Everyone has their first car. Mine was a 1997 Passat GLX VR6. But that is not what this article is about. This article is about what I consider to be my first real car. The car that, in the end, changed my life.
I was a spring semester freshman in 2012 at my local Penn State campus when I began looking for a car. By now, I was entering my Passat through my rear passenger’s door due to the two inoperable front door handles. And that was just the tip of the iceberg, but I digress. I was on the hunt for a “new used-car” in preparation for my move to Penn State’s main campus junior year.
The requirements: manual transmission, reliable, practical, lower miles. But most importantly, it had to be the most fun car I could get my hands on for about $10,000.
Sure, $10,000 sounds like a lot, but the options weren’t great. There were WRXs, but all over 100,000 miles, most of which were probably not gentle. There were some 350z’s, Porsche Boxers, and others alike, but convincing my mother that any of these were practical, all-season cars proved to be an insurmountable task. Then there was a sea of eco-boxes. Half of which were not manual—all of which were no fun.
I did settle on a few choices. One was a 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5L coupe with three pedals. Unfortunately, these were few and far between due to Nissan pushing its new CVT at the time. Another was a 2008 Subaru Impreza wagon. Sure, it wasn’t the fastest, but with proper suspension mods it could be a pretty fun car to take through the twisties. Not to mention it is by far the sexiest wagon Subaru has ever created. Still, in the end neither one seemed to really pique my interests.
The spring semester came to a close, and I was no closer to having a new car than I was months prior. My step-dad and I spent weekends wondering various car lots within 100 miles of our house. I saw just about everything. There were a few things that sparked my interest, like an Audi A4 that just had its 100,000 mile tune-up done. And there were plenty that weren’t so appealing, the worst being an old, beaten down, school bus yellow Volkswagen Beetle that an older gentleman tried to pass off as a “fun little sports car.”
It was at about this point when I discovered a dealership named Highline Imports in Easton, PA. The dealer had a couple of cars I was interested in, so we checked it out. We test drove a Scion TC with lower miles that was right in my budget. We were about to seal the deal when my step-dad, a previous owner of a 1991 Saab 9000, decided we had to test drive the 2007 Saab 9-3 they had on the lot, even though it was a couple grand above my price range. This car checked almost every box, but I went in knowing I could not afford it. We returned from the test drive, and went back home after another long day of looking.
A few weeks passed and I decided to check out Highline’s webite to see if they had gotten any new inventory. To my surprise the Saab was marked down to about what I could afford. That weekend we hopped in my 1997 Passat and drove 2 hours to see if we could work out a deal. I got less on my trade-in than I had hoped, but thankfully we were still able to work out a fair deal for both parties. It was just in time, too, as chance may have it, as a woman came not 10 minutes later ready to buy the Laser Red 9-3.
I was the proud new owner of a 2007 9-3 2.0T with a 6-speed manual transmission, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and it only had 46,000 miles. It was a combination of luxury, performance and reliability that I never thought I could obtain at the time. I may not have known it at the time, but a Saab nut was born.
Stay tuned as we cover all of the projects the car saw through the years, and tell you of its untimely demise. For now, enjoy perusing through the gallery of images shown below.