While spotting a shooting star or catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights can fill your heart with wonder and delight, there is nothing quite like watching your car’s odometer flip into a new era. And though there are some who can’t imagine driving a vehicle past the 100,000 mile mark, there is the rest of us: those who thrill in pushing the envelope.
As the founder of Teton High’s cross country program and a retired history and English teacher after 26 years of service to the school district, Neil Gleichman is clearly the type of guy who likes to go the distance. And whether out of necessity, curiosity or sheer determination, Gleichman has joined the elite club of someone who drove their car past the mark of a half million miles.
Different from Gleichman’s choice of a 1995 Subaru Legacy, I bought a gas guzzling 1995 Ford Bronco years ago. Affectionately referred to as the “Juice” on account of its likeness to the vehicle that OJ Simpson made famous, I got to watch it turn, 200K and then 300K. When it was about to turn 400K, my eyes darted from the gauges to the road, not wanting to miss the milestone. But when all the 9’s turned to zeros, the 3 stayed the same. I guess the engineers at Ford didn’t have faith that the Bronco would last.
This was not the case with Gleichman’s Subbie, a vehicle that was, in fact, equipped with a 400K reading, as well as a 5 in the same slot. As far as Gleichman knows it’s got a 6, 7, 8 and 9 to register the true mileage of the aging Legacy. But he won’t know for sure, as he donated his old ride to charity this week with proceeds going to Wyoming Public Radio.
“It’d heard these ads on the radio for years about donating your car,” Gleichman said. “I filled out one piece of paper, and then some outifit takes care of all the details. It was really easy.”
The second owner of this legendary Legacy, Gleichman bought it in 2003 from his good friend Patrick Gallagher, the man who started Sue’s Roos in Driggs, the place where it was serviced all its life. Angela and Michael Beaumont were the original owners, and they had taken great care to service the vehicle regularly.
Often asked how he managed to get a car to operate so many miles with the same engine, Gleichman doesn’t hesitate to tell you he checked the oil every time he gassed up. If it needed some oil, he added some, but he did change gears somewhere between 250K and 300K miles.
“The engine was burning oil, just drinking the stuff, and I was using the expensive synthetic type,” he said. “Jason, my mechanic, said I might as well switch to the cheaper oil, so I did.”
From coast to coast and into both Canada and Mexico, Gleichman piloted his Subbie without any breakdowns keeping him idle. He’s taken it up two track trails all over Idaho, Colorado and places in Arizona where it probably should never have gone, but he never thought to baby it.
“I’m a traveling man, and I put a lot of really rough miles on that car into order to access some fantastic places,” Gleichman said. “The side panels have been scratched, the belly has been scraped, but it just kept going. I’ll bet whoever ends up with it will get another 100K miles out of that engine.”
While Gleichman never caught air in the Subaru himself, there was an incident that occurred shortly after he bought it that got the car some four feet off the ground. Doing some work at the high school on a Saturday night, Gleichman left the keys in the ignition only to find later that evening that some seniors had taken it for a joy ride, launching it onto the top of a snow bank where it sat stranded.
“It’s amazing that the air bags didn’t deploy, but those boys had to pay for damage to the exhaust system,” Gleichman said. “I didn’t press charges, but I felt like law enforcement at the time could’ve taken a more stern tone about the whole thing.”
A great testimonial for Subaru, Gleichman is now driving his fourth Legacy, one with a mere 215K miles so far. He’s trying to train himself to be nicer to this new car, but he might not ever see the odometer put on a display like it did when he was halfway to Montana to help coach his cross country kids to go the distance themselves. The old Subaru never had a nickname, but the dash always sported a figurine of an evil clown, suggesting that its driver got the last laugh in a world where society probably ought to need less.