This is the story and some pictures of my Subaru Legacy Outback. To my surprise and delight, it served me well over the four months I was away. I was concerned in the beginning that it might not make it, but aside from the Dalton Highway trip, it did quite well. I even bought an extended warranty to aleviate my concerns, I think I just had to get to know it's personality.
When I was preparing for my trip, I searched for a vehicle that met the following requirements:
Due to my unique requirements, my search was relatively narrow and specific. I was looking at a category of vehicle that is gaining popularity recently, the small - mid sized, fuel efficient, wanna-be SUV market. I looked at the Ford Escape, and the Toyota Highlander. Since both of these vehicles had just recently come out, they were expensive, and leasing was not really an option.
The Audi A4 Avant, the Audi Allroad, the Volvo XC, and the Volvo V70 were also on my list, but were way too expensive. So I pretty much considered them pipe dreams.
I looked at the Nissan X-Terra, the Toyota Rav4, the VW Jetta Wagon, and the Subaru Legacy Outback and Forrester. The X-Terra, was too expensive and I didn't like the ride nor the poor gas milage. The Rav4 was too small and underpowered. The Jetta Wagon was just a little small, and I couldn't find a used one. I liked the way the Forrester looked, but it's rear area is actually a little shorter than the Outback.
So, that left me with the Outback. A couple dealers in the area had used ones, including Van Bortel, which didn't treat me that well; and Doyle, who, had I not found the one I did, had a vehicle I would have purchased. I found a humble and honest dealer in Webster named Bill Hassell. His company, Reliable Services Inc. advertises primarily on it's impressive website, and had an 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback listed for $8,995.00. This happend to be a little less than Blue Book trade - in value on my 1997 Volkswagon Jetta. -- After some dealing with Bill, he agreed to trade me evenly for my vehicle, and pay for 1/2 of an extended warranty. - I had my vehicle.
I made some modifications to it. This included tinting the windows and installing a car alarm. It was a major pain, and if you are thinking about doing this to your own vehicle, I would recommend strongly against it. Here are some pictures: