Saturday, 12 March 2011

Motoring Nostalgia

Synchronicity is odd stuff, and while putting my ideas together I read a nice post over at Anna Racoon’s about model classic cars.

On my mind however was a speech made recently by Mike Penning, Under Secretary for Roads and Motoring, who has mooted the idea of making life easier for some of us who still maintain and drive our objects of nostalgia. I would guess the hidden agenda is probably to bring us in line with most of Europe, we know that one very well, and I have few illusions it’s what’s driving his ideas, but just for once it might make things easier for some of us.

The consultation is about MOTs for older and classic vehicles, and whether they are all needed. Sadly the poor man has hardly opened his mouth when everyone from the garage trade to every road safety fake charity on the planet jumps in with objections. They just can’t help themselves!

In fact one of the few nice things the last Conservative government ever did for me was creating the historic vehicle category with free road tax, originally set at 25 years old it meant I could keep Tin Lizzie taxed and street legal, even though she spent most of her time and all winters resting in the garage.

The poor old dear is over 50 years old now and only gets out on high days and holidays, a few hundred miles in a good year while we struggle to cruise at over 50mph. Yet she still has to suffer the indignity of a full MOT every year with mechanics poking and prodding under her skirts to see if she is still a goer. Then she has to jump through hoops to test brakes on a machine that wasn’t even invented when she was designed, and to pass it requires a level of maintenance virtually to ‘as new’ standard, far higher than any modern car receives. Back in 1942 when Alex Issigonis designed her there would have been neither MOTs nor even motorways in the design brief, and even when my old girl was born in 1960 there was only the Preston by-pass and a stub of the M1.

One of Gordon Brown’s first mean acts as chancellor was to stop the clock on historic vehicles at 1972 and prevent the classic age limit rolling, effectively making it uneconomic to preserve many classic cars from the 70s and 80s.

The problem now is that MOT, SORN rules and the new continuous insurance regulations are making it burdensome to own a vehicle that gets only occasional road use, and we have a ‘did I remember’ fixed penalty lottery for classic owners. If Mike Penning can do something to make classic car ownership easier, and unburden those of us who use our classic for just a few days a year it would help preserve some of our engineering heritage .

Personally I don’t see why any vehicle over about 40 years old needs MOT or tax or SORN if it’s used only for occasional private use by a collector. Any car that age requires regular maintenance and that's what collectors do. I know there are some large high powered cars of that age but surely it would be easy to make business use, maybe even motorway use, dependent on full paperwork and allow private enthusiasts to get their pride and joy to local shows and events without hinderance.


  1. If that is your's W42 - then I envy you no end!

    Your point about classic cars is well made - but hey, keep wishing; this lot are politicians and live on other people's money!

    By the way the Anna R link doesn't seem to work.

  2. I also owned a Morris Traveller and loved it to bits, even though it was riddled with dry rot. Infinitely better motor than the VW Beetle, which I am ashamed to say was my first car.

  3. Yes she's mine WfW, been in the family since the 60s and I'm quite proud of her.
    You might not envy the winter days spent lying underneath doing exiting things like replacing trunions and miscellanious gubbins :-)
    Richard here
    seems to have found a more interesting mechanic than I can find.
    The only car that can catch dry rot John! Makes them special.