2008 Subaru Forester Sports XT 5MT
When you ask an average person what their favorite car is, it's not typically a Subaru, and it's definitely not likely to be a compact SUV. Mine happens to be both.
I've been tagged a 'Subaru guy' since 2007, when I bought my '05 WRX STI. Still in my early 20's, it was the obvious choice for a young punk with a corporate paycheck and no responsibilities. With turbo power, AWD, manual transmission, etc... it was definitely a fun car. Then the tickets came and the novelty soon wore off. Though I probably deserved them, I still attribute the tickets to police vehicular profiling.
In any case, within a couple of years, I traded it for a more sensible car - an '02 WRX wagon in 5MT. The thought was that this car would be completely under the radar; it is a wagon after all. The problem is that I was struck with the mod bug - the itch to upgrade parts and modify components until the car bears only minimal resemblance to its original form. And mod I did. While the goal was to keep everything "tasteful" and not go overboard, I pretty much modified every element on the vehicle, from a turbo swap to suspension to audio to lighting. The car did remain under the radar in terms of police attention, but whether it was because the car was a wagon or my driving tendencies evolving, I'll never know.
I have to admit, I still miss this car. It had more power than the STI and a functional hatch offering plenty of cargo space. It was the perfect car for a couple in their mid 20's. This car handled snowy Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, and Mammoth Mountain like a champ! But it was exactly that - a car for a couple. And when my then fiancee (now wife) and I started thinking about expanding our family, we knew we'd need something bigger in the future.
So the search began for a larger, more family-friendly car. Now in my early 30's, I was in an interesting position - ever the Subaru fan, but perhaps maturing (?) into a responsible family man. In any case, the Forester did indeed seem like the perfect fit, but I wasn't sold on them as the thought of an SUV didn't quite suit my tastes. That was until I stumbled across some member journals of their modified Forester Sports XTs. I was instantly intrigued.
The Forester XT Sports edition was only produced in 2007 and 2008, and it's essentially a WRX housed within a compact SUV shell. With subtle STI garnishes and an optional 5-speed manual transmission, this turbocharged 2.5 liter, all-wheel-drive grocery-getter quickly became my dream car. What's more, it's rumored that in 2008, only 330 of these cars were produced in the US. Of those 330, there were 4 colors available. Assuming an equal distribution of colors (which I don't believe is actually the case) that means there were only about 85 of these cars in the dark grey metallic (DGM) color that I wanted (this color option was only available in 2008). Of those 85, likely (much) less than half were equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission, putting the number of DGM 2008 Forester Sports XT 5MT's in the US at somewhere around 35.
Now, for what ever reason, Subaru of America doesn't publish the actual production numbers by model like many car manufacturers do, so the '35' number is an estimate, and a very rough one at that. Still, what I soon discovered on my quest to find one (a DGM 2008 Forester Sports XT 5MT), is that they are truly hard to find. I scoured the forums and online classifieds for years (literally, 2) before finding one that wasn't (a) completely modified or (b) trashed / salvage-titled.
Then, the stars aligned.
In early October, 2013, I was doing my usual internet rounds at work at UCLA - YouTube, Facebook, emails, forester forums, and I saw a new post in the classifieds. A 2008, Forester Sports XT, manual trans, DGM, 81k miles, in ... Colorado, a mere 1,000 miles to the east. This was the one. The next several weeks consisted of many tasks including, but not limited to: obtaining spousal approval, negotiating a price with the seller, and working out the logistical nightmare that is purchasing a car from out-of-state with a bank loan from a bank in your state who pays the seller's lien holder in his state since the seller didn't own the car outright.
In late October, 2013, I booked two 1-way flights to Denver, CO for my wife and I. Upon arrival, the seller picked us up, drove us to his bank, where they were paid by my bank, and the deal was done in less than an hour. We ate lunch in Denver and we were on the road back home by mid-afternoon. Over the rocky mountains, into Utah, through Arizona, and powering through Las Vegas, Nevada, we made it back home to Southern California in 2-day's time - a trip which put me forever in my wife's debt. I'd like to think that it was worth it to her when she sees the smile on my face every time I drive it, but I suppose I can only hope (and do nice stuff from time to time).
This is the first picture I have of the car from somewhere in Utah.
Since then, I've lightly modified it - suspension (springs only), short-throw shifter, axle-back exhaust for that iconic 'boxer rumble,' RAAMmat sound deadening, stereo upgrade, HID projector retrofit, and a couple of others. In theory, future posts will detail these projects.
I say lightly modified because, somehow, I feel a moral obligation to the Subaru community to keep a car this rare intact and close to its original form. And though that sense of responsibility is probably misplaced, I'd like to think that the .0001% of the population who even recognizes the car appreciates the effort.