Reimporting an RV8 - what are the options?
Many MG enthusiasts are buying reimported RV8s and the flow returning to the UK is substantial - but what options are available to prospective purchasers of reimported RV8s and what prudent concerns should they have in buying from either a local agent in Japan or from a UK based specialist RV8 trader? This note by Victor Smith provides a guide to the options together with a footnote with the views of Chris Watkins, who runs the specialist RV8 reimporter HS Imports in Somerset. (Oct 03)

There has never been a better time to get an MG RV8 and the flow of RV8s returning from Japan to the UK is clear evidence that many enthusiasts recognise that very well! Most of these enthusiasts are joining the V8 Register where they have access to the leading RV8 information source and support group for the model. For the next six months or so there is a particular factor which should lead to continued good opportunities for enthusiasts so we anticipate RV8 reimports will continue to flow to the UK. That factor is the temporary block (RAWS) on RV8 imports to Australia, a country where the RV8 and the air-con specification has proved to be a particular attraction! So if UK enthusiasts want to get an RV8 and are thinking of a reimport, how should they go about it and what are the key areas of concern?

Virtually all RV8s coming from Japan are sold at auction so unless you are prepared to attend and bid personally, you have two choices:

Buy through an established specialist RV8 reimporter in the UK who has well established contacts and knowledge of the Japanese market and auction procedures,
Engage a local agent in Japan with knowledge of both the model and the auction houses to purchase an RV8 for you at auction.

What are the key considerations?
In deciding which route you take, you have to be clear over what you want in terms of outcome. In broad terms, enthusiasts seeking a reimported RV8 fall into two groups - those wanting a good quality low mileage specimen and those for whom price is more important.

Quality and condition are key factors in most classic car purchases because the cost of refurbishing bodywork and interiors, or carrying out mechanical repair work can be substantial. The RV8 is no different and you need to be clear over what quality you want and then be sure what quality you are getting for the price you are paying. The more reputable and experienced RV8 reimporters know the model very well and have a subtle eye for the quality features, so buying through them is usually the most reassuring way of purchasing a reimported RV8 using their local agen to bid at the auctions in Japant. A particularly useful feature of buying from a UK based specialist is that you are not committed to purchase the car until you have had the opportunity of inspecting the car upon its arrival in the UK and of course you have the additional protection of the UK Sale of Goods Act.

The purchase cost is naturally a key factor too but what prospective purchasers will need to focus on is the final total purchase cost when the RV8 is prepared and registered for the road in the UK. Where an enthusiast decides to purchase an RV8 at auction in Japan through a local trader or agent, the costs in addition to the "knock-down" price at auction have to be understood and budgeted for. Those additional costs will include the agent's fee and costs of attending the auction, transferring the car from the auction, preparing the car for shipment, delivery to the freight company in Japan, and shipping and marine insurance. With a purchase from a UK specialist RV8 reimporter, most enthusiasts will negotiate a fixed price for the car "as seen and inspected" subject only to substantial additional costs where special work is required. Experienced specialist reimporters with good local representation and contacts in Japan are able to be much more certain of quality and condition of individual RV8s coming to auction in Japan through capable local inspection of vehicles prior to the auction. With good knowledge of the condition and quality of each car, they are able to pick and choose which cars to bid for and ensure they meet the minimum quality standards they wish to trade in the UK.

So what are the factors to consider when deciding which way to get your reimported RV8?
Should you play safe and buy from a specialist UK RV8 reimporter or be more adventurous and use a local company or agent in Japan?

Local specialist vehicle export trader or agent. The clear advantage here is that the local trader is on the ground in Japan and can attend the auctions with relative ease. An experienced local trader acting as your agent will have a good knowledge of the RV8 model and be able to identify key condition features from their pre-auction inspection. They will also understand the importance of the auction reports and service records which are of course in Japanese. There are examples of the auction reports on the V8 Website plus an explanation of what they mean. The local trader will have good knowledge of the recent "knock down" prices for RV8s and have a close understanding of the price levels achieved at auction for various grades of condition and quality. Where a UK enthusiast engages a local trader to act as his agent and bid for an RV8, clear agency instructions will need to be issued and confirmed regarding the bid price ceiling, the agent's fee and any other costs so you will be able to feel confident over the final purchase costs. You will also need to clarify the condition and quailty you are seeking - not easy at long range, but it's an important matter to cover thoroughly.

Two key features of this purchase route are that a UK enthusiast is buying "sight unseen" and you are remitting funds to the local trader or agent prior to obtaining either ownership or physical possession of the vehicle - shipping from Japan takes several weeks, sometimes months. In these cases normal prudent considerations of credit risk exposure arise as a substantial sum is transferred to the trader's or agent's account. See our further note on this concern below.

UK specialist RV8 reimporter
Here an enthusiast is able to inspect a reimported RV8 following its arrival in the UK and then negotiate a price for delivery fully prepared, serviced, registered and on the road. As with most second hand car purchases from traders, the main comfort is the reputation, capability and integrity of the trader and the trader's track record for good quality after-sales service. Some specialist RV8 reimporters, like HS Imports in Somerset, have good people on the ground in Japan and also have close experience of Japan from working there, so are able to follow the car from auction in Japan through to the UK. The leading reimport specialists like West End Classics in Cambridgeshire, HS Imports and Calassic Car Consultants concentrate on only first condition RV8s.

Commissioning a UK based specialist to find an RV8 for you at auction in Japan
An alternative route is to commission a UK based specialist to seek an RV8 for you using its supply chain strength A specialist like HS Imports or Classic Car Consultants is able to take commissions from UK enthusiasts to find an RV8 to the condition and quality they require. The "buy to order" deal route is a possible way to save money but still get the reassurance of using a UK-based specialist firm. If you feel this route is one for you, then you might want to approach these specialist RV8 reimporters and ask them if they will offer a "buy to order" deal.

Prudent considerations on engaging a local agent
Any deposit paid to a local agent should only be paid with clear conditions agreed between the purchaser and local agent regarding the terms upon which the deposit is held by the local specialist and the circumstances when that deposit may be used in whole or part by the local agent to offset his costs in the event of a failure to find and purchase a suitable RV8, an aborted purchase, or a termination of the engagement. Most purchasers will feel it would be prudent to obtain legal advice to ensure the engagement of a local agent and the matters relating to any deposit are clearly set out in a document to be exchanged with the local agent which would then become the legal agreement between the parties.

So how should you proceed with purchasing a reimported RV8? It is simply a question of the level of comfort you want with regard to the purchase and credit risk, and of course how important saving the last £250 is for you!

How practical is it to reimport an RV8 from Japan using a D-I-Y route?
Chris Watkins, who runs the specialist RV8 reimporter HS Imports in Somerset, has provided his views as a footnote on the "practicality" of the D-I-Y route.

Chris Watkins of HS Imports in Somerset

"It is obvious that the cheapest way to obtain an RV8 would be to set your own bid for it at auction in Japan, and then subsequently pay each charge that arises on the car throughout the process of shipping and registration. Practical help is still available to those who opt to source their own car this way. The first concern for any enthusiast going down this route has to be the value for money aspect of the purchase. A high degree of trust is placed in the Japanese agent, not only to buy a good car, but also to be honest about what it cost at auction. On both counts - quality and price - there are steps which can be taken to ease the process.

To check the quality of the car your agent will bid on, you will need to see the auction report which is available before the auction day. This report is not just the agent's opinion of the car, it is a full inspection report prepared for every car by the auction house - but note it is in Japanese. It will show every blemish (even those which have subsequently been repaired or painted over), and give the car an overall grading.

Overall grading. Grade Zero or R or A means that the car has been accident-repaired. It could well still be a good car, but the repairs are marked on the auction report and it is left to the buyer to look closely - the auction house simply will not grade these cars. Grades then start at 1, but frankly grades 1, 2, 3 and even 3.5 are going to be scratched and scruffy cars with an amount of filler in the body, noted by the letters BP on the auction report. Grade 4 is a good standard unrepaired car and grade 4.5 is excellent. You are most unlikely to find a grade 5 RV8 (as new).

Interior grading. Interiors are graded A, B or C but as the RV8 has a light coloured interior, it is bound to get a grade B - even slight grubbiness shows up noticeably. The interior will always clean up nicely, but you do not want any damaged or worn out leather.

Any panel which has been replaced will be noted with an XX marking. Again, this could still be a decent car to buy - plenty of bonnets get dented just in closing them too heavily, and car parking manoeuvres in Japan are awkward to say the least, especially with no power steering. Front wings and headlamp nacelles might be replaced on an otherwise superb car. There may well be notes on the auction report written in Japanese - the only way to know for sure if these are relevant would be to get a quick translation. HS Imports will gladly do this for you by fax if the timing is conducive - see our website at www.hsimports.com or our rollover advert on the V8 Website at www.v8register.net for our contacts.

Auction report which describes the condition of the car. For details of the information on these reports see RV8 auction reports.

With regard to the actual price paid for the car at auction, the agent should be asked to produce the auction bill of sale for you to see so you can verify the bid price. This check will simply show that they have not "enhanced" the auction price of the car. If you do not or cannot see the bill of sale, then you just have to trust the local agent to report accurately the auction bid price. The agency charge paid in Japan is going to be added to the auction hammer price. You can expect this to be around JYen 100,000 as a reasonable benchmark (£550), slightly more or less maybe. There is NO sales tax (Japanese VAT) as the car is for export - we have heard of agents adding this 5% charge which of course goes in their pockets. Be aware of this and you should get a fair deal.

Once the RV8 is shipped from Japan, how is the preparation to meet local vehicle imports handled?
Once the car is on its way from Japan, the local agent over there then bows out and has no further responsibility once he has forwarded to the buyer the correct vehicle and shipping documentation. You then wait 5 weeks or so to see if you have bought wisely! When the car reaches the UK, there is still a choice of whether to handle the procedure yourself, or call in a specialist at this stage to receive the car and deliver it when registered. Frankly, having got this far, the rest is fairly straightforward. The only hiccups would be "surprises" in the condition of the car which might involve unexpected additional expense. At least one local agent in Japan has links with V8 specialists in the UK, Australia and elsewhere. The cars are delivered to these V8 specialists for preparation to meet local vehicle import requirements.

Try and see the service history
Not all RV8s go to auction in Japan with a service history. If it matters greatly to you, then you will have to specify that you will only consider a car which has one. However there is no way of knowing what that service book contains. They remain in the auction house safe until after the sale".
When Chris Watkins was working in Japan a few years ago, he used to receive buyers from the UK who took a trip to Japan to see the auctions and if possible choose their own car. These days it is somewhat unpredictable whether any RV8s will be at auction in any one week, and as the choice could be poor on the days you are there, it could turn into a rather expensive fact-finding mission. If you are planning a holiday in Japan anyway, there is no reason why you cannot attend an auction - but you must go with an accredited local dealer/agent.

Oxford Blue 0761 - a good quality RV8 secured by HS Imports at auction in Japan which is on its way to the UK

Copyright reserved by the V8 Register