Mark’s Subaru SVX & Tovrea Castle Tour

Odometer (Legend):  519,511


Odometer (ILX):  27,117



Back-Story on My Friend Mark

Back in July 2007, I went to an Acura Legend meet in Austin, Texas.  My car had just barely under 300,000 miles on it at the time.  In a wild series of events, I ended up hitting two deer on Highway 290 just west of Austin that weekend.  Unbelievably, the damaged Legend still hobbled its way back to Arizona, and then to Utah for a front end rebuild. Here’s a thread with some pictures of the meet.

Taking over a gas station:


Legend lineup (and a Taurus in the mix):


Dining at Bone Daddy’s BBQ:


One of the great people who I met that weekend was my friend Mark.  He showed up to the Acura Legend meet as the odd-man-out in an extremely clean Chestnut Brown Metallic 2000 Ford Taurus.  Mark and I have kept in touch since then.  I recently learned about his search for a rare mid-1990’s Japanese coupe called the Subaru SVX and I randomly decided to take a peek at the local Phoenix area craigslist posts to see what I could find.  I stumbled across a pretty immaculate black one and forwarded the link to Mark.  Well, fast forward several weeks to now:  Mark ended up striking a deal with the seller and buying that car.

He flew in to Phoenix on Friday night and we picked up his friend Russell later that same evening.


The ILX got shuttle duty as we drove the 103-mile drive to Tucson where Mark was to pick up his new ride Saturday morning.


Having way too much fun.  Russell, in the back seat, is a Ford fan and knows everything there is to possibly know about Focuses.  (Foci?)


And of COURSE I was proudly wearing one of my Acura hooded sweatshirts.


Mark taking care of business.


Finally, we arrived at the designated meeting place & time in Marana, just north of Tucson off Interstate 10.



Here’s what gets ME excited:  maintenance records!  This huge folder dates back through the car’s entire lifetime.


Mark installing his temporarily permit before departing on his 1,300 mile drive home to Houston.


Customary “key handoff” picture with the seller, Rich.


Regarding his new ride:  The Subaru “Alcyone” SVX (which stood for “Subaru Vehicle X”) was sold from 1992 through 1997 but in fairly limited numbers (fewer than 2,000 per year).  All came equipped with a 3.3 liter 6-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission.  Most were all-wheel-drive but a few were sold as front-wheel-drive.  Mark’s 1995 SVX is a top-of-the line LSi with leather and all the toys.


Here’s the view from the backseat.  I’ve always wondered what those half-windows were like.  The rear ones actually go down, just like the Legend coupe’s do!


Of all the places I could have taken these two Texans for lunch, they wanted In-N-Out Burger!


Double-Double with cheese.


Following Mark to a shop called Motorsport, on 1st Avenue & Grant in Tucson, where Mark picked up a couple of goodies for his SVX.  He bought some JDM clear corner lenses and an Alcyone center taillight panel.


Here we are parked next to a rare French Citroen SM.  This car is quite odd to look at.  A Citroen enthusiast friend of mine, Scott, told me that these cars have hydraulic suspensions.  They can actually lift up on 3 tires and thus do not require a jack when changing a flat.  How odd!


The shop also had this white Taurus SHO with a 5-speed manual transmission.  You don’t see many of these!


Group shot:  Russell, Tyson, Mark


Mark and Russell are well on their way home to Houston now!  Safe travels guys!

Tovrea Castle

Ever since I moved to Arizona in early 2006, I’ve known of this castle off the Loop 202 freeway just east of central Phoenix.  It’s so perfect that it looks like a wedding cake.  I learned that it was called Tovrea Castle but it wasn’t until today that I truly got up close & personal with this interesting structure.  Once a home, it’s now owned by the city of Phoenix which offers tours.  I was in today’s tour group for the 8:30 a.m. session, so my friend Kevin and I went to check it out.


Tovrea was built from 1929 to 1931 by an Italian native named Alessio Carraro.  He intended for the castle to be a hotel and resort, but just two years after the castle’s completion, it was sold (presumably due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression).  One of the problems was also the fact that the adjacent property was a stockyard, and who would want to stay at a resort next to a stockyard?  The castle was bought by Edward Tovrea at that time.  Just a year later, Edward passed away, but his wife Della continued to live there until her death in 1969.

The city of Phoenix purchased the castle and the 35 acres that it sits on in and it’s been open for tours since last year (Arizona’s centennial year) after it underwent a restoration effort.  The cactus grounds that surround the castle have over 5,000 cacti.  So come with me on this tour of a historic Arizona landmark!

Here’s what the castle looks like from the Loop 202 freeway between the cities of Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona.  It’s the closest I had ever gotten to it, until today.


Arrival at the visitor’s center on Van Buren Road in the ILX.


The castle is pictured in the background here:


Our tour guides took us back in time and shared lots of details about this place.  The river rocks that line the cactus gardens were hauled by the truckload from the Salt River.  Mr. Tovrea once owned over 250 acres of land but the castle now sits on just 35 acres, as some of the original parcel has been sold & developed.


The rocks were painted white by the original builder.

Our 8-person group hopped into a golf cart and we were driven around the grounds while we learned about them.


Among the odd features of the landscape surrounding the castle are a reflecting pool, an aviary, and even a horseshoe pit.


Some of these Saguaro cacti have been here since 1928.  We know this because Carraro’s landscaper marked them by wrapping a piece of wire around the base that had a tag on it.  The cacti are still thriving.  These types of cacti can live up to 200 years.


This was taken from the south side of the castle on one of two leveled-out mounds.  It is presumed that these areas were either intended to have later structures built on them or to serve as parking lots.


A wooden shack that still stands on the property (not pictured) was home to the 15 workers that Carraro employed while the castle was being built.  Apparently, he would show up at the beginning of each day and draw a picture in the sand/dirt of what he wanted them to accomplish that day.  He didn’t adhere to any kind of blueprint.  The ultimate definition of “winging it!”


Another small home on the property.


Finally we got to approach the building from what would have been the main hotel entrance.  Notice the Arizona state flag flying from the top of the castle.


Inside the lobby, we got to see artifacts that had been preserved from the castle.  Among other things, a spittoon is there.  When the restoration effort was taking place between about 2009-2011, workers tried to preserve as much of the original structure as they could, and they saved any special items like that which were found.


The castle actually look a lot bigger from the outside than it is on the inside.  A second lobby at the other end of the building contains a scale model on display.  We only were able to tour the main and basement levels of the structure, since the City of Phoenix has deemed the upper floors not able to withstand the weight of larger tour groups.  In the second level of the castle, there are 6 bedrooms that share 1 common bathroom.


This steep staircase leads down to the basement, which was our next stop after the main level.


Ever seen anything like this?


From a placard about this metal box:

The metal box is an “annunciator.”  Patented by the Edwards Company in 1882, it contains a set of white tags numbered from one to twelve.  Wires connected the machine to the basement and rooms upstairs, enabling future guests to gain the attention of a hotel employee simply by pressing a button.  It probably emitted sound.

For me, the most fascinating part about the tour was the following story about Della Tovrea who was attacked while sleeping in the kitchen in November 1968.  Burglars had entered around 11:00 p.m.  Check out the full story on this picture:


The bullet hole remains in the ceiling to this day!




Pictures from the basement part of the tour:


The basement had a ceiling plaster that looked like an upside-down lemon meringue pie.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but there was a huge safe and a vault down there.  This hallway from the basement leads to the cactus gardens outside.


I had a great time on the tour.  I wish I could’ve had “unsupervised” access to the ENTIRE facility because I guarantee there are many secrets to be discovered.

Hanging with Ryan, Spencer, & Ari

It was time for a little Sunday drive in the Legend, so Ryan joined me for an afternoon trip to a part of Phoenix called Ahwatukee.


We visited Ari who’s been working on restoring a Milano Red 1993 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed manual.  Spencer’s Cashmere Silver Metallic 1994 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed manual is in the background.


This car has about 205,000 miles on it but drives really well.  Aside from some cosmetic issues (clearcoat peeling, dash cracking), it really seems like it’s good for another 200,000 miles or more.


These cars just keep going and going.  Anyone else see this 350,000 mile 1994 Legend on craigslist in New Jersey this week?


These cloth seats were some spares that Ari had sitting around.  Since the car is an LS, it left the factory with leather seats but at 20 years old, those were well beyond their usable life so Ari swapped these in.  They look and feel really nice.


Ari’s also working on dismantling a 1992 Legend LS sedan in his backyard.  This guy knows every nut and bolt of a Legend.


Just a little bit taken apart in here:


Next, I followed Spencer over to one of our local “Pick-&-Pull” junkyards.  For $2, you bring your own tools and wander around the lot looking for anything that might be of interest or value.


Spencer’s car looks and runs great for 228,000 miles.  He and his father recently redid the interior with fresh new leather.


Arrival at the Pick-&-Pull facility off 56th Street & Chandler Boulevard.


There were at least 8 or 9 first generation (1986-1990) Legends in the yard, but this was the only second generation (1991-1995) that we ended up seeing.  It was a 1992 Legend LS sedan in a non-factory color.  We learned from looking at its door jams that this car was originally a Cashmere Silver color.


When I’ve got Acura-owning friends at my house, the neighborhood must wonder about my sanity!  As well they should.  Thanks Ryan for stopping by.


Have a great week!

5 Responses to “Mark’s Subaru SVX & Tovrea Castle Tour”

  1. Ron Peterson Says:

    Tyson: The “annunciator.” was a regular feature on all Pullman railcars from the early 1900’s thru the current Amtrak sleepers. The “annunciator.” like the one pictured was used thru the late 1950’s. It allowed the occupant of a sleeping compartment to summon the Pullman car attendant at any time of day or night. A small flag went up and a bell rang showing the attendant which room called. These attendants were on call 24 hours a day for runs that went about 3 and a half days, say LA to Chicago, or NYC to Miami. When they arrived, they had to prep the train for the next days departure back to LA or wherever they started from. So basically 7 days without a bed or a nights sleep. They were then off for several days before doing the same over again.

    An update for you on my 1990 Accord DX. Bought it used with 9800 on the clock in March of 1993. Currently has 467.000. Finally needed front upper ball joints last summer. Engine is untouched. Less than $3200 in non scheduled maintenance. 86 mile daily commute to the school where I teach shop. Should hit the 500K mark when I retire in a couple of years. Never expect to have a car that good again. Bought a 2010 Civic new for Johanna, don’t like it. Last around town tank got 21.5 mpg at 17,000 miles. Hiway maybe 34. The Accord does what it has always done. 28 in town and 30/31 on the hiway. They had 20 years to improve things and haven’t. Take care, Peterson

    • Ron, wow, thanks for the background. I should’ve done a little more research on the annunciator – that is fascinating. I can definitely see the value in having it used in a train application. I rode Amtrak a couple of times last year. I guess it would be similar to pushing the “call” button on an airline to summon the flight attendant. Would’ve been especially cool if the Tovrea castle annunciator still worked.

      Your Accord is still as strong as ever. I’m tracking back through emails and can’t remember if you’ve already sent me pictures. I’d love to see some current photos of what it looks like. At 467,000 miles, you’re exactly at the same mileage that my Legend had on it when I started this blog in March 2011. I had to do ball joints around that same time too. I hope you’ll keep me posted as you get closer to the 500,000 mile mark. I’d perhaps even like to feature a little write-up about your Accord on here at some point if you’re open to that.

      Will be interesting to see if your 2010 Civic gets anywhere near the kind of lifespan that you’ve achieved with the Accord. Indeed it does seem like 20 years of advancing technology hasn’t taken us very far sometimes. There’s a sense of “soul” in the early 1990’s Hondas that to many has been lost. Anyway thanks for reaching out – it’s great to hear from you again.

      • Ron Peterson Says:

        When I actually reach the 500K is going to be a bit of a guess as the speedometer sender quit and I didn’t get it fixed for about 12 to 15K around 310,000. So I guess I get to go a few more months to get the odometer to the magic number. Didn’t send a picture. It is cosmetically challenged as the clear coat is about gone. It had been owned by a little old lady for the first 2.5 years and 9800 miles. She scraped all four corners and they had been fixed and repainted. I was backed into by a tall pickup with a receiver hitch which caused the hood to be repainted. When I was working as a volunteer on a 1928 Pullman palace railcar, i misjudged the clearance under a crane boom hook by one inch and put a crease in the top. So the only factory paint left is the trunk and doors. I am amazed that the interior is tear and rot free, though some of the piping on the seat edges is coming off. No bad dings of dents beyond the parking lot stuff. I can’t imagine not driving it or selling it. It is also more comfortable than the Civic. The E brake handle on the Civic is on the left of the console and hits the bony point on the side of my knee. Neither my wife or I like it well enuf to keep it to even 100K. Its three years old and only has 17K. It is also the only car I ever bought without looking under the hood. Didn’t open it until it was due for its first oil change. I did the first one my self and said to heck with that. The filter is recessed and takes a special wrench, and the front is so low I can’t drive it up my ramps. I still think of the Accord as my “new car”. rhp

  2. Tyson, how tall is Mark? He looks like a Giant compared to Rich the seller! I hope Mark is able to put the driver’s seat further back on his new car. It does not look like he has much leg room.

    Speaking of car seats, have you had a chance to sit in the new Scion FR-S or its brother the Subaru BRZ? I had a chance to sit in one recentty at an auto show. I loved the driver’s seat. It fit me like a glove. I just saw a Scion FR-S today on the road for the first time. It looks very nice and seems like it handles as great as car reviews have been saying.

    • He’s 6’3 and definitely a giant compared to Rich. Surprisingly, Mark had quite a bit of head room in the SVX once he got his seat positioned comfortably. I’ve never sat in a BRZ or FR-S but I’ve wanted to! The “Toyobaru” twins are getting rave reviews from nearly every journalist. There were a ton of them (modified versions, anyway) at the SEMA show in Las Vegas last November. Fun looking little cars! One day I’ll take one for a spin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: