Saturday, April 17, 2004

Van best fit, but Mustang a keeper



[photo]
Julie Stratman with her 14-month-old triplets Tom, Matt and Eva in Ron Stratmanís 1994 Mustang GT convertible.
The Enquirer/TONY JONES


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There's debate about why Ron Stratman of West Chester got to keep his red 1994 Mustang GT convertible when he got hitched.

Stratman, a 38-year-old regional account manager for Lima-based MetoKote, claims it was the only car he was allowed to keep when he got married seven years ago. (He also had a 1988 Volkswagen GTI and a 1965 Oldsmobile 98 convertible.)

"That is so wrong," says his wife, 41-year-old Julie Stratman. She says she probably drives the Mustang more than her husband does, and that she wrote the last check for it, so technically it's hers. In fact, she wishes they had held onto the Olds.

"In hindsight, that's probably the one we should have kept because we would have been able to fit the whole family in it, including the dog," she says.

To solve the space problem, the Stratmans bought a gold 2003 Chrysler Town & Country after the triplets - Eva, Thomas and Matthew - arrived 14 months ago.

Julie says she has always loved vans. She picked a Dodge Caravan over a Ford Taurus when she was a sales representative for Abbott Laboratories and had her choice of a company car. She drove it for six years, enjoying its roominess and her view of the road from up high.

After Julie left her job to have the triplets, the Stratmans chose the Town & Country over a Honda Odyssey because it was similar to the Caravan, but more comfortable, Julie says.

"It's like driving a sofa," she says.

Ron, who works in the manufacturing side of the automobile business, says he likes the Town & Country because minivans generally are better engineered, packaged and designed than sport-utility vehicles. They don't weigh as much, can handle and brake better, and have more usable interior room, he says.

The Stratmans put two of the triplets in car seats in the back seat of the van and one in a middle captain's chair in the middle. They take out one of the middle chairs so they can get everyone - including Alice the dog - in and out easily.

Although the whole family can't fit in the Mustang, a four-seater, Ron jokes that it will be the perfect parade car for one or more of the triplets to ride in when they're in high school. But will he let them drive it?

"Oh, sure," he says. "By then it'll be a 25-year-old car. It won't matter."

First car: Julie's was a 1977 Honda Civic, which she inherited from her father when she was 21. Ron's was a 1977 Chevy panel van, which he bought from his father for $300 when he was 15. "I sold it for a profit and then bought a Firebird," he says.

Dream car: "I would love to get a Cadillac. I love big cars," Julie says. Ron says he'd love to own the restyled 2005 Mustang GT.

Lauren Bishop



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