Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Farewell my Subaru

"Cars are cars, all over the world 
drive them on the left, drive them on the right 
susceptible to theft, in the middle of the night
 but people are strange.."

Paul Simon, Cars, on Hearts and Bones (1983) 
The gummint will now give you $4500 for your old clunker car - see for details. One of the catches is it has to get 18mpg or less on the EPA combined mileage estimates. Both our cars are heading for that 200 000 mile mark, though the Subaru is aging far more gracefully than the Toyota. We'd planned to craigslist the horrible heap'o'junk Sienna and keep the Subaru: but it gets 18mpg, the other 19. That $4500 sounded its death knell. 

 Last night driving back from the dealer, I put Springsteen on the tape deck, opened the sunroof and let the wind whip the tears from my cheeks. The Subaru was the first sober respectable car we bought, to transport new baby boy who is now a smart-mouth preteen. Even though it looked like a station wagon, the turbo made it into my secret rocket sled. 'Rosebud'. I never did find out how fast it could go. The speedometer goes to 140mph, once took it up to 120 on the way to Santa Fe: the car was perfectly willing to go faster but my nerve failed. 

 Now we have the first, the last, the only new car I'll ever buy, a shiny happy Honda Fit. It doesn't have anything in the way of personality, which is my word for the dings dents and leaky sunroof of my fine old Subaru. Helen has a different word for its condition. Once it was broken into in a parking lot while surrounded by new SUVs, though nothing was stolen. My theory is that it looked like a doper's car, and the thieves were looking for money for dope, so they decided to go straight for the source as it were.

Now I'm driving the minivan, which feels like a procession of one going down the road. It's comfortable, quiet, and powerful but tends to proceed in a stately fashion, rather than nip around. Of course you have to remember my dream car was and is the 1982 Ford Econoline adapted to a camper van. It was a getaway car - all we needed for a weekend away was a few bits of food, ice and beer. Everything else was already loaded. It had lots of personality too. New cars are overrated, plus that 'new-car smell' is actually pthalates and extremely bad for you. Bah humbug.

(apologies to Doug Fine, I pinched his title and made it mine) 

 Update April 2010: On a macro level, it looks now as if the the clunkers program was a highly effective stimulus. The authors conclude, "A plausible interpretation of the available data, in fact, is that many of the CARS sales were to the kinds of thrifty people who can afford to buy a new car but normally wait until the old one is thoroughly worn out." I'm busted.