Flat out over crest! ...is somewhat different when you’ve only got 25 horsepower at your disposal. But don’t worry: with four tuna-can-sized drum brakes, we’ll probably crash into a tree and die anyway! Huzzah!
If you’re at all involved in the Subaru community, you’ve likely already familiar with the name Subie Gal. Real name Jamie Cavett, she’s the internet parts manager for Chaplain’s Subaru in Bellevue, and has thus sold thousands of parts to people all over Cascadia and beyond. She’s also a true World Rally Blue Subaru nut, and has raced and rallied for years. She once even drove a Subaru Pleo up Pike’s Peak.
I thought I’d swing by her house out in Seattle to get a good look at Stanley, her 1970 360 Van. I’d seen it before at the local microcar rally put on by the LeMay museum, but here was the chance to see it in its natural habitat.
Well basically, the place is like a rescue home for wayward Subaru kei cars. Cavett even has an FF-1 (“It was a terrible car,” she says happily), with a flat-four engine bored out to 1.4L. That’s what we like to call the big stove option. None of these have survived, and they were disastrous for many reasons - this one has a broken reverse gear awaiting repair. However, it does sound like a proper rally-prepped Subaru, a sort of lower case WRX. A wrx, if you will.
The 360s, and Jamie has plenty of ‘em, are air-cooled and thus both feebler and simpler. Stanley has about 25hp on a good day and is known to be cantankerous in the heat. We dig him out from beside a vintage Frogger arcade machine, and head out onto the open road.
Having driven a Daihatsu Midget II, I am intimately familiar with the concept of small n’ slow. Stanley, on the other hand, manages to be both glacial-yet-terrifying, a box turtle with a shell made of nitroglycerine. Inputs have to happen ten minutes before the outcome arrives; acceleration is foiled by mild inclines, stopping distances rate as Aircraft Carrier.
But the furiously parpling Stanley is determined and adorable. Jaime’s pretty fun too: “I bet I can outrun this tailgater through the corner,” she says, trail-braking deep. “Hah! Gapped him!”
Okay, that’s enough Barely Not Dying for now. Brief hugs to Stanley, and back on the road.