17 April 1998

OVERWHELMING,

OVERENDOWED

AND OVER HERE

If the current crop of pick-ups available in the UK doesnt

appeal to you, you can always import one from America.

Geoff Ashcroft visited a man who can show you how and

Stuart Birch drove a Ram V10 in the Wild East (well, Essex)

If youre going to have a guard dog – have a big one. Its no good compromising with a Yorkshire terrier when really, its a rottweiler you want. And the same is true for the most versatile of farm vehicles, the pickup.

But when everything on the market just isnt quite right, where else can you look?

Well, just shimmy over to the passenger side of your vehicle, imagine youre holding a steering wheel and then pretend what youre sat in is twice as big and twice as bold as any pickup youve ever seen.

Yes, these are in-your-face left-hookers from north America, which you can source then import yourself under the careful guidance of American Car Imports.

From an industrial unit at Wood Green, north London, Anthony Cohen and his colleagues at American Car Imports help about 100 customers a year to bring any north American vehicle into the UK, under a personal import scheme.

And these machines really are something else.

From a vast array of brochures – and a direct computer linkup to US-stock – you can pick any make, model, colour and specification to suit your wallet.

You can choose from what the Yanks call a regular-sized pickup (about half as big again as a UK machine), full-size pickup (simply a monster) or a full-size 4×4 utility vehicle (farmhouse on wheels).

Prices depend on the vehicle and specification you choose, but typically regular pickups are from £12-£25,000, full-size pickups from £18-£30,000 and 4x4s range from £28-£38,000.

Chevrolets Suburban 4×4 utility vehicle or C/K and S10 pickups, Dodges Dakota and Ram pickups, and Fords Expedition 4×4 utility or F150 pickup are all available through American Car Imports.

And with pickups, youre no longer stuck to two seats – the standard cabs are wide enough to seat three adults, and you can select extended cab, crew-cab, double-cab and a swing-the-cat cab, with 1.8m and 2.4m (6ft and 8ft) load beds to match.

&#42 V8 turbo diesel

If you opt for a regular-sized machine like the Dodge Dakota, then youre stuck with either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 3.9-litre V6 or 5.2-litre V8. But if you go "large" then the Dodge Ram peaks with a 300hp 8-litre V10 – and these are just the petrols.

For an oil-burner, the Yanks throw in a 215hp 5.9-litre Cummins straight-six for the Dodge, while the Chevrolet C/K gets a 6.5-litre V8 turbo diesel. All have shed-loads of torque and will easily throw around a 3.5t braked trailer.

Want one yet? Well, getting one is easier than you think.

Once youve put your tongue back in, raised your chin off the table and decided what you want, ACI will locate the exact vehicle of your choice at an all-in agreed price (including shipping and using the exchange rate of the day). But for ACI to find the vehicle it will cost you an initial £500 fee.

"It stops the tyre kickers from wasting our time," says Mr Cohen.

Once the vehicle is ordered (in your name), you pay 75% of the balance. Then youve about six weeks to wait before the motor arrives in Europe. And because its a personal import being done by you (albeit with the help of an agent who takes the hassle and customs issues away from you), you need to drive the vehicle abroad before it comes into the UK – so you meet your new vehicle in the Netherlands.

Registered on Dutch plates, a short 0.6 mile (1km) drive is required before the car can then come into the UK. At this point, the outstanding balance has to be paid off.

ACI completes any regs changes, such as fitting a rear fog light and tweaking indicators as required, and will help you fill out the DVLC paperwork to get the car registered on a current UK number plate (not a Q-plate), oh, and of course, taxed.

All warranties are left in the country of origin, so ACI offers the AAs Premier Plus three-year unlimited mileage warranty, which requires maintenance to be carried out according to the manufacturers handbook.

&#42 Quarter-million miles

Mr Cohen says any warranty parts needed can be flown in from the States within 36 hours – quicker than a lot of UK dealers can get parts for their own vehicles.

In short, ACI says any franchised motor dealer can be used for general oil and filter servicing work to maintain the warranty – with most vehicles not requiring major services until 100,000 miles have gone by.

"These are low revving, low stressed engines with a high mileage expectation," says Mr Cohen. "In the States, these vehicles are regular quarter-million milers."

WHERE TO GO

WHERE TO GO

&#8226 American Car Imports, 57-59 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London N22 6UB

&#8226 Tel: 0181-889-8889

&#8226 Fax: 0181-889-7500

4.2-litre V6 petrol engine is standard in Fords F-150 XLT. Options include CD-player, air-con and electric windows – its probably the least luxurious model available.

Big, bold and in your face. Mean-looking Dodge Ram Super Sport truck uses "small" 5.9-litre, 250hp V8 – just the thing for young farmers rallies.

Above: Ford Expedition ranks somewhere in the large 4×4 bracket and caters for every red-blooded Americans whim.

Right: Anthony Cohen of American Car Imports. As your agent, ACI takes the hassle out of you making a personal import – all you do is choose it, pay for it and drive it.

Below: Chevrolet C/K regular cab pickup offers most spartan interior for mucky dog and wellies. Front bench seat affords room enough for three adults.

As much lifestyle statement as practical work truck, the Chevy S10 can be decked out with deluxe cloth trim, 16in alloy wheels and snazzy paint jobs.

Chevrolet Suburban is a giant among giants – seats nine adults and carries luggage. It measures 5.57m (18.2ft) in length, 1.94m (6.3ft) wide and

1.87m (6.1ft) tall. Engines are 5.7 or 7.4 V8 petrol or 6.5 V8 turbodiesel.