Good Cars Come To Those Who Wait - The Storage Option For Yet-To-Be-Legal JDM Cars
The 25-year import rule has finally allowed the import of some very desirable JDM cars and we Amerikajin are now blessed with the option to own all manner of cool Japanese hardware. Nissan's Godzilla – the R32 GT-R, their rally special – the Pulsar GTi-R, Mazda's uber-VIPmobile – the Eunos Cosmo, quirky weirdos like the Toyota Soarer Aerocabin; all of these cars and more are now able to get their immigration papers to the land of the free.
Unfortunately 25 years is a long time and that means many highly coveted rides are still off limits to us Yankees. Of course the foremost example is the vaunted Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R – star of Gran Turismo and Fast and the Furious, and catalyst of many an import fanboy's wet dream. At the time I write this the R34 is still about eight years away from easy importation. Sure, if you've been reading my posts on the Midnight Purple R34s being brought in under Show or Display you'd be aware that there's a possibility of having one already but those few cars are hard to find and the $100,000+ asking price is hardly pocket change.
The R33 can already be imported under VCP-32 but the roughly $35 grand cost to do so is also nothing to sneeze at so most people are forced to wait the four remaining years before the earliest ones can be shown the welcome mat. The want is also strong for many other JDM cars with no option of coming earlier like the Lancer Evo 4, 5, and 6, or the Nissan Stagea, or any one of a number of Japan-only special editions like the NSX-R or the Series 8 FD RX-7s.
The 25 year wait means that fewer and fewer of these sought-after cars will be available by the time they're legal thanks to other countries buying them up or simple attrition from accidents, rust, and careless owners. If you want to assure yourself the opportunity to own a fine example of a particular JDM car what can you do then if you lust after that vehicle more than you want your next breath?
Those of you who feel that way may want to look at an option that few people consider – long-term storage in the land of the Rising Sun.
|Neither of these very sexy cars are legal to import yet but you can squirrel one away already. Image credit: Speedhunters.com|
Most import/export companies specializing in JDM cars offer short-term storage (i.e. a year or less) for free until a vehicle's legal to bring in. A select few offer a longer-term option. Of course, at first blush it seems crazy to pay upfront for a car and then pony up more good money for someone to squirrel it away in the holy land of Nippon for several years before you can finally fondle it's silky smooth flanks and luxuriate in the dulcet tones of its exhaust note here in the United States.
Once you think about it further though it starts to make sense. JDM car prices have been climbing overall since people have realized that American import fans have a bigger hard-on for Japanese tin than Pokemon Go players do for Articunos and the numbers go up even further the closer a car is to being legal to import. That means that buying a car a few years away from being legal can save you money by snagging a lower price before you have more rivals to purchase it. This can mean considerable savings if it's something as highly in-demand as an R34 GT-R.
It can also assure you of getting just the right example you want. With the luxury of extra time you can wait for a particularly well-kept car that's been driven only on weekends by a sweet old lady instead of one that's been treated as gently as the General Lee. And if you want a particularly rare model then long-term storage may be the only reliable way to assure you of getting it. Whether it's a 1 of 250 R34 M-spec Nur, or a one-off pink with leopard-skin interior Mitsubishi FTO by that one obscure Japanese shop in the middle of a rice paddy whose name you can't pronounce but all your friends at the local comic book store swear is mad tite, finding it early lets you go to bed waiting impatiently but at least reassured that “Oh yes, she will be mine.”
Since the long-term storage option may be one I might consider in the future to guarantee myself a testosterone-oozing Nissan Dayz Roox or a sexy, sexy Daihatsu Naked I decided to do some research and then share my findings with all of you guys and gals out there who might share my penchant for driving on the wrong side of the car.
The most visible promoter of long-term storage right now is probably US-based RivsuImports. Visit their Facebook page and you'll see repeated postings of desirable but still illegal JDM tin accompanied by statements that those cars can be Rip Van Winkle'd by them until you can take delivery with Uncle Sam's full approval.
|Image credit: Rivsu Imports|
To get the lowdown on their long-term storage option I spoke with owner Steve McCarty who graciously fielded my questions. Rivsu recently opened a Japanese branch that not only serves as their office in Nippon but also has a fully-equipped shop and space for long-term storage of customer cars. Steve informed me that several collectors have already asked Rivsu to store a variety of JDM models including the expected Skylines as well as RX-7s, Supras, and others. At their facility they offer both indoor and outdoor storage with the indoor option of course being pricier at around $200 a month. For your money Rivsu keeps the car in good order by putting on a car cover, starting up the car periodically, and making sure the battery remains in a usable state. The fees can be paid upfront or monthly but they'll give you a discount for paying in advance.
The Japanese facility is fairly new so they're still fully outfitting it but Steve mentioned some intriguing plans that they're working on. First off, since their location isn't just a simple warehouse and instead has a shop on the premises they'll be offering customers the option to have their cars outfitted with JDM parts while they're still in storage. This could be a great boon to an owner who can afford it since you can have your ride decked out with hard-to-find JDM parts while you're waiting and then be ready to enjoy it straight away once it arrives instead of incurring more downtime getting work done over here.
A second fascinating option that Rivsu plans to offer is the chance for an owner to fly out, come to their facility, and then have the company arrange it so that they can drive their car in its homeland before it leaves for our shores. Rather than being unable to do anything with your car while waiting Rivsu will offer to arrange dealer tags so that you can take it for a spin yourself. Any JDM fan can quickly see the awesome possibilities this brings up – imagine flying out, picking up an R34 GT-R, then driving to R's Meeting in your very own Skyline. Maybe you'd like to instead visit the touge in Gunma that inspired Initial D? Or perhaps just hang out at Daikoku Futo to savor the nighttime Tokyo atmosphere? All of that could be a possibility with Rivsu's planned offerings.
Another company that offers long-term storage as an option is JDM Expo. They used to be strictly a Nagoya, Japan-based exporter but since the explosion in American demand they've opened an office in New York. Just like Rivsu they offer a storage option for customers and to get more info I contacted them and got in touch with Abror, a product specialist of theirs that also handled the importation of a 1991 Eunos Cosmo for a friend of mine.
|Abror kindly sent me these photos of their outdoor storage. He forgot to warn me they were NSFW. Image credit: JDM Expo|
|Pardon me while I take care of this nosebleed...Image credit: JDM Expo|
Abror explained that JDM Expo has already gotten a lot of interest in having cars stored with customers opting to pick up cars similar to what Rivsu mentioned – RX-7s, Supras, R33s, and a few R34s. They offer both outdoor and indoor storage with outdoor actually being free at this time. Their website states only the first three months are free but Abror said currently they're doing even longer-term outdoor storage for free although he did say that may change if interest keeps picking up and space gets tight. Indoor storage is $45 dollars a month and in both cases their yard staff will start the engines periodically and make sure any needed maintenance is done.
|He also sent me this photo of a totally sexy Subaru Vivio with some random black car you guys probably don't care about photobombing it. Image credit: JDM Expo.|
|Seriously though this is their shop facility. I spy with my little eye some tasty bits lying around...Image credit: JDM Expo|
Notably, JDM Expo also offers modification services at their Nagoya facility for customers. I wasn't able to ask Abror if they offered any sort of service to allow a client to drive their car temporarily in Japan like Rivsu mentioned but I plan on checking with him and updating that info here once I find out.
|Big Brother watches over your ride. Image credit: JDM Expo|
|Yo dawg I hear you like sensors...Image credit: JDM Expo|
Also based in Nagoya but currently with no US office yet is Japan Partner, a long-time JDM car exporter that I don't have personal experience with but I've seen people posting online about having purchased from successfully. In case you're wondering why all these companies seem to have their Japanese offices in Nagoya it's not because Aichi prefecture happens to have all the coolest bars and hottest geishas – it's simply because Nagoya is one of Japan's largest commercial ports so it makes it easier for them to ship out the cars if they're based nearby.
Their website gives a very detailed rundown of the storage services they offer. Clients who've purchased from them get one year of basic storage for free and then the cost is $600 per year thereafter. Basic storage is outdoor and includes simple upkeep like starting the car every 3 months, running it for 30 minutes, and shifting the tranny to ensure it stays in working order. They'll also accept cars for storage that weren't bought from them for a fee of $60 a month.
For the more well-heeled and/or more anal client they offer premium storage in an indoor facility that's humidity-controlled and guarded by live humans (sadly they're not ninjas or drive giant robots). In addition the car is started every week instead of just every 3 months. Of course this costs quite a bit more at 30,000 yen a month or roughly 300 dollars.
|Japan Partner's car spa...err, premium storage facility. Image credit: Japan Partner.|
I contacted Japan Partner by email and was informed by their agent Yuji that in their case long-term storage has been fairly uncommon but they have had a few interested customers. For those of you interested in reading about a customer who bought from them he provided this link:
As you probably guessed there aren't that many companies offering long-term storage. I did find another company that mentioned it as an option on their website and that was GT-R Garage. For whatever reason however they didn't respond to my emails for more info. That's twice now that I've been unable to get in touch with them including previously when I was still looking for an R32 to purchase. I'm not sure what the issue is but it's weird when every other company I've contacted while writing my blog has been easy to contact.
In any case, hopefully this article has given you a lot of info about this other option for ensuring you get the JDM car of your dreams. Now excuse me while I go drool over some scandalous Nissan March photos...