As we reported here, from May 20 this year, cars over 40 years old duck out of having to have an annual MoT test. Yep, it’s a controversial decision for sure, but one that’s generally been welcomed by most old car enthusiasts. However, as we’re about to explain, regarding the finer details of the new legislation there’s good news – and some not so good news…

Modifications to the rules

Scrapping the annual check up for classic cars has been on the cards for quite a while, and in truth, the value of a modern MoT centre inspecting a car that was designed for a totally different era of motoring was always pretty sketchy anyway. What muddied the waters during the debate was the issue of what cars would qualify. Originally, it was deemed that cars that had deviated too much from their original spec wouldn’t be able to attain ‘Vehicle of Historic Interest’ or VHI status and thus would still need to be tested or, worse still, need to apply for a ‘Q’-plate instead. Strong lobbying by the Federation of British Historic Clubs (FBHVC) has won badly needed ‘breathing space’ for those wishing to upgrade their vehicles but not be penalised for doing so.

What upgrades get the all clear?

Put simply, the FBHVC got the government to take another look at its definition of what made a car ‘substantially altered’. Instead of basing it on their strict ‘8-point rule’, they argued that efficiency, safety, preservation and environmental performance should be considered instead. This bit of arm bending is brilliant news for us enthusiasts because it gives us scope to use replacement parts if the original items are no longer available and carry out all manner of upgrades, as long as they improve efficiency, safety or environmental performance. This effectively gives the green light to things such as front disc brake conversions, fitting upgraded suspension components and even carrying out an engine swap (as long as that engine was offered in the model range at the time). Modifications carried out more than 30 years ago (on a rolling basis) will also allow owners to avoid facing an MoT tester each year, as will modifications made when the cars were in production or within a decade of production coming to and end. In other words, because people have been tuning VWs for ages, there’s likely to be lots of scope. The full ruling can be seen in more detail here.

How to apply

Once 40 years old, you make a voluntary declaration when renewing your annual road tax that your vehicle is a ‘VHI’ and fill out the declaration V112. You can still take your car for an MoT test, of course, but it’s not compulsory.

Other changes to the MoT…

From May 20, owners of cars less than 40 years old will also notice a few changes. Specifically, the way in which ‘Advisories’ – faults discovered that don’t result in a fail – are classified and recorded has been altered. Currently, MoT testers have the option of manually entering advisories if they find something wrong. So, if there’s an oil leak, for example, they’ll presume the owner will want to know where it’s from and how bad it is. From May, the tester will make a selection from a simple drop-down menu. The former ‘Advisory’ will now be classed as a ‘Minor Fault’. They won’t fail your car on one of these, but there won’t be the opportunity to describe in any useful detail, on the record at least, something they’ve spotted. This, in theory, has several implications: for the car buyer, it means they won’t be able to get as detailed a picture of the car’s condition by looking at the MoT document. For the owner, continuing with the previous example for argument’s sake, if they want to find out a bit more about where the oil leak is from they will need to quiz the MoT inspector in person after the test to find the answer.

Independent inspection

The solution of course, is to build up a good relationship with a friendly VW specialist who is likely to know the car inside out and get them to give it a regular expert look over and report back. In fact, if you’re not a confident mechanic yourself, we would recommend owners of MoT exempt cars do this anyway. After all, the MoT test is only a means to confirm whether your car meets road safety and environmental standards – it’s not an indication of condition, or an accurate means of determining what jobs need doing and sometimes, it’s useful to know this because prevention is always better than cure and fixing things before they get worse can save you money (and breakdowns!) in the long run.

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