9.22.2007

Subaru: Car of my soul

I am not much of a car person. For a long time I didn't have strong car preferences, so I drove whatever was easily available--from my dad's El Camino when I was a teenager to a ratty little Datsun in college. But then in grad school, ten years ago, I happened to find a car that changed my perspective. It was the first car I ever bought myself, a 1986 monkey-shit brown Subaru station wagon. Damn, did I ever love that car.

There were lots of things wrong with the car: It had air conditioning initially, but that died fairly early on. Some Friday afternoons in the summer when Baxter and I would be driving from Nashville to Cookeville to visit my family, we would stop off at Percy Priest Lake and get completely soaked so that we could make the 70-mile drive with some evaporative cooling. It wasn't zippy--in fact, it was the opposite of zippy. I saw a bumper sticker on an old Subaru one time that said, "Zero to 60 in 11 minutes," and that was about right. If you needed to pass someone, you really had to plan for it. It had a persistent clacking that sounded like playing cards in bicycle spokes--loose valves, apparently. For several weeks when I couldn't afford to get the starter fixed, I had to park on a hill and push start it.

And yet it was such a great car. I hadn't been searching for a station wagon when I found it, but about 20 minutes after I bought it, I decided that there was no reason for me ever to own a car that was not a station wagon. It was brown inside and out, a kind of defiant ugliness that fit with my own struggling sense of style. It fit me--when I drove Robin Morgan around in it, she said, "This is a feminist car." I suspect that what she meant was that the car was full of trash because I was clearly too busy trying to change the world to keep it clean--but still, it was a nice compliment. And somehow that car had the best smell--a kind of old dusty book smell that was enhanced by dog fur. That Subaru was my quintessential car, the car I judge all other cars against, the car of my soul.

And now look what's happened: I've bought another Subaru station wagon! This one is quite a bit nicer, but I'm not going to hold that against it. They don't make brown Subarus anymore, which is a shame, but it's got the same flat-folding back seats and loads of room for the dogs to roam around while we cruise around town. And although it doesn't have the same smell as my other Subaru, it does have an entirely pleasant dusty smell all its own, and the dogs are going to fur it up, and it'll be just right.

13 comments:

Alison said...

And by the way, look how skinny the Deez is in that first picture! She was probably just a little over a year old then.

Biffle said...

re: the acceleration of the old subaru: stinkfist once pointed out to me that lots of cars, and maybe subarus also, only tapped into their horsepower in the upper RPMs. Shortly after i learned this, i had gone skiing/camping in that car and was driving around the mountains. Man, i kept down-shifting that sucker and it would just haul ass up a big hill.

Jeremy said...

love the new subaru! we're totally enamored as well. we rented a new one on our vacation last week in WY and loved it even more when we discovered the avg mph feature.

also, see our pics on the blog. our first adult-only vacation in a looonnngg time.
-djl

Megan said...

I want one! I want it to haul dance costumes and plants and kids and Christmas presents and thrift store finds.
I am happy for you!
Wagons are the best.

The car of my soul...not one I bought for myself but the Blue Camery that got handed down to me. That was a car of singing songs with my gals who actually named it and much more that wouldn't be appropriate to say. One of my friends drove me home in it when I passed out from giving blood. Someone got in the trunk at some point. It always smelled like sweaty tights, vanilla and had broken CD cases all over the floor. It eventually took me to college. I was sitting in that car when I heard about 9-11.

Camrys, Subarus and Hondas are probably my favorite cars. I like practical.

charlie said...

this post has made me weep. I'm not sure why. but it's good weeping.

claire said...

the car of my soul was a blue vw fox -- first car I bought by myself -- right before I moved to baltimore -- bought it in upstate ny with my brother and it never occurred to us that perhaps a car with airconditioning might be nice. But I put a beach on the dashboard and I loved that car. airbags have done away with the potential for beaches in cars....

Quiche said...

Subarus get good gas mileage! I'm driving my mother's old '93 8-cylinder, climate-controlled Cadilac gas-hog (land barge). It'll haul! We thought about pimping it when my mother owned it- hydrolics, spinner hub caps, neon lights and fuzzy dice.
Her new car is not as fun.

Kenneth said...

The car of my soul was a 1964 Corvair.

Kenneth said...

But I could make room in my soul for an El Camino.

Quiche said...

We had a lot of fun in that Corvair (:

Kenneth said...

Didn't we though? And it ran good on regular gas.

b said...

Alison, congrats on the new Scooby! I've had a Forester for 2.5 years, and it has been a great car. I have my days where I miss my truck, but when I think about selling my car and getting a truck, well...then I start thinking about all the creature comforts, the ultimate in reliability, and the great gas mileage my Scooby has to offer. After those thoughts, my response to myself is always "well...maybe later, but I'm good, now."

I went with the Forester over the wagon because Sidney (my greyhound) couldn't stand up in the back of the wagon. He's a tall fella. :)

I think Subaru has been the "sleeper" car company all these years. They don't over do their ad campaigns, and the people who buy them typically turn into life-long Scooby owners. I've never, ever, heard a Subaru owner say anything negative about their vehicles, and that's a fact.

Have fun in the new wheels!

- b

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