Months ago I wrote about the “Dream Garage,” a collection of the best vehicles in their categories, the ones I could actually someday afford. To me, that someday involved a host of images: a tract of land, a house, a family, and a big pole barn with plenty of service bays. Little did I know, back in May, that I would be getting a start on my dream garage today, without even owning a garage.
Last weekend I somehow became the shocked owner of my dream daily driver, a 2002 Subaru WRX wagon. As with any dream car, getting it was a long and Byzantine story, one of Craigslist, credit, and cosigner faxes, but now that I have this car, I’m never letting go.
At first I saw only potential. The car’s chief flaw hampered my enjoyment as I pulled away (and killed it, due to the touchy clutch). The seat was broken. So every time I gunned the little turbo 2 liter, the seat recoiled like a politician from a promise and I couldn’t manage the pedals very well.
I left the seller’s house at about 7:45 am and spend the next several hours driving around illegally in efforts to navigate the labyrinth that is buying from a private seller in Missouri. First I went to a Ford dealer about 45 minutes away, because they were the only state “safety” inspection station open on Saturdays. After they replaced my faulty headlight socket for $75, I stopped at a gas station before speeding off to the bank to leave them with a copy of the title. Then it was over to the jolly folks at the DMV, where I picked up a temporary tag (the sales tax was a little rich for this pay period). Finally, I got it home, determined to fix the seat, at least temporarily.
Once I did (with several cable ties and a hose clamp), I fell in love. This was the one. The wagon was just so much fun to drive, cornering like ‘60s architecture and always in a hurry. Sunday afternoon I even played taxi for a trio of beautiful young women, all of whom adored the car and delighted in the hoonage. A dream garage member? Yes.
The little boxer cranks out an acceptable 227 hp, and though it’s not quick off the line, once the turbo is up, the wagon is gone. The AWD system even keeps the tires from spinning, so there’s no burnout factor.
And then there are all the little things to love, like when a woman cuts her nails short or shares your taste in music. The cruise control toggle feels like a paddle shifter. The stock, 6-speaker stereo gets loud, but not too loud. There’s a little pocket right under the center stack that fits my cell phone perfectly.
That’s only inside. I love that it has a rear windshield wiper, taking me back to the early ‘90s Ford Taurus wagons my dad used to drive for work. I love how responsively yet gracefully it stops, even from high speeds. But perhaps most of all, I love the song it sings through that tidy turbo. It begins softly, a mere whisper at around 2,200 rpm, but by 3,500, has crescendoed to a whistling roar.
With all this to like, it’s hard to come up with downsides. I suppose there are three things I would do differently: The Alcantara seats have the thermal properties of a yak pelt, and after half an hour of driving on a summer day, I needed to change my shirt. There’s no little indicator on the dash board that the cruise control has engaged. I had that once, and it was nice. Finally, someone screwed on a carbon fiber shift knob, the ultimate weight saving accessory poseur piece.
But when you have to look so hard for faults, you know you’ve found something special.
I recently discovered an idle jump, some vacuum leak or some-such. I’m willing to forgive it. See, Alfa-Romeo have a die-hard fan club, despite how often their cars die. Ask any Alfa owner about soul or passion, and you’ll get an earful. I never understood how a thinking person could have a so fierce a love for a car that the waters of unreliability could never quench it. Now I do. It’s about love, about the perfect fit. There’s really no use trying to explain it. Just like any great human relationship, most of it rests below the obvious. You just know. And I know that this car and I will be together for a long, long time.