Home » Why A 330,000 Mile Mazda Minivan Was The Perfect Car For The The Most Wholesome Bachelor Party Ever

Why A 330,000 Mile Mazda Minivan Was The Perfect Car For The The Most Wholesome Bachelor Party Ever

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The truth is that, despite having the honor of planning my friend’s bachelor party, I really had no clue what we were going to do on Saturday until pretty much the day-of. Yes, that’s right: I basically improvised a bachelor party. But it turned out to be an incredible weekend thanks in no small part to a glorious 330,000 mile minivan — the same minivan featured in our April Article “Man Buys Most Reliable Minivan Ever, Takes Annual Photos Of His Children Growing Older In It As It Accrues 330,000 Miles.” Here’s why this machine was so perfect for the job.

I didn’t really think of this weekend as “wholesome” until I showed the following photos to a friend of mine here in California, who apparently shares many Americans’ views on what a typical bachelor party might look like — a raucous, alcohol-fueled rager that places the groom in situations on the very border of what is acceptable for anyone in a serious relationship. No, to me, and to the groom, Brandon (we’re both “squares,” you could argue), this just seemed like a damn fine weekend. And I’m glad, because I kind of had to shoot from the hip, as running this website and traveling to the Detroit Auto Show took up pretty much all of my time.

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The first bit of luck that came up clutch was my friend Steve, one of the groomsmen, telling me he had a lakehouse we could use. I’d had no clue where we were going to stay, especially since one of the groomsmen felt it would be silly to spend lots of money on an AirBnB when he lives locally. The second thing that came up clutch was transport; typically, a car journalist would ring up an automaker and ask for a press vehicle, and I’m sure I could have done that. But what’s the point when my friend Jamie has the greatest bachelor-van in human history: the legendary 330,000 mile Mazda MPV?

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My colleague Jason Torchinsky picked the van up from Jamie’s house (he was in town for a conference), and was a bit confused about why our press vehicle was a 2004 Mazda MPV whose severe rust was obviously being covered up by a layer of silver paint. In short order, though, he — a fellow enthusiast of hoopties — appreciated the charming, practical, unstoppable, affordable old van, before handing the keys to me for the weekend.

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The first activity of bachelor-weekend just sort of landed in my lap after Autopian contributor and enginerd Steve B. told me his friend could give us a tour of the Detroit Historical Society’s semi-secret car collection. This was an unbelievable experience, and one that I’ll be writing about soon; look at all those cars being preserved in those bubbles!

From there, Brandon and I met up with two other groomsmen, and the crew of four headed 60 miles to Toledo, Ohio to meet up with the fourth groomsman and eat at Brandon’s favorite restaurant, Inky’s Italian foods — home of the finest pizza in human history:

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Inky’s, noticing the “Team Groom” and “Groom” pins we were each wearing (again, from Steve, the man who always comes in clutch), even gave Brandon a free T-shirt! My old Chrysler intern buddy and soon-to-be-married man and I had been eyeing those shirts for years, but had never pulled the trigger, so this was just awesome.

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From there, we headed to a Toledo Mudhens game, where Brandon scored a picture with Muddy:

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Brandon, a Willys CJ-2A and MB owner, and I both love Toledo, largely for its Jeep history. Brandon even once threw out the first pitch for the Toledo Mudhens, so suffice it to say that we love hanging out at that ballpark. The Mudhens — a minor league team that acts as a feeder for the Detroit Tigers — crushed the Columbus Clippers five to two.

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After the game, we drove the MPV an hour back from Toledo to the lakehouse near Jackson, Michigan. The van was absolutely phenomenal. Power from that 3.0-liter Duratec V6 was plentiful, and the JATCO five-speed automatic made the most of it, keeping revs really low on the highway to the point where I would regularly look down at the speedometer and see almost 90 mph. The thing is just that smooth!

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As a bachelor machine, the MPV was perfect. Sure, the passenger’s side sliding door got jammed every now and then, but we had a second door on the other side, and everyone in our crew of five — once through that other opening — had plenty of room to stretch their legs:

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The next morning we all piled in and I drove us to a small-town breakfast nook that Steve had recommended:

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From there, we were off to a tractor show whose sign we’d noticed the night before on our way to Toledo. The event was epic; check out this old steam tractor from around the turn of the 20th century!

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There were actually two such tractors in attendance:

 

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Watch the 1914 model slice up some wood:

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There was also a swap meet; my friend Steve nearly bought a cheap welder.

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The tractors were plentiful and beautiful:

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We all loved this “Watch Your Valve Clearance” notice cast right into this old tractor’s engine:

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Brandon showed me the John Deere tractor below and introduced me to the “pony engine.” For some reason I hadn’t realized that old tractors used high-revving kerosene engines to start their main diesel engines.

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Here’s a look at how such a “pony engine” works; this one’s a V-4 that spins 5,500 RPM!:

That’s right, there was a small V4 engine to start a big engine!

To me, the most fascinating thing I saw was the tractor pulling sled. This is a rather complex trailer that basically moves a heavy “box” filled with — in this case concrete, but sometimes lead — forward as a tractor pulls it. The farther the tractor pulls the sled, the farther farther forward the box moves, placing more weight on the tractor’s rear axle.

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The farther a tractor can drive before stalling, the better its score in the Tractor Pull event.

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I’ll be writing a bit of a deep-dive into how a Tractor Pull’s pulling sled works at some later point, because it’s fascinating.

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After seeing some tractors tow some serious weight, we ate the cheapest lunch ever and then departed the tractor show.

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We drove about 25 miles from the show to an apple orchard, as the groom, Brandon, is obsessed with apples and actually plans to grow his own orchard soon.

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On the dirt roads out in the country, the Mazda was fantastic. It shrugged off potholes, and once on the highway just hummed along steadily at 80 MPH. I love its visibility, its spaciousness, and its surprising speed. And for it to be so smooth and to feel almost like a brand new van — after 330,000 miles — is just remarkable.

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From the orchard it was 50 miles to Full Throttle Adrenaline Park, an electric go-kart track that just so happens to have the most macho name in human history.

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We had a great time there; sure, we kinda missed the sound of gasoline kart engines and the prospect of potentially burning our leg on an exhaust pipe, but the electric karts were definitely more responsive. That’s a good thing and a bad thing, as lots of folks found themselves spinning out in the other groups; the result was that we only got two races in. I won the first, but got crushed on the second, as I was stuck behind a slowpoke.

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It was 65 miles from that karting place in Novi back to the crib, where Steve, on his new Blackstone barbecue right on the lake, cooked up some meats we’d snagged on the way home. I contributed by boiling up some macaroni and cheese:

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After dinner, we made ourselves some drinks, my friend Michael went a bit pyro with the firepit, and Brandon went absolutely apeshit on the s’mores (he is obsessed): 378306076 1035924687822482 2574110635257241141 N378299633 860443612188220 8356137445204890463 N

I was either hung over from cranberry-vodka or I was just really tired, because Brandon had to wake my lazy butt up the next morning, when we ate a delicious breakfast on the lake.

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Just as we were finishing dinner, Steve’s neighbor walked over and asked if we wanted to head onto the lake in her pontoon boat. It was a beautiful day, so we took her up on her kind offer:

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I’d been a bit concerned about planning this bachelor party, but I’m pumped with how it all came together at the last second. Steve B. came in clutch with the tour of Detroit’s semi-secret car collection, groomsman Steve came in clutch with the lakehouse, Jamie came in clutch with the 330,000 mile Mazda minivan that drives far better than it should, the local town came in clutch with that tractor show, and the neighbor came in clutch with the boat ride.

Was it a rager? No. Would some consider it a bit on the “wholesome” side? Maybe so (I mean, five dudes hanging out at an apple orchard?). But Brandon and I just thought it was a damn fine weekend with good friends. And also with an incredible 330,000 mile minivan that shrugged off 250 miles like they were nothing.

 

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Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
9 months ago

YELLOW CJ5 SPOTTED yes i know it’s an M38A1 but let me have this

Scott
Scott
9 months ago

Sounds like an epic weekend to me. Uncomfortable attention paid to the groom by a stripper isn’t mandatory IMO.

I always thought that the MPV (and smaller 5) were more interesting than their competition, per Mazda’s usual MO. I’ve never driven an MPV, though I did drive a 5 once, and though slower than the Mazda 3 on which it was based, it felt sportier than expected. It’s great to hear that the MPV you drove was still strong and smooth at 330Kmiles despite the rust… I assume it’s possible to find a mostly-unrusty one on the west coast, but according to Fuelly, they average in the high teens which isn’t much better than my old Volvo XC90, so switching isn’t necessary/justified. The Mazda 5, being smaller and having a four pot, averages in the mid 20s MPG-wise btw. 🙂

DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
9 months ago

Call me a stick in the mud but I would be down for this kind of bachelor party. You had drinks, fire, racing, and fun. So forget the nay-sayers and party like you want to. Mine was drinking, sleeping, and fishing and it was a blast.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
9 months ago

I’m trying to keep an open mind here and DT articles are normally awesome, filled with eclectic adventure…. But this article was making me depressed until i finally got to the pictures of the go carts and bonfire where i think i identified an individual with a beer can in his hand.

Looks like a nice weekend that my grandma would enjoy.

You don’t have to try and recreate the hangover… But, why couldn’t you go off roading or at least do some drifting and burnouts somewhere. This is a special weekend for your buddy and its being shared with the world to read about.

You can’t do burnouts in a borrowed MPV from your friend, but what about in a rental pacifica from a national company?

Can you redo this whole thing next weekend please.

Last edited 9 months ago by Taxi maniac
Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
9 months ago

I mean, honestly your job as his friend is to keep him from doing anything dumb, so good on you. This sounds like a pretty good time.

Stryker_T
Stryker_T
9 months ago

that steam tractor is amazing!

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
9 months ago

TIL that “wholesome” is the contraction of “whole lotta awesome
Thanks for the story and the pix. Looks like a wonderful time.
Also, apple orchards (and farms in general) are so much fun. I took my wife to a local orchard for their Apple-fest, which happened to coincide with her birthday that year. There was a bluegrass band, a hay ride through the orchard, and lots of delicious food and drink. It’s great to see where and how the food we eat is produced.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago

For a bit I was looking for a used Mazda5 van as you could get them in the US with a manual. Too bad y’all didn’t have one of those to take on the journey.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Or the elusive Mazdaspeed 5.
(still trying to track that fourteen year old experiment from “Car and Driver” down.)
(Or even a simple follow up article)

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

If it works for you, you should get one! The 2012 and later are better all-around; the 2.5 MZR is a more robust engine and the addition of another gear in the manual box makes for a bit more relaxed highway driving than the high-strung 2006-2010 models. Plus, they seem to have improved their rust-proofing greatly in that time period… the ’06 I had was an absolute mess underneath, and around the rear wheel wells, and rocker panels, while the ’12 I have now is considerably more solid.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago

*takes notes*
Thank you. I’ve been looking for a daily with a little more space and versatility lately.
That doubles as my camping vehicle.
Been eyeing Mazda 5s for a while.

Go on…?

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
9 months ago

The ’12 is our family road trip & reliable DD, and it’s been great for the four of us + 2 dogs. The couple of times/year that it’s a bit too small (camping stuff + dogs + all the rest of the stuff that goes with a 2 week road trip) have been solved with a trailer-hitch rack and roof rack with sealed bins, but most of the time it’s a great size. With the second row of seats that slide & fold, and a split 3rd row bench the interior is pretty flexible. The caveat there is that it needs to be given the smaller size; if you need the third row of seats, there’s very little storage space (enough for a soft bag or two and a stroller behind the third row when its up, but that’s about it), but with even one of the rear seats folded it’s been plenty. The manual, smaller dimensions, and general sportiness livens up the driving experience, but it’ll never be as refined inside as the Caravans, Odysseys or Siennas of a similar timeframe. It’ll reliably do about 24 mpg in town and 30 on the highway if you keep it under 75 (without the roof rack), so not a great highway number compared to the more powerful modern V6’s in other vans, but I think a lot of that is how fast the I4 is still spinning at highway speeds, even with that 6th gear (75 is about 3000 RPM for 2012+, but I want to say 80 mph was about 4000 RPM for the earlier ones). Plus, the shorter aspect ratio of the 5 compared to the larger vans probably doesn’t help the Cd much, even if the front area is also a little smaller (so Cd*A is probably about the same, which is really what matters for drag).

As a camping vehicle, I haven’t had a problem with ground clearance on the dirt or gravel roads we’ve had to go down, (even with the rear rack) but some people on the forums have given theirs a bit of a lift with OEM parts off other Mazdas.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago

Let’s say I’m a reliability nut in the PNW where rust isn’t a concern.
What should I be looking out for?

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
9 months ago

Well, if rust isn’t a concern, then the biggest issues are that the suspension components, especially the rear, are a bit under-sized for the weight of people & stuff you can put in the vans. They tend to eat rear shocks, shock mounts, rear springs can break (although rust is usually a factor with that too), and upper rear control arm bushings which causes excessive rear camber change and can wear out rear tires more quickly. The tire wear is a good way to tell this last one, and uneven ride height, leaking shocks, and banging noises the former ones. Its all very simple to replace though, so not a big concern if you’re mechanically inclined. Otherwise I haven’t really had any isssues with my 2012 that wouldn’t just fall under the “10 year old car with 130k miles” or “previous owner neglect” categories. The forums seem to back this up mostly too – they’re just simple vehicles, not much to go wrong.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago

Thanks mate.
I maintain and weekend drive a 97’ MX6.
That all sounds like fairly familiar territory.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I have thought about one of those many times, but the fact that they only seat 6, and have very little cargo space with the third row up kills it for me. As a family of 5, I need more space. I wish I could make the 5 work, but that’s never going to happen unfortunately.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
9 months ago

Bachelor party? Did someone spike the grapes in the green jello salad?

I kid, I grew up Mormon. Every one got married, nobody bothered with the silly practice of getting stupid and inviting questionable “guests” to a party.

My brother got kind of crazy with his.
Cousins were invited.
Friends and neighbors stopped by.
We had a fine cooking fire in the pit.
Tin foil dinners were served.
Shhhh.. we had homemade dry ice root beer.

That was a long time ago. They are still married and going strong.
We still have tin foil dinners when my wife and I visit.

The perfect bachelor party should be the beginning of a new tradition that you, associate with that joining of souls, families and friends.
Not secretive shenanigans.

Y’all did it right.

Last edited 9 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

Too bad we never got the I4 and manual that other markets got. It’s the same one found in the Protege and 626 of the time, later came the MZR.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

At 60 and from college and a frat I have attended many a bachelor party. In your 20s with little money alcohol fueled. In your 30s and a little more money cigars, a stripper or strip club and sharing a quality bottle of booze. In your 40s you are just too darn old have a good meal and a fun outing and lie about what you did. Sexual innuendo works great. You just don’t want to admit to the wife yeah I am glad not to be single anymore. Now in your 50s 4 close friends rent a cabin and fish, car guys a museum, now the old minivan sad but everything else just fine. A decent meal get to bed at a decent hour sharing a quality bottle,or doing a cleanse for a colonoscopy but never admit to your women you aren’t partying. Until later. They know you fall asleep at 9 watching sportscaster. But never admit it. I wonder what the 60 year old Batchelor party will be. Escape rooms with the paddles?

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
9 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Well put. I’d read your articles. You need to apply

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago
Reply to  Taxi maniac

Thanks but my comments are generally met with resistance

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