In November last year I had the opportunity to catch a ride in a 20ft container from the UK.
Back in 1998 I'd hibernated a bike in UK I'd been very fond of.
Having had it since 1993 when I'd bought it with just 3,000 miles in UK. I covered a total of 62,500 additional miles on it in 5 years inclusive of winter use.
The VFR never missed a beat despite being ridden hard just about every time I used it in the UK. It toured Europe, went on camping holidays 2 up all over the UK (Some of the readers might remember these trips sat on the back!), rode for hours on empty winter highways late nights on a pinned throttle to get to my girlfriend's campus at a Northern University.
I'd modified it quite extensively and it was a very fun machine to ride. Memories include beating early Fireblades and R1's with it's much improved handling and braking combined with country roads I was familiar with.
So when I left the UK in 1998 having covered so much mileage it wasn't worth selling so I hibernated it as best I could, since it was going to sit waiting for my return inside our small garage at a house near a seaside cliff on the outskirts of Brighton... !
Fortunately an old biker friend in UK looked after it during the last 4 years and did some servicing work before he found an old pallet that had been used to ship Ducati's for many years... and it was pressed into service for my Viffer to be shipped in the container.
I also bought an old seat off Ebay UK and had it sent to a very kind chap called Tony Archer to be re-trimmed with new gel type foam, before a customer visiting family there over Christmas brought it back for me. Cost about 80 GBP including UK postage!
Despite draining the carburetors and squirting lots of WD40 into cylinder barrels before storage, it didn't start when I put on a new batter, so a few weeks ago I stripped down the carbs and cleaned them out well. Took a while to burn out the penetrating oil I'd squirted down the exhaust before sealing it up to store 15 years ago.... I think the fuel pump's probably still a bit gummed up and perhaps hoses are too, but she idles well and runs OK at lower revs. Just needs a good ride with some fuel system cleaner in the tank, I hope!
I've ridden it on country roads behind our home and it feels really sweet. Suspension is still just right and brakes (rebuilt) are perfect. It fits like an old comfortable glove.
I'm now in the process of getting it legalised for registration as a re-import in Japan. It's a loop jumping process.
Not only did they want engine & chassis number pictures, but now they also want tracings of the numbers... Engine's is hardly accessible, but I'll get it done somehow!
Then when it's ready it'll one more become my runabout bike. Is this an environmentally concious machine for the Eco-Kominka? Why yes - of course it is! It hasn't been scrapped and these VFR's will do a lot of mileage.. their engines are virtually unbreakable and it uses less petrol than a small car, whilst getting to it's destination faster so there's less emissions!
It has scratches and a few cracks that needed repairs with lots of small stone chips from the hard use it's had, but it still scrubed up & polished nicely. It'll be put into local and longer distance duties, as well as being a spare bike to lend to friends who know how to ride it well.
Welcome home to a dear old friend....
Our Toyota 3.0 sportswagon was making it's thirst felt on short drives to take our daughter to Kindergarten and return twice a day. It's value was plumetting as we continued to use it each day. Living in the countryside means we can register older Diesel cars unlike Tokyoites... and so a plan was hatched.
Arnie's son badly needed a good car for his family as his ailing high mileage K-van was burning more oil than fuel.
An easy deal was struck where he could have our Altezza and with roughly the same value I went out in search of an older but reputedly unbreakable car that would do high mileages.
I'd always liked Benz W124 Turbo Diesels as I know they're the last of the really well built medium sized Diesel bruisers without troublesome electronics & less strong engines of later models. Being quite old now they're very rare in Japan but thankfully after a few months of daily searching I finally tracked one down.
A 1991 Automatic 300 TD with 175,000km! It didn't start well (Glow plugs were all shot - but that made it cheap!), A//C doesn't cool (yet!) and that was, er - about it aside from bumper scuffs. Paintwork will polish up beautifully too, once I get the polishing machine out!
Body's in good condition with absolutely no underside rust on the chassis.
With a good friend in Germany, I'm being able to get the parts and accessories I need inexpensively. I have designs on this car, where it'll have a better leather interior (Saved from a scrapped 500E Ltd), a high quality sound installation, improved handling whilst retaining comfort, very good braking and grip from uprated parts. As & when I find time, I'll set about fitting improvements - sourced used where possible.
Although the Toyota was a great car that never gave us a single problem in 70,000km, I prefer the solid feel of this older car and it's characteristic interior leather smell. It's quickly proving to be a really comfortable and safe car despite it's age.
To me this is a more environmentally concious car than our previous. It consumes much less fuel (About 45 mpg is possible with gentle use) and is built to last another 20 years, by which time it'll well & truly be a classic.
It's got an engine that will run for 1,000,000km if looked after well (German Taxis are still running & these cars often get sold from Japan to take on long hard working lives on African roads too!).
With the ever escalating prices of fuel, cost has been a deciding factor especially bearing in mind fuel will never be cheaper, only more expensive as it becomes more and more difficult to extract from the ground.
Diesel's cheaper in Japan (To help support domestic delivery infrastructure) by about 20% too, so the saving on fuel combined with better economy adds up to around 35% thus making the switch to Diesel family cars only - a foregone conclusion.
Being Diesel it can run perfectly well on simple vegetable oil or other oils including hydraulic fluid!
It's just amazing that Diesels can run on so much variation of fuel.
Perhaps I can run it on Eco Diesel in future if I can find a source, but it's already pressed into daily workhorse duties.
They don't make them like this any more.