Unless he needed his car to earn money to put food on his families table I call this a really great loving Dad who didn't want to see his son disappointed at Christmas (assuming that was when he did it).
How much was his car worth anyway, an old banger might only be worth a few hundred pounds or dollars?
Maybe his kid does so that stuff, and really has earned something nice but they don't have the money to buy him anything. Maybe he's among many families living below the poverty line who can't give their children anything, and wish every day they could. It could be that he just really wanted the money to buy something his kid deserved, and maybe even put a little food on the table in the mean time.
Then again, maybe he's a crazy drug addict who pawned the car for drug money, bought the child a small toy as a scapegoat and got whacked by his wife who knows what he did.
Oops. Forgot the actual question here. I think it borders. When I was a kid we had no money, and I didn't get all the crazy awesome toys my friends did. Instead, we made toys from what we had around the house and had fun with it. Or we would have a games day and just play games inside and outside all day. Cheap fun!
And also: How the heck do you pawn a car anyway? Lol I've never heard of anyone doing that before.
Interesting, but still too hard to 'judge' unless we know all the circumstances, such as if the transport was essential, valuable, etc. For all a reader knows the wife might have wanted the car to visit her drug dealer etc, we simply can't call this without further information that allows a reader to judge it fairly.
I agree with Mistyhorizon. We don't know all of the circumstances. I think it's also important to note the distinction between pawning a car and selling a car. Pawning is usually what someone does who thinks/hopes/knows they will have the money to pick the item back up before a given date. It's essentially a loan with interest. Maybe he knew or expected to have funds to get the car back.
I think there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. What were the toys for... birthday, Christmas, just because? And what was the wife that "whacked" him for losing their means of transport doing while he was out pawning the car? Did he get the car back from the pawnshop? Does he have a job, couldn't he do something other than pawn the family car? I'd like to know the whole story before I comment on it.
But if this was for Christmas Presents for example, then one or two hundred dollars is not a vast amount when you look at the prices of electronic gadgets like Nintendos, Play Stations etc. Although in my day I did not receive such expensive gifts, it seems the norm today.
All in all this is too hard to call as we have such a tiny fragment of the story behind OP's original statement. I have to confess I would now like to know the background to the entire story just to see how much of a difference it makes to all of our 'opinions' and 'responses'.
It sounds sensible to me. If a family's income is low, the family car should be among the first things to go. Not only will be get some cash for it, but he will no longer have to fork out on insurance, road tax, gas etc. These costs mount up. It's no big deal if he has public transport where he lives, but if he lives like me in the sticks there is still hitch-hiking or simply asking friends for lifts. A car is a luxury, not a necessity. Hope the kid got something nice