Chewie and the Bodysnatcher
Who is this woman in my house and what has she done with my wife?
About a month ago, I watched my wife’s pretty little Tiguan get dragged onto a flatbed and hauled away. The poor thing had been beaten to a pulp by hail, with a one-two punch of shattered glass and torrential rain to finish off the interior and many of the electronics. That was a sad day; we both loved that car.
As you––the fellow diseased––can imagine, a flurry of car shopping quickly followed. Our budget meant she was limited to used options. Betsy’s criteria were simple: she wanted something smaller than her Tiguan, an automatic transmission, a rear hatch, and preferably all-wheel drive. A “growly” engine would be a nice bonus. Interesting.
My wife has always been a Mini fan so she started there. The Mini Cooper is her favorite, but we’re moving to Wisconsin soon and the all-wheel-drive Countryman could be nice, too. I naturally suggested a wagon of some sort. Maybe a Volkswagen Alltrack, Audi Allroad, or some flavor of Volvo. I did not expect the events that occurred a few days later.
Walking into our bedroom, I glanced at the computer screen and caught my wife––the woman who never before considered a used car because she insisted on having a warranty––looking at listings for MkV Volkswagen R32s. I did a double-take so hard I almost pulled a muscle in my neck.
“I thought you didn’t like old cars,” I said.
“I thought you said they sound nice,” she responded. Touche.
The R32 checked all her boxes. It certainly had the exhaust note covered. That night she laid in bed watching exhaust compilation videos. She talked to me using terms like cat-back, Borla, and DSG. Before long, she was mapping routes from our future home in Wisconsin to the annual Wookies in the Woods meetup. It took her a while to contract the car disease, but man was it hitting hard.
Online research and a conversation with my trusted Volkswagen speed shop confirmed that not only is the R32 a viable daily driver, the vaunted 3.2-liter VR6 is one of the most reliable engines ever to leave Wolfsburg.
The U.S. only got 5,000 MkV R32s, and the ones that are still on the road have had 13 years to rack up miles. What are the odds we could find a clean example in such a pinch? One hundred percent, apparently. We found a two-owner car four miles from our house with 52,000 miles on the clock. I could hardly believe it. A pre-purchase inspection revealed a clean bill of health. I’m not saying this was destined to be, but it sure felt like it. And it’s a good thing, too––Betsy had already named the car Chewie (after the Wookie-like exhaust note) before she even saw it in person.
“In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘I’m going to regret it if I get something that is just ok,’” she rationalized.
Fine, then. Who are we to turn down such good fortune?
During the past few weeks, it’s been great to ride shotgun in such a fun car, but the real treat has been seeing how happy Betsy is every time she turns the key. The same person who used to take any opportunity to get out of driving is suddenly slipping the transmission into sport mode every time she approaches a red light just to hear it downshift.
“I would drive my car if I had to go somewhere and you weren’t going––then I would drive," she said. "But if you were going I would rather you drive because I wasn’t really interested. It wasn’t a fun activity. It was just something that I had to do to get where I was going. With Chewie, driving is now a fun activity and I do not want you to drive.”
She’s also taken a delightful interest in meetups and cars and coffee events.
“Listening to you talk to other car people, the most interesting ones are the ones who have something that they feel is really special,” she said. “I guess I used to think of special cars as really expensive cars. Like, ‘Oh, there’s a Lamborghini or a McLaren that’s $300,000 or $500,000, so that’s what a special car is.’ And then, from going to car shows and hearing about people that you’ve talked to, I’ve realized that it really doesn’t have anything to do with how fast the car is or how expensive the car is. Special means something different to everyone.”
One night, we sat around laughing about all of this––the cars and coffee dates, my incessant babbling about this car or that car, and her gradual contraction of the car disease.
“I’ve been around so many cars, and seen so many cars, and heard endless facts about every car that we see, or could see, or have seen,” she explained. “I think it really is your fault.”
Ok, that sounds familiar. Maybe there isn’t a bodysnatcher, after all.