Quick Stats: Bill Engvall, comedian
Daily Driver: 1977 VW van (Bill's rating: 7 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Midland, Texas, to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Car he learned to drive in: 1970s Ford pickup truck
First car bought: 1963 Ford Falcon
Everyman comedian Bill Engvall made his bones as part of the comedy world Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which included Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White.
Currently, he's the fan favorite on this season's "Dancing With the Stars," which has introduced him to a larger audience. Despite lower scores than some of his competitors, his appeal and popularity -- he receives a lot of fan votes -- have kept him on the show.
His regular-guy philosophy is demonstrated by two of his daily drivers, cars that were once common but no longer are.
Whether he's recognized or not, driving around in his two cars sometimes elicits smiles from strangers. That includes his bright red 1950 Chevy pickup.
"I bought it for $900 and it was just a piece of junk and I had it redone. It's like my baby now," Engvall says, giving it a perfect 10. "I love the fact that in the bed, he put cherry wood, and the chrome strips. He took out the straight six and put in a small-block 350 that's all chromed and it's just gorgeous. The pinstripe inside the hood is cherry red. It's just beautiful. My wife loves driving it almost as much as I do. She looks hot in it, she gets a lot more looks than I do."
A similar truck used as a stage prop on the Blue Collar tour in Denver was the inspiration for this truck.
It had been an old farm truck, originally a faded black, that had been sitting in a barn. "It was in Colorado. We have a ranch that we lease to cattle and my wife's father bought this truck at an estate auction. One day we were all up at the ranch and I said, 'What are you going to do with that truck?' He said, 'I don't know. You can have it if you want.' "
Engvall didn't want to just take it, so his father-in-law said, 'Then I'll sell it to you for $900. That's what I paid for it.' So I bought it and got in touch with this guy and he turned it into this beautiful little truck it is now."
It was weird because I was living in L.A. and I told (the restoration expert) where the truck was and he went and trailered it. I never met the guy. I never shook his hand, and about halfway through the process, I went, 'I just gave this guy a truck for free.' And then he called me and he said, 'OK, here's what I'm going to need.' And I went, 'Oh good, you're still working on it,'" Engvall says.
The man delivered it all the way from Colorado to California. "The guy trailered it out to Manhattan Beach and he said, 'Where do you want me to meet you, because I can't through these little skinny streets?' I said, 'Let's meet at the high school parking lot. So I drove up there and I had on shorts and flip-flops. He put this V-8 in it and I had these little flip-flops on and he said, 'Crank it up.' I turned it over and it just purred, and I hit the gas and the flip-flop got caught on the gas and it spun tires and gravel, and my wife went, 'Oh God, here we go,'" he says.
It was a long drive for someone to deliver the truck from Colorado and the guy didn't charge extra for it. But Engvall points out that this was 10 years ago, when the Blue Collar Tour was at its height of popularity. "I think he kind of recognized who I was, it was kind of like he wanted to meet me. So it was a win-win for me."
1977 Volkswagen van
Engvall loves driving his two-tone, 1977 Volkswagen van. This rare sight, with the gearshift on the floor, is what he drives on most days when he has errands like grocery shopping or going to the store.
"It was in the shop because in California they want me to smog check it. So I've had to have the gas tank pulled off and have these new knobs put in it. It's idiotic," he says. The van had always passed smog check until recently, when he says the state changed the criteria. "It was so they could make more money," he charges.
His wife's cars are a little fancier -- a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S600 and a 2008 Aston Martin Vantage. "When I got the van, I had the whole motor rebuilt for $800 and I took my wife's Mercedes in for its regular maintenance and to have the spark plugs replaced, it was $1,500," he says. "We have quite the array. So we cover the gamut. I love that car; it's like riding on a cloud."
He does drive her cars when they're going out. "It's so funny because that Aston Martin is just getting ready to turn 10,000 miles and it's a 2008. So it's pretty pristine. She calls it the beast," he says. "If we're going to go to a baseball game or out to dinner, we'll take the Mercedes, but for me running my little errands, it's the van and the truck."
The van is something Engvall always wanted. It was a gift from his wife for his 50th birthday. "My friend in high school had one. We just drove that thing till it died. There's just something about them that I love. They're not your friend on a long, slow hill or a long trip. If you get a long, slow hill, you're in the far right lane, because you're not going to keep up with traffic," he says.
"But just for in a beach town, it's great. People love it. That's another one that people go, 'Great van!'" he says. "I've got the curtains in the windows and it's totally a beach van. I have more fun driving that thing — there's not a bad day in the van."
He once had a three-week trip and left it parked at the airport. "When I was flying, I go, 'God, I hope this thing starts.' When I got back, it cranked right over," he says.
The hardest part about owning this old-school hippie van is getting parts for it. "It's getting harder and harder to get parts for it," he says. "I've got a guy that works on it who's great. He's an old hippie, which I love. He doesn't overcharge you for it. A lot of the parts you're going to get are used parts because they just don't make the new parts anymore. But it's a blast and it runs smooth. It's a good-riding little car. I'll take it to auditions and people go, 'Is that your van? Oh my God!' They're loving it."
2013 Tesla Model S
Last weekend Engvall bought the new Tesla, and so far, he loves it. "I love the fact that it is completely electric and can still blow a lot of cars off the road," he says. "I love passing gas stations. But most of all I love the technology of the car. Everything is touch screen. You've got to dig that!"
Car he learned to drive in
Engvall learned to drive in his dad's old standard 1970s Ford truck, with the gearshift on the floor. He learned when he was in junior high school, when they lived on a farm in Winslow, Arizona. "We lived in town, but we had a farm and that's where I learned how to drive, out in the pastures because it was safe. You couldn't run into anything," he says.
"I would help dad with the hay and I would drive the truck down there, but I wanted a minibike really bad. My birthday was coming up and my dad said, 'You take care of the truck, drive it safe, and we'll look at a minibike.'"
One day his mom called him in for lunch and their trailer was up on a hill, so he parked the truck to go in to have lunch. "All of a sudden, we heard this horrible crash. I had left the truck in neutral and no emergency brake on, and it crashed through my mother's garden. I thought, 'Well, the minibike's gone!' he says. "I eventually got the minibike and loved that, a Honda 50."
Engvall's dad also had a station wagon and a 1967 Ford Mustang. "We always had standard cars except for our station wagon. But we didn't get to drive that one because that was his baby," he says of the Mustang. "My sister's got it now, the little turd. Somehow she finagled it."