Car Review: The Lady and The Tramp

In the fall of 2012, I decided to take the plunge into a pool that would cement my societal standing as a car guy. The decision took some time and a few difficult night sleeps, but at the end of the day, I signed the paperwork necessary to purchase a second vehicle. Soon after my John Hancock was littered throughout a series of dealership notes, my driveway featured two functioning automobiles and there was no intention of that number falling back down to a lonely one.

2002 Outback H6 JDM Grill

For car people, owning two vehicles isn’t that big of a deal. In all honestly, owning four or five cars plus a motorcycle is much more normal for people who prefer their morning coffee with a side of caked on engine grease. I had my reasons for the trigger pull and after 10 months of living with two vehicles, I don’t ever see myself going back to my much more pedestrian ways. The experience thus far has been outstanding if not more expensive and it has taught me a very valuable lesson in that cars, despite their on-paper attributes, are a lot more strange than we might even let on. Let me explain.

2002 Subaru Outback December Knoxville, TN

To be honest, the vehicle that I purchased as secondary (to become primary) was a bit of a head scratcher, especially given my age and affinity for alarm breaking exhausts. Built in 2002 by Subaru of America, the Legacy Outback that became known as Hazel was and still is, despite her vanilla appearance, a pretty interesting car. Looking around her hulking side moldings, butch tires, bold fender flares and deep red coat, one could find two subtle badges that indicated something rather unorthodox. These badges read “H6-3.0” and indeed, that is what Hazel rolled off the factory floor with – a 3.0 liter H6 engine. Rare then and even more rare 10 years senior. 2002 Subaru Outback FS

Billed as Subaru’s flagship, Hazel’s LL Bean trim level meant that any intention of mud flinging, tree dodging, sideways rally action were never even a consideration. This car was intended to cart two types of people around to their various sight seeing adventures: old people and college professors with children in elementary school. In short, there was no intent for Hazel to mesh with someone who purposely gets stuck in the mud or would rather be at opposite lock in some forest instead of simply looking at the trees inside. Thus, I received a few raised eyebrows at the dealership and in retrospect, I should have paid attention to why.

2002 Subaru Outback H6 First Drive

Hazel and I got off to a rocky start. Despite a flawless test drive, the first hour of my actual ownership was when she decided to overheat. Confused at best, I did want any foolhearted gearhead would and topped off the coolant and went about my business. That action “cured” her issues for a few days and in that time, I learned to appreciate Hazel for her smooth power delivery, opulent ride, lazy steering and quiet interior. A huge step away from the other Subaru I call transportation, the differences between Hazel and a five year older Outback with three pedals and two less cylinders was something I honestly wasn’t prepared for. While I talked her up with statements such as “dual cam flat six”, “all wheel drive” and “212 horsepower”, deep down I knew that I felt she was a bit boring. Regardless of my pep talks, Hazel understood just as much as I did that our relationship was stupid. Taking her gender to heart, the bulky girl decided she was going to become bitter about my new found feelings.2002 Outback H6 JDM Grill

A week into our marriage, I discovered through some remarkably frustrating events that Hazel had blown a headgasket. Now, I’ve dealt with Subaru headgasket issues before but to my understanding, the H6 engine was the foolproof variant so this diagnosis absolutely floored me. Shocked and disappointed, I contemplated letting Hazel go entirely but before I could cut the tie, the dealership made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – replace the headgaskets free-of-charge. A few weeks went by and I spent time moving and hooning in my rusty but trusty other Outback – the car that was intended to become a weekend project/racer. When Hazel was finally released from surgery, logistics stated that I could not procure her for a month given the new found distance between the two of us. Thus, my dear-sweet mother parked her Toyota Camry in lieu of a flat six Subaru. Her conclusion was this, “this is a really nice car.” During their brief time spent together, my mother and Hazel became very good friends. Not once did the previously questionable Subaru give her any signs of trouble. With said status report reading all positives, I made the decision to keep the car and continue to use her as I initially intended – as a daily driver. Soon after we were reunited, I had to replace parts for very weird reasons. Then, she started to overheat. Again.


2002 Subaru Outback FS

I diagnosed the second overheating issue as caught up air in the cooling system due to a leaking reservoir hose. After an Ace Hardware replacement, Hazel’s abilities became needed for my then roommate and for two whole weeks, I lent the keys to this particular Subaru to another caring female. For that period of time, despite my constant fear of a disastrous phone call, Hazel performed flawlessly. Any rational person would have believed that their shadetree handy work actually succeeded but I’m not rational – I’m a car guy. Essentially, the flawless status report I received upon the end of those two weeks was enough to convince me that Hazel simply did not like me. To add insult to injury, the car overheated a few days following my once again procurement. After a handful of coolant burping sessions, I finally trusted the car enough to make it the 1,000 miles from South Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee. This trip had a reason – unload Hazel on someone else. That someone else presented herself out of no where and after a brief and brisk test drive, the family friend purchased the luxury barge right on the spot. Yes, you read that right – Hazel was purchased by a female. A caring female. This transaction took place two months ago and each status report that I have received since ends in nothing but gold stars. It may sound dopey but, I firmly believe Hazel and I were never meant to be.  Perhaps a product of poor upkeep on my and or the previous owner’s end, the car turned out to be more trouble than she was worth but only for one person in particular -myself.  Hazel would always perform flawlessly around others and still does to this day.  I’m still not so sure why her feelings of remorse and disrespect were directed toward my person but then again, I never really asked.  

2002 Subaru Outback FS

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