emo Hopefully An AZ-1 Is Small Enough

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06 Mar 2017 16:17 #26560

Greetings from Indiana!

My first car was an Eclipse. I loved it, but it felt unnecessarily large and I wanted something smaller. After two more Eclipses, I ended up in a Miata. Smaller, yes, but it still felt unnecessarily large for transport for one person. Another Miata and a Focus RS later, I'm hoping to finally complete my quest for an appropriately sized vehicle. I ordered an AZ-1 in November of 2017 after what turned out to be a very frustrating search. Who knew that blue AZ-1s with the A-spec or Mazdaspeed aero kit would be so uncommon? Because we have very anti-competitive import laws here, I have to wait until November of this year before my new Mazda can reach US soil, but I'm starting preparations early.

My first two Eclipses were project cars and I had way too much fun making insane amounts of power on a shoestring budget. When those were gone, I needed a new project car. I turbocharged my second Miata and it's the most fun car that I have ever driven, but it's pretty much done. Aside from a new coat of paint it needs nothing. So I was in search of a new project, but this time I would have the funds to do things correctly the first time.

I have no previous experience with or even knowledge of kei cars. I had always thought of kei cars in terms of their utilitarian examples like the Wagon R or Honda Life/That's. I don't remember how I first became aware of the AZ-1, but last fall I decided that it was time to start actively pursuing one. The Cappuccino was the more obvious choice, but already owning a Miata made me want something a little different. Also who doesn't love gullwing doors!

It will be a learning experience for me, and I intend to learn as much as I can from and appreciate the stock car before I go crazy with the performance mods because, while it is intended to be a hobby and a challenge, I will be daily driving the car.

I will definitely be around on the forum looking for info and sharing what I've learned. I have found that I was in Warwick last year during the annual meetup and didn't know it, so while I wouldn't have my car yet I am going to try to convince Rolls-Royce to fly me out there again this year to meet everyone and see what kei cars are all about!

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06 Mar 2017 20:35 #26561

Great to see another future AZ-1 owner in the states! I'm looking for an AZ-1 to import into California.

Am i correct to gather that you've already bought your car in Japan, and are storing it there until November (presumably the month of 25 year eligibility)? I'd be very interested to learn more about how you're handling the purchase and import. Are you working with a dealer/importer in the states?

I saw your posting in the Autozam section regarding technical issues to look for, but I'd also be very interested to hear about the buying process itself.

Finally, have you found any US-based groups or forums geared toward kei cars or JDM in general?

Thanks!
Morgan

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06 Mar 2017 22:17 #26563

I had a huge long response typed out, but KKITP said that my session expired and deleted it. I'll type it out again when I get home from work. In the meantime, there's a little bit of information in my build thread over in the Autozam section. It's not much of a build thread yet, but I wanted to get started anyway.

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07 Mar 2017 01:20 #26564

Doh! I hate it when that happens!
Build plan sounds very promising and the car looks like a great starting point. Can't wait to learn more and am very interested in the process that's gotten you this far.

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07 Mar 2017 16:45 #26565

Let's try this again.

There are two and a half ways to do this. You can go through a company like JapaneseClassics, who picks cars in Japan, ships them, and registers them, and then offers them for sale at their dealership as a fully legal used car that's registered in Virginia. You look at their inventory online and/or visit the dealership for test drives, and if you like what they have, do whatever financing that you would do for a used car. It's the best option with respect to simplicity and low risk, but you can only pick from the cars that they've already imported. JapaneseClassics does not take requests, but they do post which cars are being prepared for shipment in Japan. Of course they only update that list every three months or so.

The next most common option is through a company like JDM-Expo, where they find cars that they would be willing to import from Japan and list them online with an all-in price in USD. If you find something that you like in their listing, you contact them to begin the import process. The upside is that there are generally a lot more options with this method. The downside is the wait and, depending on the company, dealing with a business in Japan as opposed to a business here. More on bank transfers later.

The half option is what I did. I found the car through goo-net-exchange, although I was also looking at TradeCarView and CarSensor, if you need more resources. They only listed the chassis code PG6SA-10xxxx on the website, so I sent an inquiry for either the rest of the VIN or the vehicle production date through goo-net-exchange. They sent me the full VIN which I dumped in here ( www.autotraderjapan.com/index.php/auctio...ess/vin-decoder.html ) to find the build date of November 6th, 1992, which was in an acceptable range for me. The asking price of the vehicle was 970,000JPY so I offered JDM-Expo $10,000 if they would buy it for me (divide by 100 is a good estimate for the conversion rate that includes some profit for them, because they won't be willing to help unless they can make money from the transaction) and they accepted. I sent them the VIN, they confirmed the production date, and said that they would have the car in the US in November of 2017. They sent me an invoice of $10,000 for the car and $2150 for transportation, paperwork, and import fees. I know that the company offers an option of a down payment before shipping and then accepts the rest of the payment on delivery for cars that they list on their website, but I didn't ask about that option for my situation. They (and most other Japanese companies, it seems) deal exclusively with bank transfers. Any bank can do them, but the fee is typically around $75 for the international transfer and an additional $6 if the destination is a business, which it is. The risk is that there are no protections for you in that method. Once the money is received, it is theirs, and international law is never on your side if there is an issue. So whichever company you choose, you have to be comfortable enough to, in essence, mail them a wad of cash and not look back. FULL DISCLOSURE: I was already in contact with JDM-Expo when I asked the about importing a specific car. They had a typo on their website where they had listed a hideous green AZ-1 as being a 1990 model and available for import at the time. They acknowledged the mistake (but never fixed it) and instead started offering me other AZ-1s that were incredibly nice but not exactly what I was looking for. Then when I found the one that I wanted I came back to them.

The process has been pretty unsatisfying in the sense that I sent them money back in December and had nothing to show for it for quite a while. It's pretty unnerving. But I asked for pictures of specific parts of the car that were not shown in the original listing and they responded that they would be taking lots of pictures and a video "in a month or so." Looking at their YouTube channel, it looks like they make two videos for most or all of the cars that they import. They sent me the links to the two videos covering my car and told me that they expect to start the shipping process in September, and that brings me up to now. I have paid for the car but not for shipping yet. I have two thorough videos showing the car that I've purchased (I did not request the Katy Perry soundtrack). I have a rough timeline for delivery, and I have been told of three options for said delivery: pick up the car at their dealership in New York, pick up the car at a yet-unspecified US port of entry, or pay extra to have the car delivered to my house. Always a fan of road trips I expect to go with one of the first two options. Stop for a night around Niagara Falls if I'm coming from New York.

As far as delivery goes, JDM-Expo expects to begin the process in September. The red tape is not limited to this side of the Pacific, as Japan requires a hell of a lot of paperwork before vehicles are allowed to leave the country. Beginning in September will give them September and early October to file the required paperwork and get the car to port. Doug DeMuro's writeup of the import process for his R32 GT-R said that the car is supposed to be at port two weeks before departure, which sounds pretty extreme. But the car will leave Japan mid-October in order to arrive on US soil some time after November 1st. Between US import paperwork and not arriving right at the first of the month, I am expecting to be able to pick up the car by the beginning of the third week of November. I haven't discussed a hard ETA with JDM-Expo and I don't expect to until September.

I haven't found a kei group here in the US. I haven't been looking in specific geographic locations; I'm just taking what information I can get. In a quest for any information at all I read through every single technical thread over at SCORE, a UK-based Cappuccino owner's club. The only other community that I have found is this one. I avoid JDM groups because the ones that I have had past experience with have been more concerned about 'JDM' stickers on their BMW M badged Sebring convertible than anything that might be remotely useful or productive. For that reason I haven't checked recently. Although I did get inducted into a drift squad the last time that I took my Miata to Pep Boys for new tires...

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08 Mar 2017 05:51 #26567

Wow, thanks randman2011! That's a lot of very helpful information! I knew of JapaneseClassics and I've spoken with someone from Toprank International Vehicle Importers in California ( www.importavehicle.com/ ) but, noticing that JDM Expo was based in New York, I had basically written them off. Reading your story and looking at their website, I now see that they work somewhat differently from the others so they're definitely worth a second look.

Being in California will definitely add an extra challenge for me since there's the additional requirement to have the car modified and tested to pass emissions. According to Toprank, there's only one shop in the state that can do the work and, based on yelp reviews, they seem to be very difficult to work with unless you go through an intermediary. What fun...

Anyway, thanks again for all the insights. Now I just need to head over to JDM-Expo's YouTube channel to check out your car and rock out to some Katy Perry! ;)

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08 Mar 2017 13:39 #26568

NorCal wrote:

Being in California will definitely add an extra challenge for me since there's the additional requirement to have the car modified and tested to pass emissions. According to Toprank, there's only one shop in the state that can do the work and, based on yelp reviews, they seem to be very difficult to work with unless you go through an intermediary. What fun...

Anyway, thanks again for all the insights. Now I just need to head over to JDM-Expo's YouTube channel to check out your car and rock out to some Katy Perry! ;)

I actually have some info on that. While I know that there are many other things that are checked during an emissions test, I know that when new, the F6A engine and all of its emissions equipment in the Suzuki Cappuccino put out less CO2 than my 2016 Focus RS does. With the more efficient drivetrain in the Autozam, it should perform as well or better in an emissions test than the Cappuccino does.

Here's the rest of the info for an F6A-powered Cappuccino:
EA11R
CO ( mono-oxide carbon ) : 1.2 g / km
HC ( hydro carbon ) : 0.13 g / km
NOx : 0.21 g / km
CO2 :138 g / km

Source: www.suzuki-cappuccino.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3957

I don't know how that compares to expected standards, but it doesn't seem that bad to me.

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09 Mar 2017 02:30 #26569

Interesting, thanks! I'll have to do some research to figure out California's particular emissions requirements for 1992 since, I believe, the requirement is for the car to meet the regulations in place during its original year of manufacture. Considering that, for much of the 90's, some manufacturers were building "49 state" cars and offering "California Emissions" as a separate option, I'll be very surprised if the AZ-1 makes the cut without modification, but given the cost, it's definitely worth some more research! Thanks!

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