Viable road-trip vehicle suggestions

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

My family of four is planning to tour the western part of the United States for several weeks next summer. We plan to stay in motels, so we don't need a vehicle we can sleep in. But we'll be spending many hours each day driving, so we're looking for something roomy and comfortable. We'd prefer something with room to lie down and rest, room for our luggage, and room for the kids games and toys. Most vans I've looked at don't seem particularly comfortable for long hours of driving, and we're afraid to take a huge RV on some of the less traveled side-roads we'd like to explore. Do you have any suggestions?

RAY: Funny you should ask! I just barely survived a similar trip with my family this past summer. We toured the west for three weeks in a Mark III Deluxe Van, which is a full-size Chevy Van that's been converted to a luxury vacation-mobile by Mark III Industries in Ocala, Florida.

TOM: My brother was looking for the same sort of thing you are. He didn't want to sleep in the van, but he wanted to be able to in case his wife locked him out of the motel room!

RAY: Right. And one of the great surprises was how comfortable the Mark III really was. I'm thinking about taking one of the seats out of the Mark III and bolting it down in my living room in front of the TV. There were days when I drove for nine or ten hours in those seats, and never got uncomfortable. In fact, they were more comfortable then some of the motel beds we slept in!

TOM: Luckily, my brother brought his video camera along on the trip, so I've been able to fully share his experience (actually, I've only been forced to sit through about 35 hours of his tapes so far). He has great footage of the Mark III driving up long, winding mountain roads. The shots through the windshield show the full size RVs in front of him creeping along at 6 mph--barely squeezing around the turns while scattering rocks and dust from the shoulder of the road. If you look closely, you can see the co-pilot clutching the road map in one hand and a life insurance pol??icy in the other.

RAY: That's where it was great to have the Mark III. It was big enough to be comfortable, quiet, and roomy, but I didn't feel like I was driving my three-bedroom ranch house up Pike's Peak.

TOM: The interior had a lot of nice features, too. The rear bench seat folds down into a full size bed. There's a built-in TV and VCR, a place to hang clothes, and a built-in cooler.

RAY: But believe it or not, there was one shortcoming. There weren't enough cup holders, and the ones they had were poorly placed. There's really no excuse for this. A vehicle designed to serve as a home away from home has to give you a place to rest a cup of coffee. My eight-year-old got tired of kneeling between the front seats every morning so I could rest mine on top of his head. Mark III needs to have a heart to heart with the guys who designed the Chevy Lumina APV, the cur??rent holders of the world cup in cup holder technology.

TOM: So buy yourself a Mark III conversion van, take along some velcro for the bottom of your coffee cup, and tour the west, Monique. Just do your relatives a favor, and don't bring more than 20 or 30 hours of blank video tape along with you.

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