In a shockingly practical move, I have replaced a car that is usually thought of as a remedy for a mid-life crisis, with a staid and practical (yet fun) model.
For the last three years, this 1978 Porsche 911SC has been my regular ride. This is a great car, a lot of fun to drive, plenty of power, great handling, and a throaty growl when I hit the accelerator. Fast enough to have fun, but not fast enough to get me in trouble. In fact, I have not managed to pick up a single speeding ticket in this car. Despite the fact that it is nearly 30 years old, it is still solid and (for the most part) reliable. It makes a few funny noises, but all of the loose parts that are going to fall off have already done so. With over 172,000 miles on the odometer, it is really not showing its age at all. However, when something does go wrong, it is never cheap to fix. Most any trip to the mechanic seems to result in a $1000 repair. Fortunately, spare parts are readily available as are skilled and knowledgeable mechanics.
On the downside, this car really has to be “driven.” With a 5-speed manual transmission and a 44 mile round trip commute to and from Seattle every day, my arms and legs get a good workout just steering, braking, and shifting. There’s no air conditioning, and the heating system is marginal at best. The stereo stopped working a few months ago and I have not had the time to replace it. If I drove carefully I could usually get 20 MPG, albeit of expensive premium gas.
With gas prices spiraling upward, it was time to be a bit more practical. After looking around a bit I ended up ordering and taking delivery on a 2006 Toyota Scion xB.
The ordering process is very straightforward, starting at the Scion web site. The dealers don’t maintain any inventory; they sell the vehicles while they are still in transit from the factory. The final customization takes place at the port or at the dealer. I got a better stereo (with an iPod interface), alloy wheels, some blue LED highlights inside, and a few other goodies. Usual delivery time is around 2.5 months. I got lucky and they found an “extra” car that was due to arrive 10 days after I placed the order.
I just picked the car up yesterday, and we’ve already put about 100 miles on it, including two trips to Seattle. It drives very nicely and has plenty of power. The interior is very roomy and my kids have no reason to complain.
One reason that I chose this car is that it seems to have a community around it. There’s Scion Night, Scion Life, and plenty of others. Toyota apparently supports the development of a healthy third-party market in add-ons and customizations. According to the Wikipedia article, this car is aimed at “the 10 to 15 percent of Generation Y who are on the cutting edge.” That’s ok, I bought it anyway.
The Porsche is now in the garage, and I will probably take this opportunity to do some renovation on it. The leather seats are pretty worn, it needs a tuneup, and I think the suspension could use some work.