from different body kits to create a unique look. This touches on the second application for body kits: car customization.
This is a minivan that somebody put a lot of time into. But it's difficult to say whether he truly succeeded or not. For starters, does it look like the headlights are upside down, or is it just me? The owner also completely maxed out those rims and added skinny tires. And considering how low that front bumper is, I'm not sure the skinny tires were a good idea (what happens if you come across a speed bump?). But the worst thing of all? That would be the thick layer of dust covering every inch of this minivan. It means that even after all that effort, the owner still didn't think it was worth driving.
If you want to know the truth, driving a minivan is really a life lesson in the making. GQ magazine (basically the herald of all things stylish) said that you're wrong if you think "minivans have become shortened visual code for 'sad-eyed, suburban-dwelling Blake Shelton fan.'"
True, older minivans really did deserve the terrible reputations they garnered, but newer minivans seem determined to counteract their outer blandness with inner luxury.
Entertainment systems, individualized temperature control, and loads of space mean that everyone riding inside the minivan is going to be living the high life, even if the person driving it wants to remain anonymous. And therein is the life lesson: it doesn't matter what's on the outside. It's what's on the inside that counts. Aww.
And once you've embraced this simple yet difficult concept, you're free from the constraints of worrying what everybody else thinks. Which leads to things like this. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what look the owner of this van was going for, but I think those spoilers, combined with the bright-yellow paint job, make it look like Pikachu. Imagine the size of the Poké Ball you'd need to catch this one.
12 Landau Minivan
If you're old enough, you probably remember a 1970s design element called the "Landau roof." "Landau" is actually the name for a type of carriage, but when used to describe cars, it refers to a faux or fake convertible. The look is basically achieved by wrapping the top part of the car in vinyl and adding a chrome trim (think of a typical hearse). There were full landaus and also half landaus (also called "landaulets"), but any way you slice it, it's not a good look.
But behold, ladies and gentlemen! I now present to you the Landau Minivan! That's right—it's 100% wrapped in vinyl. This, um, I'll say "one of a kind" creation made an appearance at the SEMA auto show in Las Vegas. But since a full vinyl exterior isn't nearly showy enough for a place like Vegas, the owners also outfitted it with a full body kit, spiderweb side mirrors, and (let's be honest) an obnoxious pink color. It even looks like they swapped the front headlights for brake lights. It's also a right-hand-drive vehicle, which actually makes a lot of sense. Even in wild Vegas, this minivan looks like it's a long way from home.
11 Extended Cab
If you're looking to cram a lot of people into one vehicle, seven seats seem to be the golden standard for station wagons. Two people in the front, three in the middle, and two more in the third row. Since minivans are the new station wagons, it makes sense that most of them are also built with the ability to haul seven bodies to the elementary school and back on any given Tuesday. Some (like the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna) can even handle eight, though maybe don't eat a big breakfast beforehand.
But if seating for eight people is still not enough, you could splurge on a full-size van with seating for 15. Or you could do something really unique and just make your own extended cab minivan. How hard could it be, really? You just weld the front half of your minivan to the back half of some luckless donor vehicle, and presto! You've got your very own minivan version of the Human Centipede. But even if you manage to get the whole thing to stay together, the main drawback will be that you won't have any passengers because all your friends and family would rather walk than be seen in that thing.
10 It's In The Details
Some of my favorite websites on which to waste time are those "you had one job" type of websites. They're the ones that showcase major mistakes in advertising, design, and roadwork—anything where the end result is completely, obviously wrong, yet the person behind the product cared so little that he didn't even bother to correct it. Tiles that don't match the surrounding pattern but would've if they'd just been rotated 90 degrees. Burgers where all the toppings are sequestered into one little area on the edge. Business signages that proclaim there's a ten percent sale on everything in the "entire store" or that they're celebrating their "23nd year" of service.
Now I'm not saying that the good people of the Community Methodist Church didn't care about the final product when they ordered their van.
I also don't believe the company that did the lettering was too lazy to get it right. But with the sliding doors used in minivans, extra considerations are in order. Otherwise, you end up trying to minister to your community part-time as the Community Methodist Church and part-time as the Communist Church. But who knows? Maybe this is a new kind of Methodist, and this is what they intended it to say all along.
9 Pick A Door, Any Door
There's one super cool van out there, and that's the Volkswagen Bus (a.k.a. the Type-2, the Transporter, the Kombi, or the Microbus). The Bus was introduced in 1949 as a counterpart to the Beetle (hence the Type-2 moniker) and reached its heyday during the 1960s, which has led to its hippie reputation. Does it belong in a minivan article? I say it does, and since it's my article, what I say goes. But seriously, most VW Busses can comfortably seat seven to nine people, which puts them in the same passenger-capacity arena as minivans rather than the 15-people loads of full-size vans.
One of the reasons that VW Beetles and Buses were so beloved in the '60s was because their designs had changed little over the years.
Thus parts were plentiful, and repairs were usually simple enough to do yourself. But I guess the owner of this VW Bus took that concept to an extreme when he created this multi-door variation on the T1 Transporter model. But here's a tip, kids: just because the doors are plentiful doesn't mean that using more doors in your mod job is automatically better.
8 Tractor Van
Believe it or not, minivans are good for much more than just carting kids around. That's right—they can actually be really versatile. Some people mod theirs on the inside to make it a full camper. Some add minibars to their minivans and use them as a mini party bus. You can also park in a scenic place, open the back hatch, and have a nice bench to watch the sunset. You can even go to one of those membership-only warehouse stores and say, "You know what? I believe I'll have that 60-inch TV" because you've got fold-down seats in your minivan and because you're ready for anything.
Well, almost everything. Minivans may have a lot of uses for those creative enough to find them, but I don't believe "tractor substitute" is one of them, even if you mod it with tractor wheels, which I guess this owner thought was a good idea because of... mysterious reasons? Maybe he's a wannabe homesteader who was looking for a vehicle that could plow the fields while still pulling double duty as a daily driver. Or maybe all his tires had holes, and he ran out of spares, so this was the next best option. Whatever the reason behind it, this is a design that probably won't be catching on anytime soon.
7 Face Lift
If you think about it, using a body kit on a car is almost kind of like getting plastic surgery as a human. People get facelifts and nose jobs and liposuction because they want to look younger and more attractive and possibly be mistaken for Angelina Jolie. But the end result is usually not all that successful. Typically, people who've had plastic surgery don't look like Angelina Jolie. They just look like they had lip enhancement, although it's always possible that the people who do have plastic surgery successfully enough that no one notices are also the ones smart enough to not tell anyone about it.
At least with cars, body kits are not nearly as big of a commitment.
If you decide you don't like your nose job, you can't simply remove your nose. But just like with plastic surgery and people, a body kit won't make a car look like something it's not. Even with a full body kit, orange rims, skinny tires, and green headlights, no one is going to mistake this minivan for a Mercedes, a BMW, or a Porsche. Although it's pretty cool-looking, relatively speaking, this minivan is still clearly just a minivan.
6 Front Porch
Have you ever been on one of those "seen at Walmart" websites where people post pics of the crazy things they see at Walmart stores across the country? The ones with people wearing see-through pants or t-shirts that say "I heart strippers" or even Oscar the Grouch costumes. Walmart is a world unto itself, and like a black hole, it finds the strange, the funny, and the sometimes disturbing and collects them in its warm embrace. Who wants to bother with watching Jerry Springer when you can just go to Walmart?
Considering that this is a Walmart parking lot, it seems like an appropriate place to see this insane minivan mod. I guess the idea of modding the inside to include a minibar was too subtle for the owners of this van. After all, what's a minibar without a porch on which to sit and enjoy your beverages? And what if (now stay with me here), you could bring your front porch with you wherever you go? That would basically be like the pinnacle of relaxation right there. Or something. Hey, it may look super ugly, but you'll have the last laugh once everyone sees you enjoying your porch van.
5 Mid-life Crisis Minivan
Also known as a cabriolet, a convertible is a car with a roof that retracts so that you may drive with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair like the freedom-loving rock star that you are. Considering that convertibles are now considered luxury items, it might surprise you to learn that the first cars were all roofless. It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that people began putting covers on their cars, and by the 1920s, cars were being produced with full metal bodies so that people could ignore the elements whilst driving. But naturally, the pendulum of desire swings both ways, and by 1939, Plymouth was once again producing cars with convertible roofs.
It's a completely accepted cliché that convertibles are the standard mid-life crisis purchase for aging divorcees with toupees.
But what if you really want a convertible already spent all your money on your toupee? Easy fix! Just take the family minivan that you won in the divorce and slice the top off. Voila! Now you have a stylish hairdo AND a stylish ride. Bring on the 22-year-olds! I promise they won't laugh at you (*cough* sarcasm *cough*).
Whatever your driving needs, there's a type of tire to help you out. Performance/low-profile tires give you traction and maneuverability for a weekend at the track. Truck and SUV tires are built specifically to handle the needs of big-bodied vehicles. Mud tires give you extra grip and stability on sloppy ground, while snow tires help you drive in the... well, you get the idea.
But when it comes to the tires on this minivan, I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out what they're for. They look like something you'd unlock in Mario Kart (I choose Metal Mario on the Master Cycle with the crazy minivan tires). Maybe their intended use really is to dodge banana peels and outrun blue shells while going for the gold cup (though I'm not really sure this minivan is up to a 200 cc race). Okay, okay, yes, I know these are just regular tires and rims that have been spray-painted, but to admit that is to spoil the fun. I prefer to think that the owner of this van has found a secret portal to the Mario Kart dimension and brought these back with him as a little souvenir.
Because of their versatility, minivans have a long history as business vehicles. You can transport your balloon bouquets, your dog grooming tools, and your DJ equipment—most anything you'd ever need to drive around, you can fit in your minivan. You might have to mod the inside to be able to efficiently stow all your business supplies, but once you've arrived at your client's bar mitzvah, you'll be glad you were able to bring all your catering in one trip.
But to make a really proper business vehicle, you also need to mod the outside with your company's logo and information (just be careful about the details when you do; see entry #11 on this list). This minivan looks like it was once headed in that direction. It's got a very nice decal of a very nice man wearing very nice suspenders. But the weird part is... that's all it's got. There's no business name, no phone number, no website. Just the suspender man. Perhaps, the owner of the business lost his funding before completing his van. Or maybe, he just woke up one day and decided he didn't want to be in business anymore. Maybe if you happen to be driving around one day and see the suspender van, you can ask the owner yourself.
I don't have any tattoos, but I'd really, really like to get some--specifically, a half sleeve. I actually have about ten different ones picked out and ready to go. So, what's stopping me? Well, the ideas I have don't go together very well at all. I know that tattoos come down to the individual person and that the skill with which the tattoo is done can make a huge amount of difference, but it's just a personal preference of mine. If/when I end up getting a half sleeve, I'd like there to be some kind of theme or some manner of rhyme and reason to the images I choose for it.
Because what I really don't want is something like this on my arm. I'm sure the owners of this van really like it, and because of that, I hate to speak badly about it. But just look at it! It almost literally appears like they just threw mods at it and stood back to see what stuck. There are spotlights, a push bar, lots of Indian flags, soccer balls, a basset hound, a Ferrari badge, some mysterious eyes, and a few others that I'm not sure about. And that doesn't even count whatever randomness is on the other side.
1 Mini Minivan
With the world's population continuing to grow and more of us than ever crammed into urban environments, space is often at a premium. Especially once you add in affordability and environmental friendliness, it's easy to see why tiny cars are especially popular right now. Called "city cars," "urban cars," or "microcars," these super small cars (think brands like Fiat, MINI, Smart, etc.) usually seat only two to four people and have very little power, but they allow you to maneuver around heavy traffic, slip through lane changes, and parallel park with ease.
This is something I don't really understand. The whole point of a minivan is that you can comfortably cart around all your people and cargo in one trip.
However else auto manufacturers might try to spruce them up, minivans are still inherently uncool. So, why on Earth would you remove its carrying capacity to make yourself a mini minivan? If you want something small, get a Citroën C1. And if you need to carry a lot, get a minivan. But this is basically the worst of both worlds. I guess, at least the car thieves will stay well clear of it.