There was a weekend in October 2016 that I will not forget anytime soon. I had just wrapped up a particularly stressful week and was about to drive to Western Michigan for a vacation with friends. I was running late. Except for Dewey, the rest of the group was ahead of us. We departed the Chicago suburbs late Friday night and made time on the highway. When we stopped for gas, I made an offhanded comment to Dewey. I don't remember what I said, but I remember his response: "There are far worse cars to take on a road trip than a pair of STIs. That's living the life." We got back on the road with a shout from the boxer engines. A few more hours of pitch black road evaporated behind us, punctuated by the rare pair of head or tail lights. A duet of rumbling, winged vehicles burning through vast space and time. The red glow from the gauges made me feel like I was in a fighter jet. I relaxed and enjoyed the drive.
A weekend with friends is my idea of a good time. The car brand may bring us together, but it's the people that make the memories.
Without context, you would not know what brings these people together. In this photo I see many good people doing what they love. This is the Chitown Subarus community to me.
The weekend in October was full of friends who knew cars better than I. It was a convenient place to have an issue. When I turned on the car, it made an unholy rattling noise. It sounded like a jackhammer. "I don't like the sound of that" quickly morphed into "Turn it off now!" At first, I felt nothing. Then, as fear sunk in, I opened my mouth. I said things I shouldn't have said. The harsh words were met with knowing faces and murmurs of reassurance. This group of car enthusiasts had been through far worse before. This was not the first time they had seen a motor fail. I was fortunate to secure a ride home for myself and the stricken car. It was a long trip back. Thankfully, it was not also expensive. Meanwhile, it rained. I hope I never see my car on a flatbed again.
I had the car towed to the dealer on the following Monday. This time the loaner car was a silver Outback, again brand new. Despite my frustrations with the WRX STI, I was not ready to give it up yet. An Outback just doesn't feel the same. It's too comfortable.
"The call" came and went. Rod knock. A bearing had failed which caused a piston to vibrate along its path of travel. It is a fatal flaw, and can be catastrophic (read: explosive) if ignored for any length of time. The fix was to replace the motor, specifically the short block. The component that failed was small but hard to reach. That meant all of the undamaged parts nearby were thrown out and replaced. The bill was over $4,000. Once again, it was covered under warranty. I was relieved, to say the least. This time I didn't ask the service adviser what it would take to make sure it didn't happen again. Instead, I said I was disappointed.
My view of the car was influenced by video games. I wanted a blue WRX STI from the time I was 12 years old. At that age, buying a car is a lifetime away. By the time you can afford it, you are a different person. We all grow up. Cars are not invincible. There is a certain sadness when you learn Santa isn't real. It doesn't last long, but the loss of magic stings you. After the two motor failures in 2016 my view of the car has permanently changed. The Subaru WRX STI is no longer my dream car. It is a dead metal sculpture.
That said, I don't want to overlook the good memories. I succeeded at a lifelong goal. I became a better driver. I learned about cars and made friends in the process. For that, I have Chitown Subarus to thank.
After the car was repaired, I went back to my old habits. I asked a lot of questions. I like driving the car slow. The motor is smooth. Below 3,000 rpm I swear I hear that rattle again. It's always in the back of my mind. Every few days I use the turbo, to fly again in a short burst of speed. Before the motor failures, full throttle felt like borrowed time. Now it's a small reminder of the magic that's been lost. Warranties don't cover magic.