Ferrari. Porsche. Lamborghini. Rolls-Royce. These are the names that come to mind when you say the words "dream car." There is, however, another sort of dream car, not the kind you fantasize about driving but the kind that you are haunted by. I know. I've been visited by an automotive spirit and, after months of denial, it's time to decipher what it's trying to tell me.
My phantom is a powder-blue, front-wheel-drive, four-door 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit. It was my first car, which I drove as a teenager and later inherited. The Rabbit had a four-cylinder, 1.7-litre, single-overhead-cam gas engine capable of generating up to 74 horsepower and I ran it until it could go no farther. I sold it for scrap on a cold, bitter day in January, 1995. I was so broke I could not afford a tow to the service station and even if I could have, I didn't have the funds to pay for the repair. I was living downtown in Toronto and a car seemed redundant.
So I said goodbye.
I moved on. There were other cars, all of them utilitarian: a Dodge Spirit, a Toyota Camry, a Grand Caravan. You would not have attached the moniker dream car to any of them, unless your dream involved blending in and accelerating from zero to 40 in around two or three minutes. They served their purpose. I seldom thought of my first car at all.
Then, last summer, I received a visitation. One night I dreamed I was back in the driver's seat of my old Rabbit. It was a mechanical, magical, existential trip. I shifted gears, compensated for the fact that the Rabbit had power nothing – no power brakes, power steering or power windows – and drove around the city. The sun shone. I had no destination. I woke up exhilarated and a little sad.
I chalked up the dream to a one-off flashback. I was wrong. There were more – many more – dreams of my powder-blue bunny.
One evening, I dreamed I was having the Rabbit tuned up in a shop and there were gearheads standing about marvelling at it, telling me in precise terms how much the Rabbit was worth and how much I should be sure to care for it. In another, I dreamed of driving it in San Francisco – no conversations, no people, just the car. I made hill start after hill start with ease on steep inclines that would have given the woke me jitters.
What was the meaning of these dreams? My sleep life is not complex. As a teenager, I would dream of going to all-you-can-eat buffets. Other automobile dreams have been easy to decipher. My dream of driving around Los Angeles in an Eldorado convertible accompanied by a woman wearing a powder-blue bikini did not require Jungian psychoanalytical dream interpretation.
The Rabbit, however, was a different story. It smacked of unfinished business. In a traditional Gothic novel, a great crime is committed and goes unpunished. Years later, a ghost returns seeking revenge. Perhaps that's what's afoot. When I gave up that car, on a subconscious level, I gave up on what it represented – a sort of stripped-down freedom.
The Rabbit was not a commuter car. It was a car meant exclusively for fun, for road trips, for short trips, for trips that had no real purpose other than getting on the road and out of my head. It was really fun to drive and it was really cheap to run. There were no high-tech parts to replace, no air-conditioning to fix, no DVD player, no WiFi. It had a cassette player, a lighter and an ashtray.
And now it haunts me.
Perhaps it's time to look into making the dream a reality. I have begun checking used and classic car sites. There are Rabbits for sale. Prices range from $800 to $12,000 and the cars are scattered around the country. There's a 1988 Rabbit Cabrio convertible for sale in Surrey, B.C., for $1,200 that looks pretty good. It's tempting.
I guess I'll have to sleep on it.
The Canadian Press