Friday, June 9, 2017

Teaching Sons to Drive



When your divorced custodial father is a car salesman, and cheap, what car do you learn to drive? Subaru!

Mid 1990’s, Seattle area, a certain Mr. Wantanabe imported used Japanese automobile engines and transmissions. At the time Japan required all cars older than ten years be dismantled. Most were low mileage. A used Subaru engine was $150.

Being cheap I owned several old Subarus.  Bought them for $50 but never more than $100. After fixing them I would sell them for $500+. Nice little side business. Most went to families struggling with bills incurred raising disabled children.

The sons learned to drive them. Mainly stick shift, and learning in the hills around Seattle made them proficient quickly at starting and stopping on hills. My middle son struggled so his first car was a Subaru with an automatic. His ever so supportive mother had told him he probably would never drive. Oh how he and I enjoyed sending her a Polaroid of him holding his newly issued driver license while standing in front of his car.

 His biggest issue was parallel parking. He spent hours practicing in front of our house. The neighbors were as proud of him as me when he got his license.

My youngest son was, and is, one hell of a wheel-man. Once, age eight, he got to drive a rental go-cart. Within three laps he had that under powered go-cart drifting around the corners.

The next step in their education was my full sized Dodge pickup with a granny first and three more gears. It was a beast to drive. The Seattle area doesn’t get much snow normally but when it does snow it gets deep quickly, then freezes and ices. Near our home was a large parking lot, say an acre of asphalt, with a moderate slope. Made the sons drive the beast there, skidding, sliding, and spinning out. 

They haven’t had a problem with snow since, nor have they been in any accidents other than being rear ended.

So middle son has always been a grandma type driver. Youngest son, not so much. Had him working as a lot snot at the dealership. At the time he was driving a Chevy Luv (Isuzu).

 One of the salesmen took in a “project” Dodge Charger the owner had tired of. Had a Pacific Marine built up 360 c.u. engine. (Pacific Marine was a highly respected Mopar specialist). Cosmetically the car was a mess. Mechanically, near Nascar. The dealership had it on the books for $300.

Sitting at my desk I heard, “Dad”. He had that ‘look’ any parent could recognize as something monumental on his mind. He got the car. He got it with a restrictor plate and a ¾ throttle linkage restrictor courtesy of a great wrench who worked at the dealership. 
All came off on his 18th birthday. That car lasted him for years. I helped him get various daily drivers, mainly Subarus, for economy sake. One was a Daihatsu.


The current Subaru offerings leave me cold. Appliances. I remember the old ones fondly.

They did have limitations. I worked with a man who was a college shot putter. He was close to 400 lbs at 6’. I wasn’t a lot smaller. Once we went to the convenience store in my Subaru. We had to roll down the windows to get enough room for our shoulders.

The time my sons and I spent on their driving lessons became a special time. We seemed to be able to communicate easier and discuss subjects they rarely brought up around the house.


I was with my youngest when he got his first speeding ticket. We had driven to the top of Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 to view a comet. Coming back, downhill, he was clocked at 10 mph over. I’ve always felt it was a chickenshit ticket. The roads were dry and there was very little traffic. It was an opportunity to teach him how to handle a traffic stop, something where I had a lot of experience.

Over the years my ex has lived with my youngest, off and on. (Off now, to the relief of all in that family). He told me of a comment she once made during an argument.

“You are cheaper than your father”!!!

Think I may have raised him right.
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