In the UK it’s simple – the DVLA currently classes all vehicles built before 1 January 1975 as ‘historic’. When London’s ‘Ultra-Low Emissions Zone’ (ULEZ) comes into force in 2020, all historic vehicles will be automatically exempt. Just as they are from paying for road tax.
But the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens (FIVA) is lobbying EU politicians to devise a different classification, and to apply it in low-emissions zones (LEZs) right across the EU. If they get their way, this will cause LEZ restrictions to apply to many classic vehicles that are exempt under current rules.
What does FIVA class as ‘historic’?
Here’s how Patrick Rollet, president of FIVA, describes what his organisation means by a ‘historic vehicle’:
1. A mechanically propelled road vehicle.
2. At least 30 years old.
3. Preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition.
4. Not used as a means of daily transport.
Nothing controversial about the first two criteria, but the third and fourth may raise eyebrows.
Who can determine what ‘historically correct’ really means? In some cases, decades of modifications or scratches can become part of a car’s history, lending a unique character that’s arguably more valuable than that of an old car which has stayed factory fresh. Perkins engine conversions in Series Land Rovers would be a case in point; a popular modification a few decades back, they’re quite an oddity nowadays and worth preserving.
FIVA’s final criterion would exclude many of the most interesting vehicles that make it into the pages of magazines such as LRO. Land Rovers are designed to work, and many of us with older Land Rovers regularly rely on them as such. Does this make them less historic?
‘Old, badly maintained cars’
‘These vehicles are part of our technical and cultural heritage,’ says Rollet, ‘and […] should not be lumped together with old, badly maintained cars that are used as cheap, everyday transport, when considering the problem of urban air pollution.’
That viewpoint will draw a dividing line between the majority of enthusiasts who enjoy lower-budget retro motoring on a regular basis, and the well-heeled collectors whose priceless classics spend most of their lives undercover.
Another remark that will put FIVA at odds with the Land Rover community is their view that ‘very few historic vehicles have diesel engines.’ This certainly isn’t the case with Land Rovers or the many commercial vehicles that most of us consider historic.
It’s hard to disagree with FIVA’s motive to keep older vehicles on the roads, and able to be driven in cultural hotspots such as cities without penalty. But how workable is their proposal? And will their comments unite the classic car fraternity over a common cause, or incite division?
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