My Car and My Business
I used to own a fun car. It was 2006 and after gaining some work stability where I was able to finally afford nice(ish) things, I made the plunge on a BMW. I’d never owned anything fancy like that before and I fell in love with my 2004 325Xi. It was fast, but still had all wheel drive. It handled like a mad man and you had to be insanely careful on the highway with it. It rode so smooth that a few times I glanced down to notice I was doing 90mph without even realizing it. But then by 2008 when I really started to take storm chasing seriously, I knew something had to give. I had bought a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder as a dedicated chase vehicle but also still had my 2004 BMW as my daily, fun driver. Dual car ownership didn’t last long. Keeping up two separate insurances, constantly keeping two gas tanks full, and overall maintenance was draining my bank faster than I could add to it. In 2010, I traded both cars in and went back to being a single car owner.
Like I said, I was now taking storm chasing much more seriously and everyone knows that you have to have an SUV to chase. You are out in the elements facing uncertain driving conditions that can change rapidly. You need 4WD to get down some pretty sketchy roads that have been rutted out in the mud. I’ve had numerous times where if I hadn’t had 4WD, I would have been in some big trouble. So began a string of owning SUV’s all equipped with decent off road tires, tow cables, and even a few hankerings to buy a push bar for the bumper. Again, you never know what you’ll run in to out there.
But then I realized; nope, that’s all bullshit. In my 7 or so years of storm chasing, I cannot think of a SINGLE instance where I would’ve been screwed for not having AWD. It just isn’t that bad. Is it nice to have? Well, sure I guess. Is it necessary? No, it’s not. In fact, I’d say that most of the people I see stuck are people in SUV’s who’ve gotten in over their heads. It was this realization that led me to where I am today with my new car. I’ve just bought a 2015 Volkswagen GTI. It’s fast, fun, efficient, and will be a hell of a storm chase vehicle. I know the question most people will ask; what about when you need to go off road? My answer, don’t take that road. There’s always options. Will I have to adjust my chasing strategy? Yes of course, but it’s not hard to stay out of trouble. Like I said, most of the time I see people stuck it was their own doing. For me, the days of driving boring, clunky, gas eating SUV’s is all over.
It’s been an interesting road leading up to this purchase. My potential car matches were all over the map. At one point I was convinced a Mini Countryman was a sure bet. It seemed to check all of the right boxes. It would be a fun car, has AWD, but is still pretty small. Then I drove one – what a dud. I really like the Mini quality though, and for the hell of it decided to test drive a 2 door Cooper S Hardtop. The car has no practicality at all, would completely eliminate my ability to take anyone chasing with me, and they cost a fortune. I loved the damn thing though! There’s no rationale behind my love of it either. It’s just a cool car. Had the one I test drove been slightly cheaper, I might’ve bought it. Seriously, it’s a great little car if it fits your lifestyle. It doesn’t fit my needs though. Even though 90% of the time I’m alone in the car, I still couldn’t sacrifice the ability to load a car up with friends to go chasing. So the Mini was out.
Next I looked at the Subaru brand. As most people know, I owned a 2010 Forester for a few years before it was obliterated by hail in the Texas Panhandle. It was a perfectly fine car. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I don’t want ho-hum. Subaru is a fantastic brand, but they make boring cars. That is, unless you have a WRX or STi. So I looked at the WRX. Problem is, starting this year, they no longer make the WRX in the hatchback anymore. And the sedan version is absolutely hideous. Plus if I’m honest; the WRX line is for 20 somethings who wear flat brimmed hats and hoodies and drink Monster. I even briefly considered the Impreza hatchback but it’s miserable 125hp 4 cylinder just doesn’t cut it. Turbo charge the Impreza hatch and I would’ve probably given it a more serious look. Not an option though. I looked at the Cross Trek and while popular amongst chasers, I too found it to be boring and cheap on the interior. And speaking of which, I just can’t get over how awful Subaru interiors are. They reek in cheapness with hard plastic and horrible outdated stereo’s and speakers. If you want elegance or style in any form, Subaru is not the way to go.
So with Subaru out, I hit sort of a crossroads. I looked at possibly getting a used Audi A4 but my budget would’ve only allowed for me to get a car 1 year newer than what I’ve already got. German luxury sedans that have just fallen out of their warranty period was not something I was interested in. So that was out. Then I looked at a BMW X1. The problem with it was that even though it was a 4 door car, the back seats were useless and could barely fit a short person back there. So it was out.
I then started looking at YouTube searches for things like “best fun cars” “highest rated fast cars” and what was consistently spit out was the Volkswagen GTI. How could I not have thought of that?! I have a friend at work who’s had his 2005 GTI since the day it launched and already has 220K miles on it. Most of the chasers on Facebook are always raving about how their VW’s are at 200K miles or more and how happy they are with them. So, off I went Friday night after work to give the GTI a spin. I knew pretty quickly that it was what I was looking for. The interior is the complete opposite of Subaru. There’s no utilitarian cheapness, and I felt like I was sitting in the cock pit of a fighter jet. The steering wheel is leather wrapped with a flat bottom that helps you remember that you’re driving a fast car. The seats are a plaid cloth throwback to the 1984 Rabbit that look great. I laugh when I hear people complain about how the government is forcing car companies to make boring uninspired cars because they have to hit new gas MPG regulations. This GTI is a turbo charged 4 cylinder with 210hp that still gets 31mpg. I’d say the new government regulations are making car companies not be lazy and step up their game. Volkswagen has achieved that with this car.
I went back to the dealership today to crunch some numbers to see if I could afford the car. They appraised my Hyundai a little higher than I thought, knocked a decent amount off the sticker price of the GTI to make the numbers work for me, and bumped my warranty up to 6 years/85k miles. I was sold. One problem though…I wanted the car in white but all they had on the lot was black and silver. No problem, as a white one was in their conditioning facility getting ready to hit the showroom floor. I also added on window tinting, so my car will be ready to go Monday night. They took my Hyundai and gave me a loaner Passat to drive the rest of the weekend. So needless to say, I’m looking forward to Monday night! *UPDATED PHOTO BELOW OBVIOUSLY*