Episode 59. Pontiac Trans Am. GOX 144V. (Part 4).

By this point in time it was October, so I filled in the V55/5 form that the DVLA had sent me as best as I could. They send you a little booklet to help you along as you fill in the form as it looks a little daunting to begin with. To be fair I've done this a few times, and every time I do it I still can't remember how to do it right, and you want to get it right first time because getting it wrong, and by that I mean making the smallest mistake will cost you time, and effort.

As DVLA Swansea is the centre for lost documents I photocopied EVERYTHING including the V55/5 form before sending it all to them by recorded delivery. Along with a completed V55/5 form you will need to send them the original title or equivalent, the NOVA form to prove customs duty/VAT was paid, a current MOT if your vehicle is 1960 or newer, or a V112 form (exemption from MOT) or V112G form if a goods vehicle over 3500KG, a copy of your insurance certificate, a copy of your photo i.d. (passport or driving licence), a copy of a recent utilities bill showing your address, a cheque for £55 for registration fees, and lastly a cheque to cover the first year of road rent unless it is of an age that doesn't need to pay road rent. The form says on the top that it is to be filled in with BLACK ink, so sitting at my dining room table one evening back in October, I began to fill it in. I got a pen, and before touching the V55/5 form, I had a quick scribble with it to see that it was BLACK, and indeed it was. I preceeded to fill in the form to the best of my knowledge. The following morning I walked into town, got all the documentation that I was preparing to send to the DVLA photocopied (except for some reason I didn't copy the original Title document, Americas equivelent to our V5c) I then folded the lot into a rather large envelope with DVLAs address on it, went to the Post Office, and sent it recorded so that when it got there I would have at the very least some sort of proof that it had been delivered to the DVLA in Swansea as I'd have a signature from one of the minions. Before the DVLA saw fit to close all their regional offices this was a much simpler affair, I would drive to Portsmouth, fill out the forms infront of one of their members of staff, pay them the money, they'd give me a registration number, and I'd head home and get some plates made up, then hit the road. However those days are long gone now, and sending everything to Swansea is apparently better and easier. Except that it isn't, as I then have to wait until the DVLA send it all back to me, with my new registration number which I then need to get put on a numberplate! Anyway enough of this rant. With all the documents now safely in the hands of the Royal Mail I went home, safe in the knowledge that in two to six weeks (mid to late November) my Firebird would be registered, and on the road YAY!!

They say that time flies when you're having fun, but time goes by so slowly for those who wait for the DVLA to send them their documents for their new toy! mid November came, and went, but I thought that maybe as it was nearing Christmas (I know, clutching at straws!) that was what the hold up was, I'll just give it another couple of weeks. Two more weeks crept by, but still nothing, it was now December, and I was becoming increasingly concerned, and pretty frustrated! But then, just as I was reaching the point where I thought I was going to have to be put on hold for the best part of an hour while I was trying to talk to someone at the DVLA on the phone, guess what plopped on my door mat? It was a nice big brown envelope from the DVLA. Yes, I was registered, I ripped open the envelope to reveal... A letter, and all my documents, and another V55/5 form!! What the heck? I was on my way to work but I thought works gonna have to wait. I slumped down at my dining room table to read what the letter said. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but basically they had returned my application for registration because the V55/5 needed to be filled in with BLACK ink in order for the computer to read it! WHAT!!! I was genuinely at the point of a Chernobyl style melt down! What the hell were they talking about, it was BLACK! I looked at my form, definately BLACK, I looked again, without a shadow of a doubt BLACK!! I rushed outside into the sunlight furiosly clutching the form in my hands, I looked once more... BLUE maybe? At a push? There was a slight possiblilty that under direct sunlight, it might be BLUE maybe, but it was so damn dark BLUE that under artificial light it looked for all the world to be BLACK! What the heck!? I was livid! In fact I was so damn livid I thought about jumping in the car and driving to Swansea to show them my displeasure! Why have they rejected it? My only thoughts were that somewhere in deepest darkest Morriston, some boy-o was sitting at his desk getting paid for every application he processed. He looked at mine, and went that ink is blue (might have had a window seat, so had the benefit of natural daylight!) FAIL! Another application prosessed, good more money in the bank for me! I could've understood this if I had filled it in with green ink, or red, or even light blue, but this was so damn black it was like the frikkin night sky! Nevermind, my application had been rejected. I could either sit around moaning and whinging about it, or I could re-submit the form in goddam BLACK ink! I phoned work, "Gonna be late in today, I've got to attend to some important documentation I've been sent!" I jumped on my bike, and raced off into town peddling furiously like a mad man on the loose! Where was I going? WH Smiths to buy me a goddam BLACK Bic ballpoint pen! Black Bic pen purchased, I raced back home, sat down, and filled in another V55/5. Then once more I put all the documents back into an envelope, raced back into town, and took them to the Post Office to once again, send them by registered post. I almost stuffed the pen and it's packet into the envelope to prove its BLACKness, but I thought, no, if I get that same pedantic moron, he's just going to send it back to me again, and that would probably drive me over the edge, and I'd definately be roaring down the M4 towards Morriston near Swansea like a Kamikaze pilot in my Firebird then... I know where they are... I used to live there, you people can't hide from me! Anyway with all the documents once again safely in the hands of the Royal Mail I went home, but this time feeling quite uneasy in the knowledge that in two to six weeks (late December to mid January at best!) my Firebird would be registered, and (Hopefully) on the road! With any luck! 

Again, they say that time flies when you're having fun, but time goes by so slowly for those who wait for the DVLA to send them their documents for their new toy! Christmas and then New Year came, and  then went, but I thought that maybe as it was Christmas (I know, still clutching at straws!) that was what the hold up was, I'll just give it another couple of weeks until early January. A week into January I was starting to think that I wasn't going to get the documents, and they were going to reject it again for some reason. Maybe the pen was too black this time! Just as I was starting to give up all hope, I came home one lunchtime, put my key in my front door, turned to look once more at my Firebird parked across the road, opened my front door, and there on my doormat was a large brown envelope from the DVLA. The documents for my Pontiac Firebird had arrived. Now with the V5c finally clutched in my grubby hands it was time to hit the road. FINALLY!! Well, not quite, yes I had the V5c, Yes it was insured, Yes it was MOTd, Yes it was even taxed. So what was the hold up now?

In a nutshell 022-GOI it's still on it's American plates! Well, there's no way that Halfords will be open at this time of night, and as I knew I was busy all day Sunday I was going to have to wait until Monday morning. I must admit I really did think about taking it for a spin, but I didn't want to push my luck now that I was almost there!

Finally, it was Monday morning, I dropped my two little monsters off at school and went straight to Halfords. In Halfords in Winchester there works a girl, and I'm sure that she's a lovely girl it's just she's a bit... Well, she's a bit docile! You look at her and it's pretty clear, the lights are on but nobodys home. Infact I believe the home has been deserted, and probably some time ago for that matter! Good news... She was trying to serve me! So I told her that I needed to get a set of number plates made up. I then presented her with the V5c, and various other documents to prove who I was, I then went on to say that I needed the number plates to be 12" x 6" in size. She looked blankly back at me and just said, eh? So I said, sorry, what I mean to say is that I need a set of number plates made up for an American car, and the size of the number plates, both front and back needs to be 12" long, by 6" high. I need a yellow one for the back, and a white one for the front, and this is the registration number I need on both of them. She looked blankly back again at me, but you could just see that something was going on in her little head, and after a while (which frankly seemed like an eternity) she said we don't do American number plates, we only do them for British cars! Now I'm sure that she's a lovely girl, but by now I had my head in my hands! However I looked at her once more and said, no, you don't understand, it's for an American car, which is registered in the UK, it's a Pontiac which is made in America, but I have imported it into the UK and I am going to keep it here, and drive it here. A bit like for instance you might have a Toyota, which is a Japanese car, but it's registered here and you drive it here. Do you see, are you with me? Now what I need are a set of numberplates, yellow rear, white front, they need to be in an American size, because thats the size of the recess that they sit in, they need to be 12" long, by 6" high. I then noticed that there was a poster with the various different sized legal UK numplates on it behind her. So excitedly I pointed at the one I wanted, LOOK, like that one! She slowly turned to see where I was excitedly pointing my finger. Oh she said, we don't keep them in stock. We can order them up, and we should be able to get them in under ten days. WHAT? I could feel that I was on the verge of having a full on Basil Fawlty episode!

I already felt like I had been there ten days talking to this girl. In my head there was already a battle commencing between the calm part of my psyche, and Basil, and to be fair Basil had already ripped a big branch off a tree and was ready to do some serious beating! But as luck would have it, the calm part had control of the mouth at that particular moment and said, Oh thats ok I'll try somewhere else. To which the girl replied, Eh? Oh, ok then... I then turned, and made for the exit in Halfords feeling that I was about to burst fourth with a torrent of abuse that would shock even the most experienced of tourettes practitioners! Arriving at work some ten minutes later I was still babbling like a crazy man at what had just happened in Halfords, and I was alone in my car... Who was I babbling to for crying out loud! Anyway, where was I going to get a number plate... The internet, yes, why didn't I just go straight there, it's not just for porn is it? Well, because I thought that it would be quicker to go to my local Halfords thats why, I really am a silly old Hector sometimes! Arriving at home I soon was browsing the internet, and had located several companies who would make me up a plate for my American car, most were specifying 5 to 10 days delivery. So in the end I went for the one that was the cheapest, and ordered them up. I checked the post day after day. Then finally after just a week, my number plates hit the doormat. As I was sitting there eating my porridge I heard the post coming through the door and I thought to myself, yep, my plates are here! I went to the front door, and sure enough, there amoungst all the junk mail was a big brown envelope. Big enough to hold a pair of numberplates measuring 12" x 6". Ripping the packet open I had a feeling I was going to be late in for work!

Finally, after all this time I could legally drive my Firebird, and that was exactly what I was planning to do. Right, out to the car...

Goodbye Washington plates, be gone!! Well, actually it's not really goodbye, as they now been screwed up next to the other plates from the cars I've imported over the years.

Hello UK plates! I found the Seattle Seahawks plate frame in the boot, and I thought that I might just put it on, as I plan to remove the Seahawks sticker from the rear bumper! I'm not a follower of sports of any kind, I've got no time for that crap, I'm far too busy writing this stuff!

Excellent! Now I know that some of you might be questioning the legality of such a size plate on my Firebird, so I shall try to clear that up if I can. A 12" x 6" plate can only be used on imported vehicles which passes the DVLA criteria. The DVLA say that all number plates must meet standard size for lettering and style with the exception of imported cars that were not designed for UK plates and have a functional reason for not using standard size plates. Certain imported vehicles like an American car with a recess for a certain sized number plate may be permitted to display number plates with smaller characters if:- The vehicle does not have European Community Whole Type Approval AND the vehicle's construction/design cannot accommodate standard size number plates. However it must still have correct size (bike size, whatever the heck that is) lettering and spacing, and be a clear, legible block letter font but doesnt have to be the standard type approved font unless its 2001 or later vehicle which this isn't. Years ago I was running my '93 Thunderbird with this style of plate on it, I got pulled by the police doing random stop checks, they did a thorough check on the car, but didn't find anything wrong with the car. However the traffic officer mentioned he'd seen American style number plates on similar style cars, and if I wasn't in a hurry to leave did I mind if he checked them out legal wise, I said that would be fine, especially as he told me that he would only verbally warn me if it turned out they were illegal as he thought they were clearly readable. He got out his rule and regs book and a tape measure, mine were 7 digits which were 80mm high. He said he thought they were probably ok but the spacing was a bit tight due to having 7 digits on a 12" long plate, he then let me go on my way. I figured that from this, they were probably legal, but I think it's a pretty grey area! 

Anyway, I'm probably getting away from the point a bit, and that point was that I was now officially on the road! Whoopee! Only one thing for it... Test drive to make sure the number plates are firmly secured!

I jabbed the keys into the ignition and with a couple of twists of the wrist the V8 coughed and spluttered into life (It's not been started since I brought it home back in October!) A couple of minutes to warm up, and we were off... I'm late for work anyway, another twenty minutes or so isn't going to hurt! So then, first impressions? Well, it's pretty good, theres a lot of people out there who think that having an American car, especially one from the eighties, seventies, sixties, or earlier means that you are driving around in a wallowy old barge that handles like a big bowl full of jelly. Well, I can't vouch for the stuff thats built earlier than the Sixities, but on the whole I believe that this is not true. Don't get me wrong, this isn't going to handle like for example a Golf GTi handles, but I figure that handling wise it's probably on par with say for example a Capri. Unless you're some sort of Road Racer who drives on the ragged edge of both their talents, and the cars capabilities you're never going to notice. The V8 engine burbles away nicely under the bonnet, and while we're talking about the V8 I'd just like to say that although this is only a 4.9 litre V8, I really notice no difference in power than I had from my earlier Firebird which was a 6.6 litre engine. Now I know that back in the day when they were new there would've been a noticeable power difference, but now, nearly 40 years on the difference is probably negligable. Also, like I said about the handling, for every day regular type driving, you're really not going to notice the difference. So same great looks, half the fuel bill! Inside the cockpit it is a little bit scruffy, but lets not forget, this is a 38 year old un-restored car, it's not going to be perfect. There are various little bit of trim etc that are either broken, or missing altogether, but pretty much all of them are available as re-productions I would expect. Should you want to this could be fixed up very nicely, but then I reckon it would lose some of it's charm. Besides, everything still works, so it's all good!

Standing on the loud pedal and the big black Pontiac was hurled towards the horizon and a pretty good rate, the thing is, it doesn't feel like a big car, this is because it really isn't a big car if you compare it's size to some more famillier cars you see on British roads for comparisons sake:-

Pontiac Firebird 196.8 inches
Jaguar S-type 193.1 inches
Mercedes 500SEC 194.3 inches
Vauxhall Omega 189.8 inches
Citroën XM 185.4 inches

Pontiac Firebird 73.4 inches
Jaguar S-type 71.6 inches
Mercedes 500SEC 72.0 inches
Vauxhall Omega 70.3 inches
Citroën XM 70.6 inches

Pontiac Firebird 49.3 inches
Jaguar S-type 55.7 inches
Mercedes 500SEC 55.4 inches
Vauxhall Omega 59.1 inches
Citroën XM 54.8 inches

Pontiac Firebird 108.2 inches
Jaguar S-type 114.5 inches
Mercedes 500SEC 112.2 inches
Vauxhall Omega 107.5 inches
Citroën XM 112.2 inches

So you can see it really isn't that big at all. In all honesty my Jaguar S-type feels like a much bigger car! However being just a couple of inches here and there it's not enough to make the Firebird noticeably bigger, and it is easily small enough to be happily piloted around the back streets in my little town. Even parking the thing is easy with good visabilty all round!

But having said all of that I think that it's not what owning a car like this is all about, it's not about how good it goes around corners, or how fast it goes, or even how much it likes to drink. It's all about the looks, I mean look at it, the theatre of it all, and the drama, and it's just sitting there, but somehow it's exciting... Without even doing anything... Epic! I'd just like to say that I would've taken a photo from the front but there was a couple dogging in the car that was parked behind me! I didn't notice until I got out to take a few snaps of the Firbird. Infact only when I went to take some of the front did I notice, and with that I thought it was probably time to leave! 

Man alive thats a cool car! Anyway, as previously mentioned it was time to leave, and frankly, it was time to be at work to try and earn some money to pay for the damn thing! So what did it cost? Well I got it for just $4700 which works at at roughly £3233. On top of that there's the shipping which was $2039 plus the optional $75 for marine insurance, this comes to around about £1500. Then when it gets here there import duties, etc to pay, this turns out to be around £617. Add to that various things like storage fees, and handling fees at the dock, transporter hire, Pauls fees, MOT, the odd parts, etc. This all together adds up to about £1100 Lastly theres the registration fees, £55, plus a years road rent £230! Adding all this together leaves you with a price of just £6735.00. Which your head is probably saying is quite a lot of money.

However, if like me your childhood years were filled with Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Gumball Rally, The Canonball Run, the Dukes of Hazzard so on and so fourth, then your heart is probably saying £6735.00 for such a cool car?... That'll be fine!