MOT scrapped on classic cars

Classic Car MOT are often a pain in the ass with some garages not knowing how to handle them. Well a few months ago it was announced that from May 20th any car over 40 years old will be exempt from the MOT test. At the heart of this idea is that your car is actually is 40 or more years old or is at least in the specification and configuration it was in 40 years ago. Only then can it be considered to be a ‘vehicle of historic interest’, or VHI, and approved to be MOT-exempt.

But what is ‘original’?

Are correct-design but new parts OK?

What if manufacturer-original parts are unobtainable?

Will aftermarket equivalents do?

After much discussion between the Department for Transport and the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, the guidelines as to what is, and what is not, a VHI have been published. And it is not as bad as you might think.

But first, just to clarify these are the revised MOT rules. The guidelines for registering a historic vehicle, whether a new import, a long time restoration with a lapsed VIN number or even a barn find, are a whole different kettle of fish.

Secondly, it is a relief that the MOT-exemption rules are pretty inclusive based not on the fact that so many classic cars will make the cut. It is that the rules recognise ‘historic interest’ is about more than just spec. They do however recommend your motor is checked over by to make sure it is not a complete fire hazard.

While in Europe the idea of a factory spec classic has been inforced, we seem to have made through with some easier going rules on parts.

So whats going to apply from next May?

A 40-plus-year-old car will, if its owner so desires, be considered a VHI if it hasn’t undergone ‘substantial change’ during the previous 30 years. That means the chassis frame, subframes and/or bodyshell, as applicable, must be to the same pattern as the original (a Spyder chassis in a Lotus Elan, for example, could cause a problem here).

Axles, suspension, and steering must keep the original type and method of operation, but substituting tired original dampers for new Konis, for example, is permissible. For engines, a different cubic capacity within the same basic engine type is fine, and alternative engines originally offered in a car’s range are also fine.

So far, so good. So deliberately vague, too, and no mention is made of tuning parts such as different carburetors, hot camshafts, freer-flowing exhausts, different spring rates and ride heights and wider wheels.

The guidance also allows changes made to a vehicle in order to preserve it when original-type parts are no longer ‘reasonably’ available, changes made to the vehicle type while it was in production or within a decade of production’s end, and – for ‘axles and running gear’ – changes made to improve efficiency, safety or environmental performance. So modern disc brakes on a classic car are fine, as would be a conversion of a hydraulic power-steering system to a less energy-hungry electric one.

‘Specials’ or other cars are given a new type of body more than 30 years ago are allowed VHI status, but re-bodying a classic car in modern times, even to a period pattern, is not allowed under the VHI. Failure to merit VHI status, on whatever grounds, doesn’t prevent a car continuing with its zero-road-tax historic status. But it does mean that an MOT will be compulsory, not voluntary.

None of this will entail an official inspection. The VHI certification and consequent MOT exemption, both voluntary, rely solely on self-declaration by the owner when the ‘tax’ – if something of zero cost can be called a tax – is renewed. Clearly, there is scope for abuse of the system here.

But the current MOT system is not the greatest anyway so it could just make life easier for the classic car owners out there.


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