News : MoT tests – big changes, and not good for classics?

Will MoT exemption for classic cars be extended? Will your modified classic no longer be legal? There are concerns that Europe-wide legislation could make this a reality.

Will modified classics soon be legislated off the roads?

European-wide legislation looks set to shake up the MoT system in the UK in the coming years – and if current thinking within the working group comes to pass, then the in-built flexibility of the UK system, which allows certain modifications to road cars, will no longer be allowed.

John Ball owner of MOTEST, based in Farnham, was until recently involved in this consultation process. He told us: ‘I have been involved with UK and European vehicle testing policies as a key trade representative, but have stepped down from because of time issues. However I still keep my ear to the ground and this new set of proposals concerning “the periodic roadworthiness tests for road vehicles”, needs to be strongly challenged as it applies to our hobby.’

The UK attitude to MoT tests on modified cars has traditionally been a sensible one – and it’s basically this. If you have modifications to your car, then as long as they adhere to Road Traffic Act regulations, then they are acceptable for the test. So, if you fit discs to your 1960s Mini or 15in alloys to your MG Maestro 1600, then you could be potentially driving into a whole lot of MoT pain in years to come, regardless of whether the modification makes your car safer or not.

John Ball fears that the consultation process is being dominated by certain countries, which currently favour the approach that all cars should be OE spec, and must not deviate from this.

He also states that – sensibly – that, ‘the definition of a historic vehicle will be 30 years minimum,’ but as current legislation is to change in November, exempting all pre-1960 historics from being tested, there’s a clear danger that this fixed date will become a 30-year sliding one. As he says, ‘so cars as diverse as a Ferrari 308GTB  to an Austin Metro need not be tested?’

John encloses extracts from the text from the consultation document – it has an interesting view of what actually constitutes a classic car, and how they are typically used.

  1. Vehicles of historic interest are supposed to conserve heritage of the époque they have been built and considered to be hardly used on public roads, it should be left to Member States to extend the period of periodic roadworthiness testing for such vehicles. It should also be for Member States to regulate roadworthiness testing of other types of specialised vehicles.
  2. Definitions – For the purpose of this Regulation the following definitions shall apply: (7) ‘vehicle of historic interest’ means any vehicle which fulfils all the following conditions:
  3. It was manufactured at least 30 years ago,
  4. It is maintained by use of replacement parts which reproduce the historic components of the vehicle
  5. It has not sustained any change in the technical characteristics of its main components such as engine, brakes, steering or suspension and;
  6. It has not been changed in its appearance;
  7. ‘roadworthiness test’ means a verification that the parts and components of a vehicle comply with its safety and environmental characteristics in force at the time of approval, first registration or entry into service, as well as at the time of retrofitting

As John summarises, ‘if it is as bad as the proposals appear, we all need to unite on this and fight it.’


Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. Further proof, as if we needed it, of why we need to leave the EU.

    Most people don’t realise it, but the Lisbon Treaty handed over vast tracts of our law to Europe; we can no longer make it, nor can we vote out those who make it.

    Legally, we’re becoming a satellite of Brussels. We are losing our right to self-determination, and our ability to control our future.

    We need to pressurise our politicians in all parties to tell them we want our democracy, and ‘home rule’, back. Tell them we’ll vote them out (while we still can), if they don’t give us a referendum on Europe.

    This isn’t about xenophobia, Little Englanders, or whatever – it’s simply the need for us to get the power to govern ourselves back. We can’t do this while still in the EU. We need to leave, and move to a free-trade zone (such as EFTA), rather than being governed by people such as these with no respect for our traditions and/or our ability to make our own decisions about how we live.

  2. There is a hot debate going on about this proposal here in Germany – but the angle is a different one: This proposal would mean the end of the bi-annual test cycle, if accepted as is. Our testing organisations tried to get older cars into annual testing cycles over the past years, but have finally given in, as it was impossible to find a proof that this would really enhance road safety – and not only raise revenues of the testing organisations by a large chunk.

    The parts of the proposal given as critical above more or less read as if they have been copied from current German legislation. We are very strict on modifications – that does not mean they are impossible, but they do need to meet strict requirements having type approval or something comparable. The classic car definition is the same as we have here in Germany since more than 10 years. This has proven to be a generally good definition, which was mainly laid out through discussion with the relevant classic car clubs and federations. This precise definition of a classic enabled classic car owners in turn to gain exemptions from environmental legislation. It does not mean that a classic cannot be modified anymore, but if these modifications are ‘too modern’ (e.g. a Mini with Honda VTEC engine), the car cannot be registered as classic, but has to be registered as standard car.

    The homogenisation of testing should be a good thing, if the aim is to make transfering a car into another country easier. Currently trying to register a car from the UK here in Germany often leads to trouble (or is even impossible, as is the case with quite a few kit cars). And people importing cars have learned that a fresh UK MOT does often not meet stricter requirements as over here.

    Though I can think of a few people here who would greet to gain less strict testing rules if this were the case of common EU tests…

  3. I do not support the idea of forcing historic car owners to keep them to standard specifications- quite apart from the fact that certain modifications enhance the safety of these cars, the fact is that for certain marques it would be impossible to source ‘factory spec’ parts. It might be relatively easy for an MGB or Minor driver to get original spec parts but many other classics may not be supported at all in terms of spares availability.

    This could easily drive classics off the road, or make it prohibitively expensive to run one.

    I’m not anti EU per se, but this is bonkers.

  4. No, don’t like it… doesn’t make sense.

    If I want to change the engine in my old Landrover, as an example, for a more economical one then two positive things come out of this:

    1. I reduce fuel consumption
    2. I reduce the fuel needed to recycle the engine.

    All this smacks of is someone is dictating what is a classic and what is not and trying to catch people out be saying, well this is not a classic, therefore you have to pay extra something… Look, I have no problems where the state has to protect my interests, health, military, personal welfare. But this, quite simply is about the EU state (or certain states within the EU) sticking their nose in where it simply isn’t wanted nor is it needed. It’s just another layer of bureaucracy to satisfy the pen-pushers and potentially find a method of adding extra cost (a tax) to run these cars.

    And exactly how the hell many of us need to import or export a car anyway? German laws are stricter, that is their prerogative, they should be minding their own business and getting on with policing their own state and NOT ours.

    I am not anti-EU but I am against pointless interference from a central station that pretty much has no idea or interest in how we live.

  5. If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it springs to mind!

    Looking at it from a different perspective, wouldn’t there also be difficulties for non-specialist MoT testers to ascertain exactly what the original specification was on a car?

    What if disc brakes, as an example, had been specified as a factory extra at the time? Without the original build sheet for the car I don’t understand how that would work at all.

    I like the idea of all the badly modified Corsas and Golfs being forced off the road though. That is funny…

  6. Another attempt to stifle British ingenuity? How many engineers in industry started off tinkering with cars – as a convenient piece of machinery that could be improved with some ingenuity and endeavor?

    Time we stood up for ourselves as a nation – if they fine us – knock the fine off the contribution.

  7. Hi,

    I think the trouble resides with organizations “representing” clubs and hobbyists. From my own experience most people sitting there are only interested in meals and being seen rather than defending collectors. In Belgium we had a new registration system introduced nearly 2 years ago which means we can’t no longer keep our old reg numbers and now we are issued with huge plates that totally ruin the appearance of classic cars. There are no provisions to get period related regs, nothing. Our classic cars can be fully Moted and then issued with a “normal” reg (something now starting with 1-DRA-725 or similar) and usable as everyday cars or get through a basic test and be issued with an “oldtimer reg such as this example “1-OBE-467”.That means we can only use the cars in a 25 km radius from home (question is what happens when the car is garaged elsewhere from where you live!), only for tests, we can’t take such a car to go to work or shopping, can’t really use it unless for duly approved meetings by the local federation of clubs. Which means not a lot, of course! Some police officers are real wankers and stop people driving “O” reg cars, check you haven’t been to the local Tesco’s and that there are no bags with food inside… I know a guy whose number plate was taken off the car, he got fined and had to call a rescue truck to get the car home! Then you do see cars that are quite unroadworthy being rusted through and used as “rats” on the roads while honest people get annoyed… And then don’t even try to modify a post 1968 car (before then there was no type approval in Belgium), if it doesn’t conform to its type approval any more it is failed by the Mot testers… don’t fit any braided brake hoses to it you’re sure to fail as… they can’t see any crack in it! Don’t try to fit rear discs to a MkI Golf, they don’t care it makes it safer, it is no longer conforming to its type approval so… that’s no good. I know this is totally stupid but then, what are doing our representatives? You’d better not ask I’m afraid and, yes, Europe is really a creeping dictatorship, nothing else!

  8. Same old rot as usual, just like the stupid SVA test for kit cars
    “you must have every nut end covered with rubber and pay us loads to check it but if you are a farmer you can drive an unlicenced tractor on red diesel through the village with 20 spikes sticking out and no lights and thats just fine”

    And if you turn up from Poland/Lithuania/Romania/Take-your-pick, you can stay as long as you like and drive your rotten old golf/bmw/audi that the germans have thrown out,for years with no tax/test/insurance and a busted windscreen and bald tyres, and nobody will bother you. (my personal best is a Lithuanian BMW thats been here 5 years, reported but nobody interested).

    Live, work, and pay taxes and you will be bothered to death that your lights arn’t orange enough,your MGF headlights arn’t shiny enough, and my favourite, an “advisory” that my week old brake discs were “corroded”, well deeeeer Mr Tester did you ever see some that wern’t?

    How about banning the 6 series for having LHD wipers? “vision impeded” or the BINI clubman for that stupid door? “unsafe access” or everything now for having no spare tyre?
    Utter Crap

  9. I remember once watching a Wheeler Dealers where Mike picked up an SL that failed the German MOT but it was roadworthy in the UK.

    Japan are one of the strictest for vehicle testing, hence the import industry in Ireland and the UK of failed Japanese but UK/IRL roadworthy vehicles. (Drive in Ireland and nearly every other car seems to be a Japanese import!)

  10. Yet another case of the snouts-in-the-trough eurocrats sticking their noses in to justify their own sorry existence and over-inflated salaries.

    The sooner the Eurozone disappears up its own backside and take the whole sorry edifice of cards with it the better.

  11. Fortunately or sometimes unfortunately most testers in Germany, and I assume UK too, have not the slightest idea of what is and isn’t original. I have had various incompetents trying to tell me that my TR4A needs unnecessary bits fitting or original bits removing. In the end there is generally at least one person at the TUV to hand who has the sense to just check whether the car is safe or not.

    Think the idea of scrapping TüV or MOT for vehicles over 30 or 40 years should not be a problem. In my experience most people who drive an oldtimer look after them well and try their best to keep them original. Last thing we need is a bunch of incompetents in Brussels or Strasbourg deciding about things that they know absolutely nothing about.

  12. The UK Department for Transport has recently issued a consultation document on the future of the Vehicle Identity Check (VIC) scheme……
    “Some of the background details show that 717,000 checks have been completed at a cost of £30million to the UK motorist, and only 38 vehicles failed the check!
    The VIC is designed to stop ‘ringers’ – vehicles that have had their identity changed from going into use – so the scheme has either been a colossal success because it has removed ringers from the road, or a complete waste of time because it hasn’t found as many as were expected, I will leave you to form your own opinion on this!”

  13. I wish these bottom feeding cretins in Brussels would just bugger off. These numpties wouldn’t know one end of a car from another. They do want to make you want to slap them all silly!

  14. Joe@10.

    Not quite, all farm tractors have to be registered, licensed and insured just like every other road going vehicle.

  15. The problem isn’t the EU and Brussels, it is the fact our government is so utterly spineless. If the French don’t like something, they block it. If it passes anyway, they ignore it. Look at state procurement, the EU says there has to be open tendering. Our spineless officials/politicians do this, and give things like train orders to foreign factories. The French ignore it, and give contracts to their own companies.

    If we don’t want MOT reform, block it. If they get it through anyway, simply ignore the rules. After all what exactly can the EU do if we just ignore them?

    As for removing pre 1960’s car from MOT, what a stupid ill thought out idea. It is already likely to drive up classic car insurance, one of the few types of car insurance, which is actually afordable and reasonable. Many owners don’t want it, they like having their car checked for road worthiness on a regular basis.

    I can guess the reason for it. What most classic car drivers want is a rolling exemption from car tax. The government looked at this, and panicked when they realised the potential cost. So they fished around for some reform they could do on the cheap to keep classic car owners happy. Shockingly an ill thought out policy has backfired.

  16. What MOT inspector is going to know what is standard fitment on my 1969 Bedford CA.
    it’s the usual crap.

  17. Cars have become pretty rust resistant and before 2003ish onward where emissions and safety regs have been increasingly complicating matters too much had become very reliable. The rolling free tax on cars over 25 years would have meant 1990-2000ish cars would have stayed on the road almost indefinitely largely subverting New Labour’s massive hiking of car tax as more people would hang onto their old cars in anticipation of them becoming 25. The government aren’t stupid!

  18. PS I think the scrapping of MOTs for pre 1960s cars will be a disaster for classic car lovers, how many otherwise abandoned rotten relics will be dragged onto Britain’s roads? I know two or three people with old Minis and Moggies requiring a serious amount of welding before being road worthy. The owners haven’t got the spare cash to do them up but at least two of them I know are dragging their cars out of mothballs when they know full-well they are simply not road worthy. All it’ll take is a couple of high profile incidents and they’ll clamp down with some draconian response putting many responsible classic car owners off the road.

  19. Steve, due to a number of factors, the net result of the emissions-based system has been a huge reduction in the revenue raised through the vehicle excise duty, so whilst owners of large thirsty cars built after 2006 are now paying a huge amount per year, these only account for a tiny proportion of vehicles and the average motorist is paying far less than they were under the old engine-sized based system. Therefore there has not been a huge hike, in fact quite the opposite. And cars built between 1973 and 2001 have only been subjected to inflationary rises, so in economists’ speak, a real-term freeze.

    If we keep the current system, the RAC have estimated that by 2029, the treasury will have a shortfall of £13 billion.

    If you Google ‘VED shortfall’ you can see there was a lot of speculation in the press in June 2012 about how the government was going to plug this gap. Whether it be road tolls, higher VED rates or increased fuel duties, the reduction in revenue introduced by the last Labour government will be reversed.

  20. If there is no independent assessment of a vehicles condition, it must be then purely subjective if the vehicle is involved in an incident. My idea of roadworthy could greatly differ from an insurance companies. After speaking to my insurance company they could offer no answer or guarantee until a claim was processed. I do not feel that this is a satisfactory position to be in, or is it my paranoia that this may give yet another excuse for delays, non payment and litigation. Would my insurance back me up if a third party claimed my vehicle was not properly maintained even if the accident was not my fault ?

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