Reassurance on RV8 reimports following a BBC Watchdog programme in July 2001
We contacted Chris Watkins who runs the leading RV8 reimporters, HS Imports, following a BBC1 Watchdog programme on the Great Car Fraud with Quentin Wilson concerning a substantial flow of stolen 4x4s, stolen in Japan, which are turning up in the UK. Most of these reimports are high value vehicles like Toyota Land Cruisers, some involving some imaginative reinventions of vehicle identity at a staging post in Dubai on the way! Our concern was whether RV8s might be involved leading to difficulties for enthusiasts who purchase their RV8 in good faith and subsequently find the car to have been stolen. Chris knows Japan very well and has considerable experience with reimporting RV8s to the UK. In this note he explains how the system works in Japan and how the HS Imports team take care with the cars they reimport from Japan. His note is reassuring for RV8 enthusiasts. (September 2001)

Some members watching the BBC1 Watchdog programme on stolen 4x4s turning up in the UK might have been concerned whether a similar difficulty might involve MG RV8s, so we contacted Chris Watkins to see how that risk might affect reimported RV8s.

Chris Watkins, who runs HS Imports one of the leading RV8 reimporters in the UK.

Chris writes: I was away in Japan when the programme on the Great Car Fraud with Quentin Wilson was transmitted so did not see it but of course heard a few quips about it upon my return. I had knowledge of some dubious characters selling Land Cruisers "as new" when in fact they were not, but had no idea of either the scale of the activity or that they might have been stolen in Japan.

In case anyone contacts you with concerns in relation to MG RV8s following that TV programme, we can state with certainty that it is impossible to formally buy a used car in Japan which has been stolen. The registration system in Japan is so tight that the only thing you could do with a stolen car would be to ship it out of the country illegally. In normal circumstances the vehicle registration changes with each change of owner and the registration document must go with the car to the buyer, even if the buyer is a dealer. The dealer then has to register the car to himself. The car auctions, where most Japanese exports come from, hold the registration papers and service histories in their safes until the car is paid for. So long as the car is purchased from the mainstream, it cannot have been stolen. This is another good reason to see the auction report on the car before buying it - apart from seeing the condition and repair evidence that is. Every car purchased in this way in Japan must be registered to the (Japanese) buyer or dealer before it can be deregistered for export. In the UK, all imported cars can only be registered if their original Japanese deregistration document is handed in at the vehicle registration office or VRO. They take five days to register each car because (we are told) they submit details to Interpol to check for stolen cars.

While on the subject of accompanying paperwork, it might be as well to add a little more on the value of the original documentation. The Japanese auction houses complete a very thorough report on each car sold. This report is available inside each car at the auction, as are the keys so we can start up the car and test electrics, clutch and other functions. The report will tell us mileage (in Km), with a question mark boldly inserted should there be reason to doubt the odometer. It will also tell us whether there is a service history or not. We cannot see the books before buying the car but at least we know they exist.

HS Imports will only buy cars with a service history and we translate it into English for the customer. By the way we can also translate existing members' service books if they would like us to - but we only translate the relevant information, not the entire book! Most importantly the auction report gives the grade of the car. So Zero, R or A will mean the car has had an accident repair. It might still be a good car of course, and the report shows each panel replaced and lists repairs done. Grades 1, 2 and 3 are perhaps worse than these as they will have damage (scratches and dents) which have not been repaired. Grade 4 is a good, clean straight used car, with grade 5 meaning "as new". Grade 4A or 4.5 is therefore "excellent", while 4B is worthy of a grade 4 but does have some blemishes, usually filler. See an example of an auction house report.

The difficulty for the UK buyer of a "fresh RV8 import" is how to check the quality of the car. Checking this auction report (if the car came from auction) is the best way. It should be available if you are buying the car from the actual importer. It is not always possible to keep track of these bits of paper if the car passes through several hands before it reaches a UK forecourt - if it is not available, a full inspection is advisable."

Footnote: Chris Watkins lived in Japan for 12 years, and now returns every couple of months to visit auctions. Advice and answers are freely given on these topics - HS Imports can be contacted on 01458 441543 (Tel) or 07773 726969 (mob) or at Their website is worth visiting at as it usually has examples of their current stock on display.

Other useful notes

What to pay for an RV8

RV8 price trends

RV8 import trends

RAWS impact on Australian RV8 imports

Reassurance with RV8 reimports

RV8 auction system in Japan

RV8 auction news from Tokyo

"Dirty seats" on RV8 auction reports

Understanding RV8 auction reports

RV8s for Sale - private & trade adverts

Visit the BBC motoring webpages

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