There are quite a few companies who now specialise in importing high performance cars from Japan. The following advice on importing the Japanese specification Impreza range into the UK was given by Andrew Cliffe at Omicron Engineering (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Cars take about 30 days to ship to Europe once they have been loaded in Japan. The WRX and STi versions are in continuous production rather than the Lancer Evo V batch building. Coupes and a few others are produced to order. The wait depends on the current popularity of the WRX in Japan, which fluctuates depending on the McRae/Makinen rally war.Air conditioning is standard. The four-door sedan comes in white, silver and black. There is more choice on the 'wagon' which comes in blue also. Japanese car producers have agreed that 280PS (276bhp) is the most that should be produced for a standard car. However Nissan sell a modified Skyline which produces 400bhp and Veilside will tune a Skyline to 1006bhp. Subaru are now taking orders for a 2.2l WRX STI coupe. 400 are being made, and we've got two reserved. There would be a slight reduction in power output, due to the fuel difference, but Subaru don't publish the climatic data of where their data was taken. All this has an effect also. If you wanted, the car could be put on a rolling road and tested to find out power at wheels, which will differ, from the published power at flywheel by 15% or so. It would be best to run it on the better quality fuel for something special like the WRX.
Another grey importer gave us the following report;
"If you order a new car it is new, but they have to be registered in Japan prior to export. Does this mean that they become used? We would also ask our Japanese friends to test drive the car to make sure that the car is OK before being shipped. If you ordered a s/h car, we would find a s/h car, which had been previously owned by a Japanese owner, and used in Japan. As with all used cars, I am sure you would find a pen under the seat.Some spares are likely to be the same as the UK cars, but some parts are STi only and have to come from Japan. I would suggest that if you went ahead and ordered a car to buy the parts required for the first service, and when that service is due, order the parts for the next batch. This means that there is no waiting for parts to arrive from Japan.There is no such thing as an exact cost. The exchange rate between £ and ¥ differs daily. Shipping cost is translated from US $. Duty is worked out using the exchange rate on the day it clears customs, which is likely to be different to the one used on day of purchase.What I do is to work out cost in £ using an uncompetitive exchange rate, which provides a little room for manoeuvre. As it is not our main business, we do not have to make a living out of it. We do not have large adverts to amortise over a few cars. Basically it is your car as from Japan onwards, and we assist in the importation and registration. Servicing should be done as per your normal Impreza. Run it in gently over a period of 1000 miles or so, before using full power. Some short bursts of full acceleration helps bed the transmission in.Subaru's warranty is invalid as the WRX is not sold here. It is possible to buy a warranty (basically an insurance policy) from people like Warranty Holdings, Motor Warranty Direct, White Knight etc., for a small sum of money per year. Subaru Japans warranty is three years, so they must be pretty confident in the quality of the car. There is a wide selection of tuning parts in Japan to make your STi go quicker. These engines are well engineered and then restricted to 280ps by the ECU. The differences over WRX and STi are to the brakes which are uprated somewhat over WRX, the exhaust system is different, there is a carbon strut brace, and the interior (seats, steering wheel) is slightly different. Visually there is a different rear wing, and the front fog lamps are blanked off. There would be more minor changes, which Subaru don't tell you about.Conversion to UK spec at the moment is limited to a rear fog lamp only. Japanese radios work up to 90MHz (fm) and you could either specify a 'dongle' which boosts the received frequency by about 14Mhz, or fit a UK spec sound system. The car would arrive with a Japanese immobiliser, but your insurance company would want a Thatcham approved alarm.Come May the SVA test may comes in (it was supposed to come in mid 97, then 1/1/98 but was postponed.) This would require some changes to the car, but nothing serious. The European Commission pending review or possible cancellation postponed it this time.The speedometer could be converted to MPH is you wished (SVA mandatory in May), the speed limiter at 112mph could be bypassed, and we can fit tuning goodies if you wish. Mucking about with chips would invalidate Subaru's warranty anyway."
NB: Evo magazine (Feb 99) reports that Subaru Japan are requiring that Japanese Subaru dealers must obtain proof that a car is registered in Japan before supplying parts. This, if true, will make parts for greys more difficult to obtain ...
Below is a list (in no particular order, and by no means complete) of companies in the UK who either specialise in importing "Grey Market" cars, or can assist you with the personal importation process.
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