Woodgrain. Champagne. Leather. Miles Davis’s 1957 album Birth Of The Cool. This isn’t a mood board for a New York jazz lounge, nor is it a still life from a private plane 10,000 feet in the air. Rather, it’s the 2005 Subaru Outback experience, or at least the way I experience it. Before we go any further, I should clarify, I’m not encouraging drinking and driving, champagne is literally the paint color (Champagne Gold Opal to be precise). Like an old friend from college, it has nicknames: “The Champagne Chariot” and when I DD for my parents, “The Soberu.”
It has character too: the exhaust rattles like a box of Tic-Tacs, and the steering wheel occasionally decides, like a black lab, to shed all over your hands. When my real black lab, Bella, barks too much in the back seat I turn up the radio. It’s unimpressive, the sound quality is fuzzy at best, and even worse, it’s a product of the awkward, post-cassette, pre-MP3 era of CD’s. Therefore, the stereo doesn’t have an aux input. This 2000’s mishap, like those bootcut jeans with embroidered pockets, is not simply an issue of design, but also one of fit. The A/C controls are built in with the stereo, so there’s no way to switch it out for an aftermarket one with an aux jack, without doing scary things like using a soldering iron. That leaves the modern Outbacker with only one choice: use an FM transmitter. It allows you to “borrow” an empty FM station and broadcast music from your phone on it. It works perfectly! Except for when someone else is using the same frequency. I distinctly remember having my afternoon dose of Wu-Tang Clan interrupted by a neighboring car listening to Taylor Swift.
At this point you’re probably thinking, especially if you remember black and white television, “At least it’s a car, grumble, grumble, kids these days are so ungrateful…” But, you haven’t let me finish, I absolutely love that car. I intend to drive it until the wheels fall off. In a practical sense, it does everything I need it do and comfortably, gets good gas mileage (which my grandmother always asks me about whenever she rides in it), and I can sleep in the back of it (which my grandmother does not ask me about).
It may have lost most of its value since new, but it has doubled, even tripled in sentimental value. After all, this is the car that got me to and from high school every day for two years. All those cold winter mornings spent sitting at one of the seven stoplights on my morning drive; warm spring evenings driving home from track practice, windows down, stereo cranked, indie rock blasting. This is the car that got T-boned by a deer while giving a teammate a ride home from practice. The car that has seen everything from a Blue Ridge Parkway sunset to a Sewanee fog so thick, I couldn’t see past the hood of the car. Speaking of which, this is the car that carried me on a 7-hour pilgrimage from Roanoke, Virginia to Sewanee, Tennessee for my first day of PRE. It transported me from a place I had spent the last 18 years of my life to a place in the middle of nowhere Tennessee where I knew exactly two people. This is the car that now takes me all over the South to visit my friends while on break. For every postcard moment in my life, the Champagne Chariot has been my mail van.