Is Classic Subaru the New Classic Alfa?

We all know about classic Italian cars. They have soul and passion, but they tend to fall apart. They're great hobbyist cars, but nothing you'll want to rely upon as your daily driver, as your only car.

So as much as I'd love to run my errands in a Lancia or Alfa or Fiat, since I don't have a garage or the means for a hobby car, it's probably not going to happen any time soon.

Instead, I bought a Subaru. It was Japanese, like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, so reliability was a given. It was a WRX, so it would be fun. It was a wagon and AWD, so it would be practical and safe. And it was a 2002, so it would be inexpensive, despite the low miles.

I bought it from a fellow Jalop 3 years ago for $6800. The odo read 118,000, and aside from a broken drivers seat and a bit of clearcoat flaking on the roof from a crappy Maaco paint job, it was brilliant.

Since then, I've put another 40k on it, and man, do I love that car. It's such great fun, so versatile, and so pretty (despite the still-present Maaco tracks).

But it has not been reliable. After I replaced the seats, a snap ring in the center differential decided to take a walk and shredded the whole unit. I learned with this job not to pay people to work on my car. Parts and labor were $1700.

Then the transmission shattered. I drive fast, but I'm not a launcher. I've only ever seen the redline a handful of times. But, per its reputation, the glass gearbox ended itself. That only cost me $900: $500 for a rebuilt part, which I installed myself, $300 for the installation of a replacement rebuilt part after the original rebuilt part also broke, (the part was warrantied by the guy who rebuilt it, but the work was not), and $100 as the insurance leavings after I destroyed my hand on the old transmission.

A few weeks ago, my plastic (really?) radiator exploded. That cost me $310 in a replacement aluminum radiator and silicone hoses, all used, and fresh coolant.

I can't whine about the consumables - clutch, brake pads, CV axles, wheel bearings, struts, premium gas, etc, because that's all my driving. I will complain about the two sets of tires I've eaten through, though, as the factory camber settings wear them quickly. And that stupid, broken seat. The (used) replacements cost me $400. There were little things, too. The AC compressor pulley, the battery cables, the intercooler, the TGVs.

Then, last night, on my way back from the airport, while ferrying my best friend and his wife home from their honeymoon, I started to hear a rattle. This was followed by a whole album of varied and angry noises and power loss until the car finally quit about 4 miles from home.

I haven't been able to take a close enough look to know what's wrong, but it seems major. It reminds me of the engine in the crappy 2001 Impala I used to drive. It threw a rod after 142k and was scrapped.

If this is the death of my engine, I'm going to have to sell the car. I still owe $1,800 on it. I love the car so much that I would find a way. I'd buy a different engine and install it myself and find a way to pay for it. But I just can't believe in the car anymore as a reliable daily driver. What's the point of keeping a car to will to my kids if it's just a giant piece?

If I get another WRX, it will be a weekender, a second car, a hobby machine, to roll out to the track and shows. Like some old Italian car. It will be a blast to drive, but a nightmare to own.