Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Subaru Outback 1996

Having just sold this car, I would like to mourn white Subaru Outback 1996 2.2 L 5-Speed Manual.

I bought my Subaru back in 1996 for $22k or so. I didn't know exactly what I wanted as I started my car hunt, but after some amount of car shopping I learned that I wanted cargo space, plenty of glass, and head room. My decision came down to a Corolla wagon, which drove marvelously, and the Outback wagon. I could not decide which, so after thinking about the merits for a while, I decided that I would take the car that I like better because it was going to be with me a long time. I was expecting to have it for ten years, but that wound up being 18. There's something to be said for buying a car that you like.

An important part of this timing was my desire to buy my house. I wanted all my large purchases done so that I would know how much money I actually had for the house. That way I would not overbuy what I needed.

When I bought my Subaru, I ordered one with a manual transmission and no wireless unlocking, because at the time I didn't trust wireless unlocking. One never came in, and I doubt that they ordered it. However, when a manual came in, the dealership called anyway and I was more than happy to say yes and bought the car. For the next five years I paid my $440 a month payment. Irritatingly, now that I'm making so much more money, I couldn't afford such payments. (Kids! Saving for college is just killing me!)

My particular model came with the 2.2L engine, which was nice, but never quite as powerful as I really wanted. When I looked at getting the engine beefed up, everyone looked at me like I was an idiot. Nobody modded the 2.2 L as they were solid-ass workhorses as engines went. Modders only start with the engines that have the most potential, so they went with the 2.5 L instead. When the water pump went bad back in 2006, I also found out that the gaskets were bad, so I just had the engine rebuilt for $2,000. The price might seem outrageous, but that was only six months of new car payments. I would happily have done that twice for this car. The garage, which specialized in modding Subaru engines, didn't believe me at first when I told them that the seals were bad on a 2.2. Once they got the thing apart, sure enough, I had somehow gotten bad seals.

The main reason that I kept this car year after year was that repairing it was always cheaper, on a per-year basis, than replacing it with a used vehicle. An equivalent used Outback of decent vintage would cost me about $200 per month, or $2400 a year, or I could just keep my well loved car going. I always chose the latter.

The headlights had gotten rather fogged over the years, so two years ago I bought a polishing kit and scrubbed those things pretty. Two years later, and the film still hadn't returned. That $25 was well worth the price.

The car did get banged up a bit. By the end, rust had formed around the wheel wells and on the passenger side rear door. The cargo latch had broken, so I drilled a hole to pop it open. The cargo lock had broken as well. When my daughter was tiny tiny, she liked jamming a key into the keyhole. Only belated did I realized that you could actually damage the lock's moisture door that way. The little flap came off its hinge and blocked the cylinder.

The car was grand in the rain and the snow. I never found myself unable to go up a slippery hill. That would have been terrific, but there were always trucks getting stuck in front of me, in which case stuck goes to the least common denominator. It doesn't matter if you have a super vehicle if the car in front of you can't move.

The most serious accident for the car is when I dodged to avoid a sliding car after a rainshower. My yet-to-be wife was in the car with me at that point. I wound up going over a curb to avoid the collision, which tore up my right-front suspension. Everyone else, including the out-of-control car, drove away. I had to wait for a tow truck. If that wasn't insult enough, the insurance company didn't think that they had to get my car out of the police tow yard where the truck operator had to taken it. That took me a week of phone calls to straighten out, with everyone along the line saying, "Shouldn't your insurance company be doing this?"

By the end of it's life, I didn't even bother locking car. I didn't keep anything valuable in there and I didn't care if it got stolen.

The car's new life will be in West Virginia. Good luck to it.