The Schlenkermobile

Fact is, Thor—despite his beep-beep vibe and Matchbox styling—is a complete badass.

Thor Schlenker is a 13-year-old MINI Cooper, the latest and most interesting vehicle in the family fleet. While Thor is faster than any car I have ever owned, including a ’92 Camaro, he is not a testosterone-soaked midlife crisis. He is a tiny shoebox of energy, a six-speed chunk of joy with a dashboard that looks like London’s Big Ben and a fuel-efficient engine that enjoys a hefty gulp of gas with every push of the clutch.

He is fun. And he is mine.

Long story short: I needed a used car after our youngest daughter took my beloved VW Beetle to college. I bought that Beetle literally two hours after I accepted my current job at Duke Energy. It replaced a gasping Toyota with a colony of ants living in the engine. I adore VW Beetles—this was my third—but when Caroline left for college, I knew this one had an important new purpose.

“Lennon” the Beetle (pride swells when your daughter names her car after John Lennon) now sports cutesy retro floor mats and stuffed animals. There was talk of throw pillows in the backseat. I can’t bring myself to look. 

The girly trappings accent what many already know: The VW Beetle is widely considered a chick car, as in a small, cute car that, at one time, came equipped with a flower vase next to the steering wheel.

But I love the look and lore of VW Beetles (old and new) and have long argued that its feminine trappings do not outweigh its cultural significance. Lennon never had a flower vase, and I bristled every time someone said, “Hey, cute car.” 

Cute. I have been fighting that word for years, particularly with the Beetles (two of which did have flower vases). Our first Beetle was pastel green and seemed to smile with perky adorableness. 

The heart wants what the heart wants, so I drove those Beetles with guttural pride. With the last Beetle off to college, though, I did crave something with a little more hair on its chassis—a truck or Jeep or tractor or anything not subject to wedgies. 

I needed something to carry the firewood I’ll never cut, haul the boat I’ll never buy, tow the camper I’ll never use because, well, God invented air-conditioning. 

I love cars. I covet them shamelessly at stop lights. I know nothing about their innards, but I know what I like.

And, apparently, I like cute cars. 

I fell for Thor the MINI Cooper as soon as I saw him on the side of the road with a For Sale sign. It wasn’t a Jeep or Monster Truck. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie, all European and cocky. 

It felt right. 

Cute car? Fine, yeah. Whatever.

Just know Thor is fast, dark green (no pastels) and likes Tom Petty tunes in his CD player. He was built before Bluetooth stereos. Like I said: Badass.

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