Just over two weeks ago on 18th November the MOT exemption for pre-1960 cars came into force. This new legislation, which was apparently designed to reduce red tape, means that all cars manufactured before and including 1960 no longer need to have an annual MOT check.
The legislation appears to have come about because of the problems of accommodating an increasingly wide range of cars into the MOT inspection system, including keeping MOT inspectors trained in that full range of cars. All of which, naturally, costs money. The argument put forward by the Government was that pre-1960 cars are not used very much and they're owned by enthusiasts who like tinkering with them. They asked members of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) what they thought. A very small percentage responded and in summary they favoured it, albeit not overwhelmingly. Which, with all due respect to the FBHVC, is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.
I have a particular issue with this decision. It was pushed through with very little consultation (unless you happened to be a FBHVC member) and my subsequent polite attempts to engage with the politicians involved ended up with me stonewalled and branded a nuisance. So much for democracy. But I also believe it undermines the cause of classic cars. By allowing a large group of vehicles, selected with an arbitrary cut off date, onto our roads without any independent inspection to assess their roadworthiness is at best foolhardy and potentially extremely dangerous.
There are three options for people with pre-1960s classic cars. Do nothing. Check the car themselves annually. Or put the car through a voluntary MOT test. Nobody, however skilled an amateur mechanic, has the ability or the equipment to properly assess their car themselves. And surely the temptation will always be there for some owners - and who could blame them - to simple skimp on the cost, particularly in these hard-pressed times.
At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we run 60 classic hire cars, including several pre-1960 cars. Our cars typically cover between 5,000 and 15,000 miles a year, often with between 50 and 100 different drivers. We are legally entitled not to MOT our pre-1960 cars but clearly that would be insane. It is also not clear where it would leave us in terms of insurance cover in the event of an accident. The fact that I could send a customer out in an uninspected car highlights how silly the new legislation is. My customers need the confidence that we service and maintain our cars to a very high standard and that at least once a year they are inspected independently to check their safety and roadworthiness.
That I am sensible enough to put my cars through a voluntary MOT does not indicate that the legislation works. Not everybody may feel like I do. Some people may be prepared to take risks that I won't.
In my view, the annual MOT check is an absolute minimum standard because classic cars can deteriorate very quickly if used regularly. That's why we subject our cars to a MOT check and a regularly monthly check while they are on hire. And during the winter we work through the cars to address any faults and improve areas where we think a MOT test in 2 or 3 years time may highlight issues.
There should be no cause for celebration with the MOT exemption. Cars are dangerous objects capable of high speeds. Whether they travel 10 miles annually or 100,000, it only takes one problem to cause an accident.