Guest contributor, Paul.
Sliding around on a milk crate in the back of a kei van while watching a small group of Lamborghini Countachs pass by, resplendent in LEDs, neons and apocalyptically loud exhausts I thought to myself that I was really going to enjoy Japan. Several years on and I have made some great memories, however, when taken overall, it strikes me as to how passive most of those experiences have been. Don’t get me wrong, drooling over cars at Tokyo Auto Salon or one of the varieties of museums on offer in Japan is an unforgettable way to spend a day. What I miss are the hands-on experiences that I had back home in Australia.
Going on Skyline cruises with a car full of mates, even as a backseat passenger. Spending some time on the weekend modifying a part of the VL wagon’s suspension and then enjoying the improvement in handling while driving to work each day the next week. Buying parts on eBay and waiting for that Christmas-like day when they would arrive.
Helping my Dad fix whatever random car had been dropped off for repair. Giving someone a big smile when they passed me during a traffic light drag race (private driveway of course) or the feeling of invincibility if the positions were reversed. These are the sort of experiences that I took for granted living in Australia.
The relatively low income and a high cost of ownership of having a car sitting in a car space in Japan make it a challenge for even the most avid of car fans.
In addition, to all the memorable experiences I did have in Australia, there are still many things I would like to have done. I wish I didn’t take cars for granted. I wish I spent that few thousand dollars every time I saw a car that ignited the flames of my automotive passion turn up on the Trading Post, Gumtree or eBay. Regret can be an unforgiving, timeless monstrosity so when the opportunity comes to buy that moderately rare car for a bargain price I highly recommend grabbing it with both hands. Parking on the street is usually free in Australia and many people have somewhere to park an extra project car or five. Having a daily driver as well as a fun car was a great experience for me, although I imagine having two or more fun cars and pretending one is a daily would be even better.
I wish I visited my local track for circuit work and drag racing. By all accounts, it is an amazing experience and one that many claim will change your life. Rather than just watching racers, Youtube personalities and Clarkson talk about racing techniques I would love to learn them first hand.
Of course, not everyone has the means to make these dreams happen but it is a lot easier in Australia than many other countries. So if you love your cars consider getting your hands dirty or your butt on a seat.