By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Thursday’s business trip met with the untimely demise of a close friend, my 1993 Subaru Legacy.
The untimely end came about four miles from my destination. The engine failed. I hoped for the best as each time in the past he would pull through famously. Yet after my mechanic broke the news it was not good. He required extensive repair to the engine and it wasn’t feasible to keep going. After hundreds of thousands of miles of every terrain in the state and every whether condition, my Subaru finally needed to rest.
It was not only named “Legacy”, the car WAS a legacy. He gave both his owners over 484,000 miles of reliable service, mostly to me as a second-hand buyer. If anything can be said of 1990’s Subarus, they were certainly built to last. But this Subaru lasted one of the longest.
I bought the Subaru from a car dealership a friend of mine managed. In fact going through the paperwork to find the Title I came across the bill of sale. I’ve never owned a new car, but I’ve been blessed with cars that last. The Subaru replaced my 1991 Dodge Daytona, who also gave us a good run with 250,000 miles. The Daytona was a victim of an inattentive driver who ran a red light and slammed into the side, totaling it. The oddity in this was that the car was being taken for a test drive by a repair shop after they finished tuning the engine. It was the old “good news / bad news” game–the good news being the repair was an easy fix, the bad news being my car was destroyed: not exactly the tidings mechanics like to bear.
I digress.. Yes, the Subaru. The Bill of Sale was from 2003. The car then had 121,000 miles. Remembering then I was a bit hesitant, having had a what I considered to be a sports car earlier–believe me the Daytona was fun to drive. But the Subaru was a little quirky which appeals to my like of such things and I was then having to drive to snow country on business on a frequent basis. So, I made out a check for $4,900 and took him home. This was the only car payment I made for him. Believe me, a one payment car is an underappreciated asset.
Fifteen years we’ve been together. The reliability of this car continued to astound me. Until the very end it had the same engine and transmission. He serves as an example of longevity that can be had from well-built vehicles. I religiously followed the maintenance schedule using only quality fluids such as synthetic blend oil (Castrol GTX High Mileage) and OEM parts. Other than items that ordinarily wear and require replacing such as alternators, batteries, and such. The only major repairs it needed was a harmonic balancer, radiator, and a main seal replacement. The Subaru did suffer from cancer–rust on the body caused by highway deicer.
To the very end this car’s engine was bulletproof. In fact, I’ve been told that for a while hobbyists would buy this 2.2 liter boxer engine to power light experimental aircraft.
The car ate snow for dinner and drove over over mountain passes in winter as if it was riding on rails. I never put chains on the car and only ran all season radials. Snow tires are for poseurs.
The Subaru lived to drive. It didn’t matter where we went whether in the mountains or on the highway it drove the same. I fully anticipated crossing the half-million mile mark. In fact, last week I ordered a box of new filters expecting to have enough on hand to go to 500k. No doubt he gave it his all striving to accomplish such an arduous feat. He did however pass one milestone most other cars never do. The average distance to the moon and back is 477,074 miles, and my buddy passed that distance a couple months ago.
So now goes the paperwork to send him to the big car lot in the sky. Maybe he can live on by parting him out for other less fortunate cars in need of a transmission. The car certainly had longevity in its blood, maybe another car will be as fortunate.
We all could benefit from having cars engineered and cared for to last this long, not only in terms of cost savings but saving resources. I long for returning to a day when you only needed to buy something once every decade or more. We at least owe this to ourselves and our progeny.
We were together fifteen good years. He was a basic car that performed well in the manner of ordinary driving and outdoor appreciation. It wasn’t high-performance or ostentatious but at 484,000 miles he was a contender to the very end.
By Darren Smith
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