By today’s standards, my daily driver is an absolute geezer at 17 years old. Me, I hardly think about it, though, and am constantly surprised by its age every time someone asks and I’m forced to do the math. I’ve mentioned it before, but I drive a 1999 Subaru Legacy wagon. It’s my daily driver when the magazine cars are getting worked on, my go-to parts hauler, and it’s my old faithful—a car I’ve always been able to count on that’s never given me any serious problems. I bought it brand new in November 1998, drove it to college, work, and eventually across the country when I moved to California. Since working at Car Craft, the Soob has hauled engines, transmissions, rear-axle assemblies, sheetmetal, dogs, more dogs, and myself all over the Southwest, with nary a complaint. It survived a botched theft attempt when I lived in a crappy part of town, it’s been through three clutches, two clutch master cylinders, one radiator, two dozen brake pads, and two timing belts (each with a 100,000-mile service interval). I’ve driven it so much that the clutch fork wore out, bent from fatigue—something the guy who replaced it said he’d never seen before.
What’s noteworthy, however, is what’s missing from that list: the engine and transmission are all original. The same is true for the electronics, engine sensors (except for the oxygen sensors), and all but one of the CV joints. Typical of Subarus from this era, the cylinder-head gaskets needed to be replaced around 100,000 miles, but that’s been the only major repair the car has needed so far. I honestly don’t know how many miles are on the thing; the speedometer has been operating intermittently since 2003, so the current odometer reading of 125,000 miles is way off; the actual mileage is underestimated by as many as 150,000 miles, at my best guess. I never fixed the speedo because it seemed there was always something I needed that money for instead, but I wish I had now, if only to use the car’s accumulated mileage as bragging rights of sorts.
What’s so strange to me is that the car is old enough that it’s starting to become cool to some of the younger car enthusiasts, kids whose early exposure to cars were Colin McRae or Richard Burns in Subaru World Rally cars, or through the Fast and Furious movies. I’ve gotten more thumbs-up and “nice car” comments directed my way from people in their 20s than I care to admit (considering my job), and I’m always thinking, “You should see my other car.” If nothing else, though, it’s good to see the younger generation into anything automotive.
I just got back from a weekend at Sonoma Raceway, attending the NorCal Shelby American Automobile Club’s Mini Nats. It was an approximately 900-mile round trip on U.S. 101, and I had plenty of time to ponder automotive maintenance, among other things. I’m grateful to have a reliable car, and on some level, I really like the thing. I wouldn’t have kept it so long if I didn’t. I’ve always appreciated the offbeat, opposed-four-cylinder engine and functional utility it offers, and ultimately, the Subaru has been too useful to get rid of. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the V8 stuff next month—I just wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the underappreciated daily drivers out there. What do you drive every day? Send pictures to CarCraft@carcraft.com. I’ll bet its something cool. —John McGann.