Toyota 2020

culture

Escalating the chase – buying a car from Japan, part three

In parts one and two, we explored the process of buying a car from Japan, discussed some of the concerns likely to cause trepidations, the costs and what it’s actually like to go ahead with it.

Now, we’ll finally meet the car, check out some other interesting things enthusiasts are currently bringing over, and discover whether it was all worth it.

About a week before the car was due to arrive, according to my slightly stalker-like obsession with the vessel finder app, I received a call from the local customs and logistics firm that would be handling the introduction of my car to Australian soil.

CATCH UP: Buying a car from Japan, part one

They outlined their services, sent a bill, and told me they’d reach out to me once the car had cleared customs. Everything was handled for me, right up to dropping the car off at the automotive specialist who was booked in to carry out the compliance work. It was a nice and easy process, and all running like clockwork.

Soon enough, the car was at the workshop, waiting for its compliance plate to arrive. The required work was carried out swiftly, as my car didn’t need too much done to it to meet Australian Design Rules (ADR).

And there you have it, one freshly imported, JZX110 Toyota Mark II IR-V BLIT 30th anniversary edition. These cars are the successor to the famous Toyota Chaser, and are basically the same as a Lexus IS200, or Toyota Altezza, underneath. Even the limited-slip differential from a Toyota 86 bolts right in.

CATCH UP: Buying a car from Japan, part two

The JZX110 series came as either a sedan, or a wagon, with a few engine choices. The one worth caring about is the one seen here, the IR-V model, which is powered by the incredible turbocharged 2.5-litre inline six, known as the 1JZ-GTE.

Being a later model variant, it features a single turbo, not the twin-turbo setup of the older version. It also sports variable valve timing on the inlet camshaft. Its big brother, the 3.0 litre 2JZ, was found in the Supra, Aristo, and others. Power for the 1JZ-GTE VVTi engine was rated at 206kW and torque at 378Nm from an impressive 2400 rpm.

Wagons are only available with a four-speed auto, but it’s a solid unit that’s known to take a bit of punishment. Aftermarket support is plentiful, if you wish to turn the wick up. A manual swap is also quite easy to do, as the sedans came with a five-speed manual. You basically lift and shift all of that gear into the wagon in order to create your weird niche dream of a Japanese turbocharged wagon, with a manual transmission.

I asked for the car not to be washed, so I could show our readers how a car arrives from Japan fresh off the boat. Dirt, stickers, window writing at all.

It isn’t the prettiest car, with a reader one the comments section of an earlier post making a fair comparison to a particular SsangYong. I find the styling quite bizarrely Japanese, personally. I can also live with it given how cheap it was, and also given what it’s packing under the hood.

It’s an affordable way into a pretty fast car with room for my son and my blue heeler. I couldn’t answer that question here locally, so going overseas made it possible for me.

There was some other cool metal also being prepared for road use in the workshop, and the team at the workshop let me browse to my heart’s content.

Being a bit of an evolution tragic, I instantly beelined to the incredibly rare, homologation special tucked in the corner – A Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution.

If you don’t know much about these wild machines, then read on. They’re basically a short wheelbase Pajero with big box guards, unique suspension and a DOHC V6 with plenty of unique parts. It was created and built to be homologated under Dakar Rally T2 cross country regulations. In 1998, not only did it smash its class, but it also smashed the class above, taking out the top three spots on the podium.

They only made a few thousand examples of them, so they’re incredibly rare. Some local legend will be heading to Woolies to pick up groceries and running life errands in this example quite shortly.

There was a couple of other rally legends out back, including a Lancer Evolution II, and a ST205 Celica GT Four. Both of these cars have recently become eligible to be imported, so a few are beginning to trickle in. They’re all very, very expensive, however.

It isn’t just JDM metal that’s plentiful. A grand Bentley turbo was absolutely gorgeous and came from New Zealand. There was also a factory-prepped Rolls Royce Limo from the UK, among others.

Even simple transport is catered for, with a couple of Corolla Fielder Hybrids lurking in the midst of all the exotica. These are basically a late model Aussie Corolla wagon, with a different front end, and hybrid running gear, that can be yours for next to nothing. Apparently, mums and dads are these up, as a form good, cheap and safe transport.

Reason being? Most of the local Prius stock has intergalactic mileage and are way too expensive when compared to one of these bad boys.

Importing a car from Japan isn’t for everyone. It won’t grow to become a huge industry for everyone, either. It’s just a fantasy world where a few Aussies and expats get to live out their wildest dreams of procuring something fantastic, odd, or something they recall from their time overseas as a young 'un.

The whole process took about two-and-a-half months. So, was it worth it?

I think very much so. The car drives well, is pretty darn close to immaculate, and had been well maintained. But park the car for a second though, as it was worth it more for another reason.

The thrill of the chase. That makes the reward that extra bit sweeter.

- shares