Persistence pays off

Flying Subaru finds home with childhood friend
By Fran Gonzalez | May 06, 2019
Courtesy of: Matt Heroux "Georgie," Matt Heroux's 32-year-old Subaru GL-10 Turbo wagon, shown here recently in downtown Belfast, still captures the attention of onlookers as it did when new in 1987.

Belfast — There is a special memory Matt Heroux holds dear. In 2002, when he was 4, his great-grandmother Evelyn would take him for drives behind her house on Swan Lake Avenue, in the parking lot of Friendship Park, a softball field his great-grandparents owned.

Sunroof down and air blowing through, Heroux would peer through the opening and he would be "flying."

"She and I bonded over that," he said, and remembers asking her to take him often.

Now 21, Heroux remembers the vehicle fondly, an 1987 Subaru GL-10 Turbo wagon. "The digital dash is amazing," he said. "It's like 'Back to the Future' when you turn it on, with little green bars, and the speedometer is all digital."

According to Heroux, the car came with every bell and whistle available at the time and brand new sold for $14,000. "In 1987, that was a little bit of money," he said.

The wagon came into Evelyn's life after a phone call from her best friend George, who lived in Florida. He called her one night and said, "I've got one hell of a car for you, and it's going to last you many years."

He was very excited about his find and in August 1995, had it shipped to her on a car carrier from Englewood, Florida, to Belfast. Shortly thereafter, George passed away.

Evelyn divided her time between Maine and Florida, storing the car from the end of September until the end of April.

In the fall of 2002, after Evelyn had owned the car for seven years, she sold the wagon for $1,500 at a yard sale "to a lady from Hampden."

Rationalizing why his great-grandmother sold the wagon, Heroux said, "She lived in Florida in winter and had a car there, too; having a car up here was kind of extra. She always said she regretted selling it."

Later on, Heroux found himself recalling those memories of younger days and the car that made "flying" possible.

"I thought of the car once in a while, when I'd stop in (to see her). We would have tea together, and talk about how cool it would be to see where the wagon is now," he said.

In August 2018, while looking through "Uncle Henry's and "seeing what kind of used Subarus they had," Heroux came across an ad for a 1987 Subaru GL 10 Turbo. "I looked through the pictures and it was like a gigantic light bulb went off,"  he said. The seller was in Waldo.

Heroux had a Carfax account which allowed him to research the plate number. He discovered the car was indeed from Florida and had been registered in Belfast. He could not contain his excitement.

"It's hard to describe the feeling, after 17 years, there it is," he said, though he still needed to make contact.

Heroux called the number in the ad, only to discover it was a nonworking number. He then tried to email but did not get a response. "I kind of lost hope, at first, but I knew there would be a turnaround and something would happen eventually."

A few months later, still searching on Uncle Henry's, he came upon the same ad and tried again, but this time received a response. The response to Heroux was, "we sold the car two days ago."

"I had missed it by two days," Heroux said. "I was crushed."

Through the emotional highs and lows, Heroux said he still felt hopeful. He searched on Carfax once again, but this time found it had been registered in Brooks. He went to the Brooks Town Office and explained everything to the clerk. The clerk said it was registered in town but that federal law prohibited her from disclosing any information.

Heroux said, "I might as well forget about it. I really lost hope at that point."

In February of this year, late one night coming home from Palmyra, while driving through the center of Brooks just past the hardware store, Heroux said, "I had my high-beams on and something caught the headlights. So I looked over and thought — that looks familiar."

He remembers slamming on the brakes "full-on," in the middle of the road. Parked at the Roaring Acres Ceramic shop lot, was a white Subaru wagon. "I shined the lights on it, squinted my eyes, and I could see it was a GL-10 with a valid license plate on it. That's the one," he said.

It was parked in the corner, "like it wasn't regularly used," he said. The next day, Heroux drove back and talked to the shop owner and asked her if she knew anything about the car, who parked it there and why it was there. She said it was her daughter's car and that she had bought the wagon last fall.

At the the time, Heroux had a 1999 Subaru station wagon and was broke. "I had maybe $10 to my name," he said, nevertheless trying to figure out how to make a deal work.

"I looked at the lady and said, 'Call your daughter and tell her I have one hell of a deal for her.'" He went on to say he would trade his '99 wagon, which was inspected and had had work done on it, if her daughter would sign over the title of the '87 wagon to him.

About a half-hour later, her daughter showed up and agreed to the deal. She said the only thing it needed immediately was a battery and that she was not using it currently.

With the help of his aunt, Heroux bought a battery and came back that afternoon and installed it. "It started right up," he said.

Heroux remembered getting in for the first time after signing everything over, and saying out loud, "I knew I'd come back for you."

That day, he drove the wagon to Evelyn's house. "My great-grandmother didn't know anything about it; she had no idea that I had found it, or that I'd gotten it," he said.

"It was around 9 o'clock at night at that point. I handed her the keys and said, I've got something out front for you to see."

She peaked out the window and thought she saw his 1999 Subaru.

"It's not my (1999) Subaru," he told her, "but that one is mine now" — and then it all came back to her.

"Words can't accurately describe the moment she figured everything out," Heroux said, "but the sentiment will be there for years to come."

Evelyn decided to name the car Georgie after her late friend George, and said that "if he were looking down, he’d be awfully proud."

Heroux, an author and Colonial Theatre projectionist, said he is now in the process of getting the wagon cleaned up and restored, as finances permit, and thinks about displaying the Subaru at the Renys Plaza car shows on Fridays during the summer.

He stores the car in the same garage bay as many years before, and says he believes in the old adage of taking care of what you have and it will last forever, along with a little elbow grease and persistence go a long way.

 

Matt Heroux back in the day, dreaming of driving the 1987 Subaru GL-10 Turbo wagon he now owns. (Courtesy of: Matt Heroux)
Evelyn Curry, Matt Heroux's great-grandmother, at the former Ames department store (now Ocean State Job Lot) in Belfast, with her Subaru wagon. (Courtesy of: Matt Heroux)
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