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!
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!