Lemon or Lemonade?: Zing in Your Thing
I had another opportunity to visit United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka last week and, naturally, I brought along my camera for another visit to the “Lemon Lot.”
While my last visit noted the many people haulers for sale and focused on a pair of cheerful Toyota Fun Cargoes, this time, my attention was drawn to sportier fare.
First on the list is a 1992 Toyota Soarer. A walkaround found it to be a relatively clean example, if not especially well optioned. A look in the window found a velour interior rather than leather, and what appears to be a rather down-market single DIN stereo where there could have been something much nicer. The advertising and information on the car was just as austere stating only that the car has a 1JZ twin turbo, which Wikipedia tells me is a 2.5-liter inline-six of dubious reliability, backed by an automatic transmission. The seller is asking $4,800 and indicates the car is inspected and road legal through May of this year.
Next up is a 2000 Toyota Celica in what appears to be very nice shape with a list of aftermarket add-ons. The body modifications are obvious in the photos and, regardless of whether or not you find them tasteful, there can’t be any argument about their fit and finish. A look inside finds an interior a generation or two more advanced than the Soarer. A double DIN HDD/DVD player that includes car navigation is backed by a decent set of speakers and a trunk-mounted subwoofer. Advertised for $5,000, the car claims to be inspected and road legal through February 2017.
The final car on today’s list is this 2003 Mazda RX-8, Originally on offer for $4,500, but now marked down to $3,900, it appeared to be in generally good shape. Inside, the car is simple and utilitarian with the only additional bells and whistles being aftermarket sound and an ETC electronic toll payment device. Information on the car claims has an automatic transmission, custom front bumper, 75,000 kms, and is inspected through February 2017.
Although all of today’s cars are rather more interesting than the Fun Cargoes we saw the last time I visited the Lemon Lot, nothing here would have me reaching for my wallet. To begin with, I think they’re all overpriced and, with the exception of the Celica, I see no attempt on the part of the sellers to add any excitement to what are decent — but dated — vehicles.
Second, automatic transmissions in cars with sporting aspirations leave me flat cold and I can’t imagine that any of these would be fun to drive. Of course, I understand the reasons: Driving a vehicle with a manual transmission in Japan is a pain in the ass that requires an extra endorsement on one’s driver’s license. But I also know that, for military personnel, the endorsement is done on-base and only requires a quick road test. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be rowing your own gears in any of these cars. Seeing automatic gear shift levers in these cars just fills me with “meh.”
Lastly — and probably most importantly — none of these cars feel very exotic. All three models were offered for sale in the United States in one guise or another and I could likely find something similar at any stateside buy-here-pay here lot. They are, in my book, just “regular old cars” and no one back home will be amazed by a photo of a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) RX8, Soarer or Celica because they see them on the street every day.
That’s the lesson here, I think. Living overseas comes and goes pretty quickly for most people and in the end all you have are stories to tell and pictures to show. If you shoot the works on any old thing, you are cheating yourself. If a photo of your wife’s Fun Cargo elicits more reactions than your hot JDM sports car, you need to reevaluate your life, son — you’re doing it wrong. Get out there and take some chances!
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