Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Would you buy a Vanuck or…? September 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:36 AM
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TYPICALLY, MY HUSBAND and I don’t meddle in our two adult daughters’ lives. We don’t intrude or hover like helicopter parents. Advice is given only when sought. We’ve learned it works best that way.

But when it comes to cars, well, that’s entirely different. I can’t even count how often the phone has rung with one daughter or the other on the line saying:

  • “My car is making a funny noise.”
  • “My car won’t start.”
  • “I have a flat tire.”
  • “I need my oil changed.”

And so their dad, an automotive machinist, steps in to help whenever he can, in person or with advice over the phone. He has the knowledge and the skills to problem-solve nearly any mechanical issue.

Yet, though, because of distance—our second daughter now lives in eastern Wisconsin—or circumstances (like a broken down car parked at a St. Paul gas station), he can’t always assist. He’ll offer his suggestions and the daughters have to take it from there.

Recently our 25-year-old daughter, the one who lives in Minneapolis, decided she wants to purchase a different car to replace her 1995 Geo Prizm. She’s driven her Geo since high school and it’s starting to show its age.

While she’s been researching cars online, we did a little car shopping of our own for her when we were back in my hometown of Vesta recently. We found three possible vehicle replacements. Here they are in no particular order, with as much information as was available about each.


Chevy Cobalt

A 2002 – 2006 (the automotive machinist was uncertain) Chevy Cobalt. Clean interior.


2008 Ford Focus

A 2008 Ford Focus one-owner, never-smoked-in (yeah, important point), with new tires (plus), clean interior (bonus), 34 – 40 mpg (yahoo), and only 57,000 miles (nice number). However, the car was priced at $12,000, about double our daughter’s budgeted amount.


The "Vanuck," which did not have a "for sale" sign posted on it, but sat in the Dave's Auto Used Cars lot.

A truly one-of-a-kind Ford vehicle that cannot be defined, so let’s call it a Vanuck. Front features a roomy 11 – 12-passenger van (great for transporting our daughter’s many friends). Back features a spacious storage area for bikes, tents, groceries, whatever (bonus). Appears well-constructed with a strong weld and new under-body framework (good safety features). However, back door of van section cannot be opened (negative for passenger safety in event of an emergency). Mileage uncertain, but probably low (two thumbs down). Not likely to be stolen (two thumbs up). Size may make it difficult to maneuver (ahem, back up) or navigate through metro traffic.

SO, WHICH OF THE ABOVE should we recommend to our daughter? Or should she/we keep shopping? Submit a comment. I’d like your helpful input.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Would you buy a Vanuck or…?”

  1. Bob Collins Says:

    The Cobalt didn’t come on the market until 2004; it was Chevy’s replacement for the Cavalier, which was a nice little car with no frills. The Cobalt has (or had, it’s been discontinued in favor of the Cruz) a few more frills and had a pricetag of about $18k (as opposed to the $12k Cavalier).

    My son drives a Cobalt and it’s been a good, solid dependable car.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      OK, then, we’re off to a good start with the first ballot cast by Bob Collins (of MPR News Cut fame) for Choice A, the Cobalt. Thank you, Bob, for the vote, the reasons behind your choice, and the clarification on the year.

  2. Lanae Says:

    I vote for the vanuck. Mostly because I know what a stylish young woman my niece is ( Christmas sweater and 4th of July top) So I know that she would LOVE that vanuck!!! Just think of all the friends she can haul around, or better yet her family. Good luck A. on finding a car and don’t let your mom pick it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, sister of mine, I love your logic. Or is it humor? And don’t worry, I won’t choose her car.

      I recall our father helping me with the purchase of my first car, a Vomit, oh, I mean Comet. Major, major mistake to allow him to make that decision for me. He knew his farm machinery, but not necessarily his cars.

  3. Keep shopping – look for a Chrysler product (just my opinion – I buy strictly used vehicles and always have. I get the oil changed religiously and have never had a problem with a vehicle. Usually end with well over 200000 miles before deciding to start again and I again look for one with around 100000 or less miles and go from there.) Again, only my opinion which with a bowl of cornflakes will give you breakfast!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for sharing your breakfast opinion, Harriet. There are no plans to buy a new vehicle. We never have. She won’t.

  4. Barb Lewis Says:

    haha! I know where that vanuck is! Love your blog. Barb from Belview

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, Barb, we were just in Vesta and I did not see the Vanuck. Do you think perhaps someone purchased it? The Cobalt is still there. Didn’t see the Focus, though.

      Glad you enjoy Minnesota Prairie Roots. Now that I have an uncle and aunt living in Belview, I may just drop into your fair village more often. Would love to make the Old SOD Day celebration some year…


    VANUCK ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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