Classic cars – classic confusion

Many classic car owners may well have had a worrying time over the summer months.

Just before the Parliament went into recess, the European Commission put forward draft proposals to alter certain requirements relating to classic or “heritage” vehicles, and the way this was reported gave the impression that owners would no longer be able to modify their vehicles.

Not surprisingly, car owners were up in arms, and August saw a steady stream of angry – or at best perplexed – emails.  They won’t have been helped by more recent press coverage by the Mail, the Metro and others with headlines saying classic cars could become “illegal”.

Luckily, Labour MEP Brian Simpson, Chair of the Parliament’s Transport committee which will be dealing with these new proposals, has been on the case.

In a meeting with him a couple of weeks ago, Commission officials clarified that the new legislation does not in any way prevent vehicle owners from modifying their vehicles.   This was confirmed by European Commissioner Siim Kallas at the European Parliament’s Transport Committee this week.

It looks as though the confusion over this may have stemmed from the new requirement for vehicle manufacturers to provide testing centres with access to the technical information necessary for MOT tests. This requirement, however, does not in any way mean that all components would have to conform to those which were on the car when it was first registered or that vehicles will be failed their MOT test due to alterations. The intention is simply to ensure that vehicle manufacturers release technical information that could assist and facilitate testers in doing their job. The legislation does not make any reference to failing motorists on their MOT tests on the basis of modifications to their vehicle.

Getting now to the content of the Commission’s revision proposals, any new changes must be about finding a good balance between ensuring high standards of road safety and putting in place rules that are proportionate to the associated risks.   While Labour MEPs welcome some of the sensible changes proposed by the Commission, we are not in favour of imposing excessive regulations that in effect prevent owners of historic and/or modified vehicles from continuing to enjoy their pastime.

And Labour MEPs will continue to ensure that new European laws are about sensible change to make our roads safer, but not to act as bureaucratic killjoys.

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