I know that by picking a minivan for this week’s Meh Car Monday is going to cause some people to think I’m taking the easy way, because minivans are always meh. I don’t agree with this at all. Minivans can transcend mehitude dramatically! Look at the original Volkswagen Microbus, old Dodge A100s, the Chrysler Town and Country/Caravan, the innovative Previa, hell, even the Ford Aerostar! All of those had something interesting or compelling about them. But not the Mercury Villager. That thing is like a a fusion reactor combining atoms of boring and who-gives-a-shit to produce more meh than it takes in.
The Mercury Villager was the result of a short partnership between Ford and Nissan, one where you can imagine representatives of the two companies saying “Okay, fine, I don’t like you, either,” shaking hands, and then wiping their hands on their respective pants.
The products of this sad marriage of convenience were the Nissan Quest and Mercury Villager minivans. The Quest is pretty meh itself, but it’s still lumbering on, and never debased itself with special editions from dipshit-targeted clothing companies, so I’m still sticking with the Villager here.
Ford had a Japanese partner already, Mazda, and Mazda had even just developed their own minivan, the MPV, but it was rear-wheel drive and hence too potentially fun and interesting for Ford, who wanted something front-wheel drive and joyless enough that buyers could hate themselves properly.
Nissan really stepped up and gave Ford what they needed, a decent, capable FWD minivan with a four-speed automatic from the Nissan Maxima, a 3-liter VG30E V6 that made a decent 151 horsepower, and an almost sublime lack of character or interest.
Like all meh cars, the Villager was basically fine; it allegedly drove in a car-like manner, which is one of those bits of praise you give to something that’s not technically a car when you don’t have much else to say other than it didn’t tip over when you drove it, at least not that you can remember.
Mercury used this as a hook for its ads:
I’ll give you all a moment for your signs of sexual arousal to dissapate.
I feel like every time I saw a Villager on the road, it was a Nautica edition one, and that’s really the solid-meh rocket booster that launches the Villager into a high, stable orbit around the planet Mehptune.
Nautica was some aspirational clothing line of vaguely nautical-inspired athletic wear that was designed to appeal to people who wanted to be more like the rich bad guys in a screwball ‘80s movie where some plucky gang of misfits have to put together a concert to save their grandma’s house from becoming a mall. Some guy with a sweater tied around his shoulders would fall into a pool at the end.
That guy falling into the pool was the Spirit of Nautica.
To Nautica-up the Villager, they two-toned it, with white lower body cladding and bright white wheels, I guess to resemble the white soles of docksider shoes, or something. These would get nice and filthy on most Villagers.
The inside had embroidered logos and anchors and shit on the seats, Mercury gave you a big yellow Nautica duffel bag to hold whatever was left of your dreams, and the whole thing just felt so...painfully empty.
If you saw a Nautica-edition Villager, and felt some deep, internal desire to have that be your car, because it represents everything about where you were in your life at that moment, and who you felt to be, culturally, at that time, then I suspect I know how this would play out.
You’d buy it, and when you got home after driving the Villager back from the Mercury dealer, you would have proceeded to the laundry room, found a bottle of bleach, drank it with determined gusto, and then waited patiently for the sweet release you deserved, your soul content with the knowledge that you did the Right Thing.
Is that too harsh? Maybe. Still, I can’t help it. The Villager, when teamed up with the blandly wealth-worshipping Nautica bullshit, just combines into a meh-tacular chemical compound of nothing-mattersiphenol that I can’t help but cringe.
I’m sure many Villagers have proven to be useful vehicles for families for many years. I’m also sure that, outside of being the location where kids and parents vomited, laughed, cried, hurt, kissed—whatever—nobody misses these flavorless lumps of good-enough at all.