I spend my life around classic cars. Sometimes being friendly to them is frankly the last thing on my mind. Burning them often is.
So joining a scheme called Classic Friendly may seem like an odd thing to do. Except, of course, the yang to my fire-obsessed ying is that I love old cars, no matter how recalcitrant and irritating they can be. Classic Friendly, which aims to promote and advocate high standards in classic car maintenance, therefore makes a lot of sense. Particularly if, like me, you think the plans to exempt more old cars from the annual MOT test are silly.
The MOT Exemption
I've written recently about the MOT exemption. My argument isn't that the MOT makes cars safe or that it is an ideal system for old cars. It doesn't and isn't. Regular maintenance and improvement does that.
My view is that good or bad the MOT provides an independent annual check, a Stop & Think Moment, that every car and every owner needs. It's comprehensive, rigorous, independent and black and white. It contains tests that cannot be done in a home garage or workshop.
Removing the test removes the Stop & Think Moment, the hurdle between fixing and not fixing.
I understand the Federation's view that an exemption is the most pragmatic solution. That it stops old cars being removed from the road. My problem is that an exemption is only the start of the solution. Unless something or someone comes along with a package of education and assessment that enables all owners to understand the condition of their cars then exemption can only mean a deterioration in vehicle standards. Exemption has made a minimum standard of roadworthiness optional for anyone willing to take the risk. It should be mandatory.
Maintaining Old Cars
It is unsustainable to argue that old car owners can be trusted to maintain their cars well. Classic car fans love their cars and are generally responsible. That is not the issue. My own experience hiring cars for TV and film work is that even beloved cars can be dangerously unroadworthy.
Neither the Federation or the Government has come up with any proposals ot plans to educate owners and give them the knowledge and skills to assess their cars.
Which brings me back to Classic Friendly. Fuzz Townsend, who runs the scheme with his partner Lee Reynolds, is at pains to explain that Classic Friendly is not a test or a replacement for the MOT. But what it is is an attempt to create a comprehensive, independent procedure for assessing the condition of old cars. It's a pre-MOT if you like. We've joined the scheme because we want a standard procedure for checking cars, that's specifically developed for old cars. Classic Friendly standardises assessments across all members, so that wherever you go within the network you get the same, transparent level of checks. In the absence of anything like it, that has to be good for the industry.
You might argue that this idea should have come from one of the classic car sector's representative bodies. Since it hasn't I think we should be relieved that someone has taken the initiative.
We still put our cars through a MOT, because Classic Friendly doesn't replace it. But as the MOT evolves away from old cars it gives us a set of checks specific to old cars. It gives our customers evidence that their car has been comprehensively checked and assessed, which provides a useful way to check up on the garage.
We provide a free Classic Friendly assessment for all cars that go through our workshop. Between now and the end of May we're offering the same test for any owner, irrespective of whether you decide to go ahead with work. To find out more visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.