DVLA Clamps down on pre-1974 cars modifications.
Under The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, it is specified that pre-1974 vehicles can register for the tax-exempt category. Until recently, there were few problems that materialised from this process. However, it is believed by the classic car community that pressures from EU incentives have encouraged the DVLA to apply stricter restrictions as to which vehicles qualify for this exemption.
Classic car owners are now expected to provide proof of the car’s construction and origin through documents such as historic racing sheets, books extracts or the bill of sale. Despite the fact that such documentation itself is hard to source and may be timeworn; the greater issue the classic car community is facing is to do with modifications made on such cars. The DVLA have specified that ‘Your vehicle won’t g et an age- related registration number if it includes new or replica parts […] It is obligatory that the major components [are] comprised of genuine period components all over 25 years old’, meaning if a car had undergone work in which an engine or such needed replacing, the car may be denied its historic status and presented with a Q Plate, rather than its original registration number.
Robert Blakemore, M.D of Ecurie Bertelli Limited and Specialist in all Vintage Aston Martins commented that, ‘The biggest challenge is for people with cars that are not 100% original. The problem will come when trying to sell these cars or when the DVLA may come ‘knocking on the door’ (when tax is required) and start to challenge the validity of the car. The other issue is what to do with a car that needs to be re-built.’ He also added, ‘The cost to theSince a Q plate signals to potential buyers that the authenticity of the car is questionable; owners can expect a massive depreciation in the value of their vehicle, where it may be reduced to a quarter of its original value.
The effects on owners if these rules are fully enforced could be significant. If you own a modified vehicle or need to modify one, then the cost will be to write off most of the vehicles value, but if you own a genuine vehicle, then theoretically they will go up in value. People may choose to move their collections to countries that are more sympathetic (USA for example)’ which would result in a great loss to our British heritage.
Mr. Blakemore added, ‘We still face this problem today, we know that there are chassis in barns where the rest of the car was originally a saloon. The cost of re-building it as a saloon is greater than the value of the completed car and this is likely to be the case in the future too. We would like to build this with a different body in a form that will be worth at least as much as the re-build costs, but at the moment, this would likely result in a Q plate.’
Another consideration to bear in mind is that the vast majority of pre-1974 cars have a history that gives the car its inherent value. A famous racing car that is bestowed with a Q plate instantly has its heritage under question. It makes the process of proving that it was indeed that car that won a race or was attached to some other historic event. The history of that car can therefore be destroyed in one simple act.
The classic car community have forwarded multiple complaints to the DVLA, stating that the restrictions lack clarity and have been made far too tight. Owners are unsure as to which components of their car are permissible in terms of modern replacements and which would be considered too great a modification on the car.
Some owners have claimed that the tighter restrictions are ‘unrealistic’ as car parts that are over 80 years in age invariably need replacing as they ware out, crack or become unrepairable. If some of the greatest cars in history were not permitted the replacement parts, are they simply to be written off?
Owing to the sheer amount of money owners are having to invest into such processes, it is worth purchasing specialist vehicle insurance for your vintage car as it covers facets that regular car insurance does not cover, such as the importation of the car and technical specifications of vehicles that may comply with the safety standards of the country in which they were made, but do not fully fall into line with those of the UK.
Ben Leonard from Click4reg commented that, ‘for some, the importation costs of pre-1974 cars is becoming too steep, and with the possibility that their value could become dramatically less, it makes sense that more are more people are choosing to move their classic cars to other countries that allow such work on the cars’. If this is indeed the case, Britain could lose a vast portion of its motoring heritage. The DVLA however, has denied that their hand is being forced by EU pressures.
Aston Martins especially have captured the nation’s heart. Hopefully, future clarifications in legislation regarding what modifications are allowed prove to be beneficial to car owners, so that they remain a part of our British culture.