The 1990s-era Subaru has a problem, and it's not just the failure-prone head gaskets: The quintessential Anchorage car has become a favored target in the city's theft epidemic.
Perhaps no one is more aware of that fact than Hunter Woofter. His forest-green 1999 Subaru Legacy, a reward for finishing his Eagle Scout project a decade ago, was swiped not once, but twice, in the span of a week.
"It's clearly a hot commodity for taking right now," Woofter said Wednesday, two days after recovering his car a second time.
Woofter's car is one of more than 3,100 cars that have been stolen in Anchorage so far this year, smashing prior records.
Anchorage property crime investigators say small rings of thieves have been using the cars in connection with drug dependency and drug dealing. Sgt. Ty Witte with the Anchorage Police Department has described a "domino effect" in which more and more people become trained on the methods of stealing certain types of cars.
Recently, Subarus from the 1990s have replaced Chevrolets as the most popular stolen car. Older Subarus lack a key chip security feature, making it easier for thieves to use filed-down old keys to get in, police say.
Known for sturdiness on snow and ice, Subarus also are immensely popular in Alaska.
Friends have urged Woofter to sell his car. He's hesitant for a few reasons.
"On one hand, I really like that car — it's my first car and it's done really well for me," Woofter said.
"On the other hand, who's going to buy a late-'90s model Subaru right now?"
The troubles started June 26, when Woofter came out of his serving job at the Rustic Goat restaurant in Turnagain to find his Subaru missing from its parking spot. He figured out it had been stolen, called police, and put out a plea for help on Facebook. Responses and sympathy poured in.
Three days later, Woofter got a call from police. The car had turned up on West 80th Avenue near Dimond High School. The car was in the parking lot of an apartment building, next to another car that was missing its license plates. It looked as if someone had been in the middle of swapping the plates out.
The car had been rummaged through, but apart from some body damage, it was in decent shape, Woofter said. He took it home that night to his East Anchorage condo.
Woofter spent the weekend running errands and performing with his band, the pub-music, Renaissance fair-style Anchorage group Rogues and Wenches. But by the time Monday rolled around, and he had to drive to work, Woofter was nervous. He planned to ask a co-worker to park behind him to block in a potential thief.
But he didn't get a chance. When he walked out of his condo that morning, the Subaru was gone — stolen again. He found himself making yet another round of calls to police and his insurance adjuster.
Woofter is positive the Subaru was locked both times it was stolen. A few years ago, someone broke in and stole several thousand dollars' worth of playing cards and gaming gear from it, so he's more careful. He also generally stopped keeping valuables in his car, but the morning of the second theft, Woofter was storing about $1,200 in microphones there because he planned to meet with his band after work.
Later Monday, Woofter's girlfriend and another friend left their jobs early and started driving around Anchorage, looking for the car. After an hour and a half, they spotted it in the parking lot of an apartment building in Mountain View — Woofter's girlfriend recognized a bumper sticker for his band. Woofter drove over, and the group staked it out until police showed up.
The car was similarly parked, with the license plates gone, Woofter said. This time, it had more damage. His key wouldn't fit in the ignition.
Woofter has been scratching his head. Is it all just a coincidence? The car was taken and recovered from different parts of town. His registration was stolen out of the glove compartment the first time, but he just moved, so the thieves didn't have his current address, he said. He hasn't heard news of arrests in either case.
Either way, he said he's doing what he can to foil a third theft. As soon as he gets his car back from the mechanic, Woofter plans to install steering wheel lock, a pedal jack and most likely a kill switch.
He wishes he didn't need so many layers of security. But the peace of mind is worth it.
"I would absolutely use the notoriety I've gained from this unfortunate week to urge anyone with a mid-to-late-'90s Subaru or Chevy to please put in some after-market security measures," Woofter said. "Because it is absolutely not worth all of this."