Buying a new car is one of my favorite things; I love all things car. I thoroughly enjoy reading about cars, looking at cars, test-driving cars, talking about cars, you name it. I have no mechanical abilities to speak of, but back before cars became rolling computers, I used to try. Back then, I couldn’t afford a new car, or to have one serviced. Changing my own oil was a thing, until I stripped a screw on the oil drain of an old Toyota.
My favorite car of all time was our 1969 VW Beetle. The engine was so simple that I actually rebuilt the carburetor myself, and the car didn’t even explode; a proud moment in my life. Come to think of it, my wife didn’t accompany me on my trial run of the newly rebuilt carburetor.
My very patient wife puts up with this obsession with cars, most of the time. To her, a car is just a practical means of getting from point A to point B. All she wants is for the car to run, and to be painted an attractive color. To me, a car is a fascinating mechanical device, and driving is a sport.
She knows that I devour each month’s edition of Car & Driverand Motor Trend magazines. She patiently listens as I explain at great length about the engine, horsepower, drive train, and capabilities of all the cars we pass while driving around town. My greatest joy comes from researching the latest models, in search of the perfect car, SUV or truck to replace the one I’m currently driving. But, my wife’s nightmare’s really begin when she hears those fatal words, “Honey, I think it’s time for buying a new car.”
Let me explain. My personality may lean slightly towards obsessive-compulsive disorder. When I go into car buying mode, I am constantly reading about, talking about, test driving, and thinking about cars. I must find the perfect vehicle. It must be both functional and fun to drive. After all, I raised three daughters, which meant thirty years of driving minivans, a car guys greatest nightmare. It’s possible that my compulsive behavior may be a little bit irritating. My wife wants to spend weekends trying out new restaurants, going to the movies, a concert, a new play that’s in town. But, there are so many car dealerships, so little time, and the next perfect car may be just around the corner.
The perfect example came when our youngest daughter went off to college. No more minivans; it was time for some fun. I dove into my research with such great vigor that the only thing I can remember about that year is the new car. After scouring the internet and every car magazine I could lay hands on, and test driving every sporty model that I could fit my six-foot-seven-inch frame into, I settled on leasing a BMW 3 series.
When I told my wife we were going to the BMW dealership to test drive a new car, she was probably relieved that the never-ending search was over. She knew this meant we were actually going to come home with a new car. Her only demand was that she would pick the color.
We settled on a classy looking bluish-gray sedan, 220 HP, six-speed manual. The car was sitting in the dealership showroom when we found it, and it was a cloudy day when I test drove it. I drove it home, parked it in the garage, and the next day when we took it for a spin it was sunny. Somehow, due to the metallic paint, the sun transformed the car into an interesting shade of purple. So, I drove around for three years in what was essentially a purple BMW, unless I stayed in the shade. My wife had her revenge.
Then, there’s my obsession with taking care of a new car. I grew up poor, and learned to take care of new things. But, perhaps it’s an over-reaction when I wash and wax a new car every two weeks. Some of my most relaxing and enjoyable times are sitting in the car as it rides through the car wash, making it shiny and new all over again.
There’s also the avoiding of the door dents. For some reason, it upsets my wife when I choose to park on the complete opposite end of the shopping center parking lot from where we’re going, because there are no other cars there. That way, it’s impossible for some guy in a big-assed Ford F-150 to fling open his door and put a dent in my new car. I have tried to convince my wife that it’s actually my plan for increasing our daily exercise, but I’m not sure she believes me.
There’s also the issue of my size. I’m six-foot-seven inches tall. There aren’t a lot of sporty cars that I fit into. No Corvettes, Porsche Cayman, Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Nissan Z for me. I could fit into a muscle car, but I like to go fast around corners, and the big Dodge Chargers and the like are meant for going like hell down a straight road.
I remember, and my wife won’t let me forget, a long time ago I tried on a midget MG, a little two-seater British roadster. I was able to get into the thing, had barely enough room to use the clutch to drive around the block, and caught my foot on the doorframe and fell on my face when I tried to get out. My wife graciously helped me up, but the look on her face screamed “Idiot”.
I may be obsessive-compulsive, but I know what I like (and the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive). Several years ago, I said those infamous word, “It’s time for buying a new car,” and we ended up with a Subaru Outback. I bought the one with the six-cylinder engine that’ll move on down the road.
I fell in love with Subaru; they get the AWD thing right. Before I knew it I had purchased five new Subarus in seven years, for myself, my wife and a couple of daughters. The local Subaru dealership and I are now besties. My obsessiveness with keeping to the maintenance schedule is worth a fortune to them. At least my wife loved her Forester. I actually got points for that one. Yay me!
Each time we got into the buying a new car phase over the years, the perfect car has been something different. When my wife and I first met in college, we only had nine-hundred-dollars between us. We bought a rusty old 1966 VW Beetle, which was the perfect car because it was a car. The thing had no defroster, no heater to speak of and very little in the way of brakes, but it got me to work every day.
Later, when the children showed up, a minivan was perfect, until the third daughter arrived. When she was old enough to speak, and fight with her sisters, a Ford Expedition was the perfect car (SUV). There were three rows of seats that were far apart. We could separate the children to the point where they couldn’t touch each other or fight over breathing each other’s air.
Once the girls grew up, a Jeep Wrangler was the perfect car. What’s not to like, a convertible, the ability to climb a tree if necessary, or ford streams, brave deep snow, climb over large boulders, and you never know when you’ll need to lower your windshield. These are all critical for commuting to work on the Washington DC Beltway. Most important, my wife thought it was cute.
I already mentioned the perfect purple BMW. At one point, when gas prices went over three dollars a gallon, a Honda Fit was the perfect car. Amazingly, I could get in and out of that thing, and I hardly ever fell on my face. Then there were the Subarus; so many Subarus.
One of my all-time favorite cars is our current 2015 Subaru Outback. This is the car/SUV that my youngest daughter, 23 at the time, and I took in 2016 on our 7600 mile, month-long trip around the USA. We traveled from Virginia to California in July (118 degrees in Tucson), up the California coast to Gold Beach, Oregon (55 degrees on the beach), and back on the northern route. It was the perfect car for the trip, the AWD keeping us safe in the heavy rain and a few off-road excursions.
That car is still perfect, because of all the wonderful memories that it carries with it. I also know for a fact that it will go fast, because while my daughter was driving through Montana, I woke up from a nap to see the speedometer reading 110. When I asked her why we were in hyper-drive, her response was, “I always wanted to drive over a hundred, and you were asleep.” I didn’t take any more naps during that trip. Maybe I shouldn’t have opted for the big six-cylinder.
My current perfect car is a 2018 Subaru WRX. During one of my many visits to the Subaru dealership to get the oil changed in my Outback, my friendly salesman twisted my arm and forced me to test drive a WRX (that’s the story I told my wife, and I’m sure she believed me). When I told her it was time for buying a new car, and I told her what I had in mind, she increased my life insurance policy. No car should be this much fun to drive, especially on twisty roads. At dusk, on country roads, it’s fun to play ‘dodge the deer’. Someone should create a video game with this theme.
I love this car; it’s now my favorite, 268 hp turbo, six-speed manual, AWD, corners like a go-cart. This was my best effort yet at buying a new car. However, maybe I’m getting a little carried away by calling it perfect. First of all, I recently read in one of my car magazines that the WRX is the number one car in the US for speeding tickets. This might be because it looks like it’s going fast, even when it’s parked.
The South Carolina state trooper that stopped me for going 75 in a 70 the other day while my wife and I were fleeing from Florida and Hurricane Dorian (another story), must have read the same article. However, once he saw an old man at the wheel, he let me off with a warning. He probably felt sorry for my wife.
And, most importantly, when the sun hits that dark blue metallic paint just right, the car is as purple as can be. I can’t even blame my poor wife this time. I picked the color myself. I guess I’m not perfect, either.
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