Riches to Rags: When Luxury Gets Old

The shopping center had seen better days.

Most of its smaller spaces were vacant, long since abandoned with only the leaves left scuttling about on the breeze to give the empty storefronts the illusion of life. Now, only the anchor stores remained. On one end of the complex, a dollar store. It somehow managed to look even more run down than most and had perhaps a dozen cars parked out front. At the other end, a cut rate supermarket — one of those places that sell mostly canned food and dried goods on the verge of expiry — had a dozen more cars sitting at its doors.

Much to my disappointment, a Chrysler 300M was among them.

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Lemon or Lemonade: Enter the Imports

When I started kicking tires and taking photos at the Fleet Activities Yokosuka Lemon Lot, I was hoping to document the dark underbelly of the Japanese Domestic scene. I figured I would find all sorts of bottom dwellers — you know, cars that should have been consigned to the junk pile years ago. That hasn’t been the case.

There are tons of large, respectable people movers on display and next to them are dozens of cheerful, little economy cars. Once in awhile we get a performance car, or at least something that could have been sporty if it had the right options, but I have yet to see any bestickered, black hooded, wanna-be drift cars. Finding interesting cars has been really difficult, so today I will show you something I have hitherto been ignoring – the imports.

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Mirror Mirror: Reflections on Driving in Japan

A few weeks ago, one of TTAC’s Best and Brightest asked for my thoughts on driving in Japan. It’s not the first time the topic has come up. There were several comments in response to the series that documented the importation of my Town & Country, but I’ve been content to avoid the subject up ’til now.

I’d like to say I’ve abstained explaining driving in Japan because I believe my silence fosters discussion. But there’s a truer reason: I dread the scrutiny that follows any article about Japan. I know from hard experience that every westerner who has ever set foot in the country is an expert on every subject, and they will come out of the woodwork to dispute everything I say.

Don’t believe me? Wait and see.

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Lemon or Lemonade: March Madness

February ends. March begins. What better way to celebrate the sunny-but-cool weather of early spring than by looking at military castoffs? Luckily, the Lemon Lot full of them, and some were quite appropriately named.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of Nissan’s cutest products: the March.

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An Unexpected Japanese Classic: The Honda Mobilio

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The Town & Country I worked so hard to import into Japan was supposed to be my wife’s. I had planned to buy whatever I wanted and, although I hadn’t quite decided on what that was going to be, classic Japanese iron was on my mind. The second-generation Toyota Soarer and the ’90s-era Toyota Celica GT-Four were leading candidates. I was having fun considering other options, too.

A second minivan, however, was not among them.

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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.

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Lemon or Lemonade?: A Visit to Yokosuka's Vehicle Resale Lot

I had the opportunity this week to visit United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, a U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan originally established in 1866 by the Japanese Imperial Navy. The facilities are currently used to support and repair U.S. naval vessels assigned to the Western Pacific. On the day of my visit, there was a lot of activity and several warships along the waterfront, but I wasn’t there to enlist.

Instead, my motivation for visiting was much more mundane. I was there to eat tacos and check out the hoopties on the base lemon lot.

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Swimming Upstream: VJ Day

It’s been another exhausting day and, after wasting precious time trying to write some sort of clever introduction, I’ve realized that there just isn’t any point in beating around the bush.

The windmill I set out to topple is thoroughly defeated and the Town and Country looks smart sitting in front of the house tonight wearing its new set of permanent Japanese plates.

I wish I could say it was a cake walk, that the Town and Country sailed through its Shaken without any difficulty, but, as usual, there were last minute problems.

Want to know more? Hit the jump for another episode of your favorite reality program: “Man Meets Bureaucracy.”

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Swimming Upstream: The Final Hurdle

Since the last installment in this series, my attempt to get the family Town & Country officially licensed here in Japan has slogged relentlessly forward.

After a week of such little progress that I saw no need to report upon it (action was limited to the receipt of my official approval from the recycle bureau), I can begin this by saying that over the past week important things are once again happening. Notice that I didn’t write: “Important progress has been made…”

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Swimming Upstream: 30 Day Countdown

It’s Friday and once again it’s time for an update from Japan where my efforts to get my Town & Country licensed and street legal continue unabated.

Last week’s baby steps have led to modest results. My visit to the local police station netted me a parking permit on Tuesday and, although I am immensely self-satisfied at the results, I am aware that the permit’s issuance has started a 30 day countdown clock. If I cannot complete the entire registration process within that window, I will have to repeat this step of the process.

Naturally, I would rather avoid that.

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Swimming Upstream: Steps, 2, 3, 4 & 5 - Pre-Shaken

The quest to complete the importation of my 2013 Town & Country continues and, if the important successes I reported on last week were great strides towards the ultimate goal, this week’s progress has been limited to a frustrating series of baby steps.

Still, progress is being made.

As most government offices were closed on Monday as Japan paused to celebrate “Sports Day,” this week’s story begins bright and early Tuesday morning when I took the certified results of the emissions and noise tests, along with my completed application for title, to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Yokohama.

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Swimming Upstream: Step 1 - Japanese Emissions and Noise Testing
The Town & Country is back at home and, frankly — no pun intended — I’m exhausted.As I had been warned, the necessary tests required an overnight stay for the van at the research facility and the two trips there and back sapped a lot of my energy. I was at the mercy of my iPhone’s navigation app — UConnect’s navigation, of course, doesn’t work in Japan — that led pell-mell all over the damn countryside without any real idea of where I was at any given moment. To make matters worse, when I wasn’t behind the wheel, there was an equally confusing three-hour train ride to deal with.Once upon a time, I might have considered this a grand adventure. Right now, I’m just tired and in need of a beer.
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Swimming Upstream: Importing a Car Into Japan

Back in July, just days before my family boarded a Boeing 777 to wing our way to Japan, a truck arrived at my home to haul away my Chrysler Town & Country. In the ensuing weeks, while we struggled through lost luggage and looked for a place to live, the van was trucked to California, loaded into a container and placed aboard a ship. As the summer wore on, while we worked through the details of an overpriced lease and did our best to get the kids enrolled in their new school, the ship crossed the wide expanse of the Pacific and made port in Yokohama. While we were accepting delivery of our household goods, the ship was being unloaded and its containers sent to a customs warehouse. Finally, just as we were beginning to settle into our new lives, I was contacted by a Japanese customs broker. The Town & Country had finally and irrevocably arrived.

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Motorist Faces $48,000 In Fines For Mounting Cellular Signal Jammer In Car

Network World is reporting that a Florida man who installed a cellular telephone jamme r in the back seat of his Toyota Highlander is facing $48,000 in fines levied by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC alleges that one Jason R Humphreys of Seffner, FL regularly used the device during his daily commute and that he originally installed it more than two years ago. When questioned about his reasoning, Mr. Humphreys told officials that he installed the jammer in order to prevent people in the cars around him from using their cell phones while driving – something that is, by the way, totally legal in the state of Florida with or without a hands-free device.

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Town And Country Update: Road Trip

I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up to Toronto in search of a Japanese supermarket, but I reported then that the van was performing flawlessly. Today, eight months later, and thanks in part to a whirlwind road trip that added slightly more than 2000 miles in just four full days of driving, the T&C’s odometer shows 6400 miles and I have greater insight into the vehicle’s true nature. Naturally, it’s time for an update.

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  • VoGhost First of all, more great performing vehicles are always welcome. But it really does point to a cancer within GM that their answer is always: 'more models.' They face an existential crisis from a competitor that grows at 50% annually and is stealing their market share. And they are doing it on the back of just two models. And while the commentators moan about where the CyberTruck is and when will they update their vehicles, Tesla now produces two of the top five vehicles on the planet. GM doesn't need more models - they need a few GREAT vehicles. Come on, GM! Show us a vehicle that can sell at 500K+ units, that isn't a third place pickup people only buy because the F-150 and Ram are sold out.
  • Ajla Everything should be branded as a Corvette, Mustang, or AMG.-Subaru Crosstrek AMG-Toyota Mustang GR86-Buick Shelby Corvette Encore AMG
  • SCE to AUX Since I refuse to sign up for Sirius XM, can it still be a gateway into my car?
  • Kcflyer So they are leveraging the Corvette name and leaving off the best feature. Bummer.
  • MaintenanceCosts This used to be my favorite class of car but at some point they just became too much. The V6 S6 is more than fast enough and will have a more comfortable ride, and I can't see what the extra $45k or so for the RS6 gets me except a V8 engine note.