Emergency flares on reimported RV8s

Paul Mascal (Nightfire Red 1473) from NSW Australia posted a query on the V8 Bulletin Board over the safety of the RV8 flare in his Japan spec RV8. (Jan 05)

On Japan spec RV8s the emergency flare, bright red with "Rover" on the side, is held in a black plastic bracket in the passenger legwell. The V8BB posting from Paul Mascal is the first enquiry of this type because most reimported RV8s seem to lose their flares and many have a torch put in the bracket instead.
An original RV8 emergency flare with the Rover insignia. (Photo: Jim Dolbel)

Paul Mascal's posting read "my RV8 has what appears to be its original emergency flare located in the passenger's side of the cockpit. Does anyone have any information about the long term stability of these flares? I'm worried about the possibility of it deteriorating to the point where damage might be caused".

Gavin Bailey (BRG 0766) responded saying "although I have never seen one of these flares let off, I assume the technology is similar to flares used to attract attention in an emergency on pleasure craft and commercial shipping. All I could find when searching the web was a warning that emergency flares (for yachts) which are past their "use-by date" may not fire correctly. There was no mention of any safety issues associated with out of date flares. When I last spoke to one of the RV8 importers in the UK they mentioned that the flares should really be removed from cars imported into the UK before they are sold on. I don't know if this is a legal requirement, but personally I would remove the flare from the car if you are at all concerned. In the UK keeping the flare would be mainly for show and originality rather than for use in an emergency, and in this light it may be best to remove it just in case it becomes unstable as it ages or is accidentally fired by a child when it might cause injury or a fire as a result".

David Boniface (Oxford Blue 1589) in Japan added "every vehicle in Japan is obliged to carry an emergency flare but, unlike those for marine use, they are not fired into the sky which is dangerous on land as the flare has to come down somewhere - doesn't matter at sea. They simply burn with a bright red/orange flame and are placed on the road surface some distance behind a broken down vehicle. As far as I know they do not have a "use-by" date but I will check. I have never heard of one causing a problem because of its age but they have been set off by children in a vehicle with predictable results. They are used in the same way as a warning triangle in Europe but are probably best removed. As for disposal the safest way is to fire the flare in a safe place and then dispose of the empty plastic tube. The mounting clips are useful for holding a torch".

Jim Dolbel (Woodcote Green 1705) who runs the mgrv8.com website responded saying "the original Emergency Flares fitted to the RV8 is a Japanese requirement but the vast majority of these flares are removed prior to shipping because of a safety requirement of the shipping firms as they are a possible fire hazard if fooled with. The flares are safe if left alone and have not caused any problems. On another note the main flare core can be removed from the red plastic casing if required and then you can still display the red empty canister and no one will know the difference. Stuart Radcliff has empty canisters in his workshop to prove the point".

Bryan Moyse (BRG 1714) added "as Gavin says, the flare will be a hand held type similar to those sold for marine use. Marine type flares have a four year life when sold new, so any of the original units supplied with RV8s will be well out of date". As flares are pyrotechnic devices, inherently dangerous and with safety a prime concern, Brian feels it is probably wise to recommend that all such flares found in imported Japanese specification RV8s should be removed, un-opened if possible and disposed of responsibly through a recognised agency. In the UK this can be done through the UK Coastguard Service and no doubt any local Fire Station would also be able to provide advice. As the original question came from Australia, no doubt similar services are provided there.

Chris Watkins, who runs the UK based RV8 reimport specialists HS Imports, provides a useful clarification of the use by date. "Every car in Japan must carry a flare in the car which can be easily reached in the passenger footwell. There is no parking anywhere on Japan's roads, which are pretty narrow especially out of town, and you are obliged to light a flare and put it in the road 25 metres behind your car if it has broken down, or if you have been involved in an accident. They burn with a bright red flame for around twenty minutes or so. They are dated with a "replace by date", and where necessary they are replaced as part of the "sha-ken" - the major Japanese MOT. The replace by date is given in roman numerals, albeit backwards, so it is very easy to read this date".
"Replace by date" on the emergency flare is shown as 2007.1 which means January 2007. Below this in smaller numerals is the date of manufacture, in this case 2003.2 or February 2003 which suggests only a four year life for the unit Also it does not have the Rover insignia as it is a replacement. (Photo: Chris Watkins)

They are ignited like a match, by striking the red tip against a red striking patch. They are not all the same - there are a few different models and sizes. All RV8s returning from Japan would have had a black plastic clip fixed to the left hand side of the passenger footwell, but with no flare this may as well be removed.

Chris comments that a few years back, the flares were routinely removed from cars as they were loaded on to the ship leaving Japan as some kind of safety measure, but these days that doesn't seem to happen. He has had people ask him for a flare because theirs was missing, but given the nature of these items and the fact that they have an expiry date, "I am reluctant to do so and I no longer keep a store any more". Chris adds "the pursuit of originality is one thing, but I wouldn't advocate carrying an old one around in the car. Better to strike it, burn it off then put it back in the car, if you really must have the thing there. Most cars arrive with one and I leave them in the car for the owner to decide if they want them or not. We have used a few to light up bonfire nights!"

John Relph (Gothic Grey 4336) from Suffolk added "I work on the Port of Felixstowe and we have very strict codes of practice for importing vehicles with any form of explosives including airbags. I think that anyone importing vehicles with flares in them should have them immobilised before importing them".

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