Its pot luck whether the service history survives with the car; for understandable reasons, a lot of people question the value on its own of a Japanese service history that is mostly indecipherable to non-Japanese speakers. And given you won’t actually be able to talk to the garage in Japan that did the work, on its own, its of little value. But they can be used as supporting documentation. The auction sheet is important; not only is the recorded mileage noted, so is any damage. BIMTA I think will only record the odometer reading at the auction, but will not offer any warranty on the trueness of this value, only if the odometer reading has changed between being sold in japan, and getting on the road here. Some of the auction houses, not sure if all, will note if the mileage is unverified with a question mark.
Mileage isn’t that big a deal with these cars; in Japan, they rarely crank up huge mileages, though by now, the early Roadsters will generally be around the 160-180k km mark. The reason some dealers will “lose” the auction sheet is to hide a repair history.
The only true way to get an all original Roadster is to arrange an imporet yourself. Someone like www.autolinkuk.co.uk can facilitate this. Andy will charge something like £100 for the service. You tell him what model you want, what condition etc, and his agent gets to work to find one (might be dead quick, depending how specific your requirements are). Generally “original” 1-owner cars are grade 4.0 and above. A 1-owner grade 4 car will generally have the most reliable mileage, if thats important to you, and a full service history (you might not get the book, but there will be plenty of evidence on the car of the regularity of servicing). The panels should be all original. However, at grade 4, the paint might not be mint; 10 years of scratches and shopping trolley dings… My brother brought a FTO this way, and it needed a full respray to bring it up to scratch, but he budgeted for that.
The process will work like this:
Agent finds a car at the auction, and emails a few grainy auction hall pictures, and a few words about the real condition of the car. If you like it, you give the go ahead, and give Andy the amount to purchase the car at auction in Japan (typically about £1000). That enables the car to be transported to the Agent’s yard, where he’ll give it a closer check over, and can do better high res. pictures. At that point, you might decide you don’t want the car, but only if it dramatically differs from the agent’s description, and then are refunded your monies. The cars then shipped and upon arrival, you pay the balance, including taxes and dock fees. You can also opt to have the importer take car of the registration, service, MOT etc. Unless you’re getting a top grade car (5.0 or above), budget for some paintwork to be done; again Andy can arrange this. The process takes 6-8 weeks. My brother imported the FTO; saw it briefly at Andy’s place to agree it was what he expected, took it for a brief drive on trade plates to check it drove fine, then he next saw it 3 weeks later, all spanky new looking. No need to go to the docks, lurk in garages etc.
In truth, all original 1.6 Roadsters are getting hard to find in Japan; they’re getting old now. Importers will prefer a lower grade of car thats been repaired, mainly because they know they don’t need to spend much time on the cosmetics when it gets here. Quite a few, including some well known specialists, will spend time returning a modified car back to standard specification (check the ones who have lots of shiney cars for sale, but also regularly sell used modified parts). I’m not sure thats an entirely honest practice.