Tailgaters relax at Clemson University. (James L. Covington/ Clemson University photo / November 15, 2013)

Asked if he ever tailgates, Larry Hannah is surprised.

With kids and grandkids involved in football, of course he tailgates, says the Pontiac, Mich., resident.

"I have two small grills and together they will hold about 20 hot dogs," says Hannah.

The family uses a GMC Terrain to haul its gametime supplies from game to game. Hannah points to a nearby Scion tC and says it would be possible to tailgate with the sport coupe, "but things might get spilled along the way."

So tailgating, it turns out, is about a lot of things: vehicle, cooking equipment, food and drink, entertainment, coolers, chairs and maybe a table, and for some  a tent, a plug-in heater and a TV.

Wheels of choice for the sport of tailgating include utility vehicles, station wagons, pickup trucks, RVs and luxury motor homes.

Sensitive to lifestyles like tailgating, the auto makers are adding attractive features to their vehicles. Chrysler has a standard third-row seat in its Chrysler and Dodge minivans that does a 180-degree turn, flipping over to face out the rear of the vehicle.

That seat, says Chrysler spokesman Patrick Hespen, only works when the mini tailgate is raised, so there is no chance to ride backward, as was the case in several station wagons of earlier decades.

"We also have a tent that can be attached to the rear of some of our vehicles with no dealer assistance," Hespen adds. "It has been available for the last four years through Mopar (Chrysler's parts division) and can be ordered online or bought at the dealer.

Toyota SUVs all like to tailgate, says company spokesman Sam Butto, "but the best may be the 4Runner.

"It has tailgaters in mind as you can get a pull-out cargo deck that holds up to 440 pounds, ideal for seating or loading tailgate supplies."

The utility vehicle's audio system includes speakers in the rear cargo area and the system allows for transferring audio sound to the back speakers.

Chevrolet's 2015 Suburban, an ultimate cargo hauler or "pull-up party," features up to six USB ports and six power outlets including a 110-volt for three-prong needs, says company spokesman Tom Read.

Tailgating not old

Tailgating likely had its start back in the 1950s at high school and college games where rivalries were strong, says Thomas Cieslak, assistant professor of management at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

It was a way for friends and family to spend pre-event time with players. A time of few or no concession stands, people brought their own food and drink and opened the tailgates of their pickups and stationwagons.

"Now, many people who tailgate don't even attend the game," says Cieslak. "They come for the game day experience. It's a place to forget your obligations and have fun."

Cieslak figures tailgating is an American phenomenon. In England, he says, fans (as in "fanatic") gather at pubs for food and drink. Then they walk to the game site singing their teams' songs.

Safety is a concern at events and tailgating provides a setting "with no doors," Cieslak says. There is no way to screen those showing up to tailgate.

And there is growing concern about alcohol and now the presence of what Cieslak calls "alcohol police."