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A Legacy in the Making - My Japanese Import Story (#1)

I was probably about 18 years old when I first started pondering over the idea of importing my own car from Japan.

I'd spent a few years not really interested in cars before I got my license, which was strange, given just how obsessed I was as a young lad.

In one of the most important 50/50 decisions I've ever made, I made the choice to buy a Mitsubishi Lancer as my first car, having considered the usual raft of uninspiring lumps of tedium that most people have to burden themselves with as a young driver.

The Mitsubishi is where my love of cars grew back from, and most importantly where I re-discovered my love for Japanese cars that I'd seemed to forget about after a childhood filled with Gran Turismo. I began to do more and more to it, little touches to personalise it, and make it mine. Some I look back on with great embarrassment, some I look back on fondly.

Inevitably, as time went on I grew fonder and fonder with the idea of not just having a 'proper' Japanese car, but going through the import process myself, given how infatuated I was by the culture surrounding doing business with Japan.

So finally, after becoming immensely bored during my three months spent laid up at the start of the year, I started looking for something to bring over from the land of the rising sun.

Seeing as it was my first foray into vehicle importing, I made the what-I-thought-was-clever decision of importing a car I didn't really care for - I've never been a massive Subaru fan but they have quite the following over here, and I needed to find something that wouldn't be too difficult to sell once the process was completed. A few hours of research led me to the conclusion that the perfect car would be a fourth generation Legacy GT of some sort. The GT spec cars got the EJ20 twin-scroll turbo engine, which means they're pretty desirable over here regardless of the numerous other features that make the Legacy an objectively brilliant car.

I spent a little while looking around, which is unlike me when it comes to car buying, as I've gained quite the reputation for impulse purchases of vehicles over the years. After a few days spent searching, I came across a Legacy Spec B Touring - and immediately decided to make the relevant enquiries to purchase it. It seemed the perfect car: just over 65k miles on the clock, good overall condition, an inoffensive shade of metallic silver and most importantly, well within the budget I had set myself.

Speaking to the seller was easy - fair to say I didn't need to call on my, at best, 'limited' Japanese vocabulary, as their English was always top notch. Future dealings may well require me to grasp the language a little better but for now I'm happy admitting I'd be about as useful in a Tokyo train station as the French were at defending Paris.

We agreed a price, arranged a shipping date and finalised the paperwork - just a week after my initial contact, the car was paid for and at the docks. Thus far the process was going brilliantly, and while agonising, the three month wait wasn't too bad as I'd fully prepared myself for it. I got the required information to the shipping agent to be processed for duty and VAT, and sorted out transport of the car from Southampton docks with a vehicle transport firm. The car arrived at the start of May and, just three days after being unloaded from the boat, arrived at my house.

The feeling was one of pure jubilation. The car was very nearly exactly as described, the only omission being that one of the rear lights had decided to take a new career direction and become a fish bowl, but this didn't take away from the excitement of having received my first proper Japanese import fresh off the boat.

All the Japanese paperwork inside was infatuating. Radiation certificates, shipping documents, original service books - no Japanese flare but I'll let that one slide - I'd got my hands on a really decent motor for, compared to UK prices, pennies.

But this is where the real work has begun. After a few weeks spent stalling due to other commitments and, most importantly, my actual day job, I finally got it cleaned up and took it for some new tyres and an MOT.

Which it failed.

Not badly, but still enough to be a bloody inconvenience. As I type this, the car is sitting at the garage awaiting a new rear wheel bearing which, once fitted, should hopefully result in a clean bill of health for the car.

But that's a small blemish in the grand scheme of things. I've loved the process and, inconveniently, love the car that I purposely bought because I wasn't meant to like it. Space is at too much of a premium for it to stay though, so it'll go once it's registered, but it's 100% something I'll do again.

This page was only meant to be an outlet for my ramblings but, if anyone is interested in importing their own car, please don't hesitate to ask any questions!

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