Act now! Serious danger for the future of kit cars

The Department for Transport has announced grim emissions test intentions that may wipe out the kit car industry. This could be law by July 2018 – we need to act now

Among all the dense legislation and intense language found within the Department for Transport’s ‘Improving Air Quality and Safety’ report lurks a serious threat to the future of the kit car industry.

The Government are looking to consult on the introduction of a strict emissions test for rebuilt or modified classic vehicles – one which would fail any car that doesn’t meet current emission regulations. As all of us know, an engine of historic origin designed and built before the millennium will not pass such severe contemporary legislation.

Fanning flames around the accusation that classic cars are being targeted by the DVLA, the intended change will require owners to prove the vehicle is worthy of the Historic tax category. Should the V5C be confiscated, the car will have to be put through an IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) test, where the older designs would have to pass emission standards for 2018.

The report states, hidden away on page 16, ‘We are proposing that for kit cars, compliance with the MOT emissions standards current at the date of registration will be required, despite the use of an older engine.’

‘In other words the current relaxation for emissions according to the age of the engine will no longer apply.’

Boiling all the jargon down, any kit car or modified classic hybrid still employing an older engine – from the Ford Kent unit to the Rover V8 – will need to match the stern parameters a brand new Volkswagen Golf is required to clear.

Classic car enthusiasts have scrutinised the proposals and found several liabilities within the Government’s report. According to discussions between those within the classic car industry on the RHOCAR forum, these suggestions appear not to be a consultation, but rather a notice of intent. They have pointed out there is no time for due process to be discussed, while not one of the consulates from the Department of Transport’s list has anything to do with the kit car industry.

The forum also highlighted there should be separate consultation for the proposals, with previous legislation changes formulated between two and four years.

Further explored is the concept that WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure) testing as part of IVA would be largely impossible – being too complicated and time consuming to be performed as part of what is already a lengthy and expensive process.

It has also been claimed that successful completion of the test would depend not only on the type of engines and emission controls, but also other aerodynamic devices fitted to the car.

Moreover, manufacturers of kit cars and the surrounding industry could face complete collapse. The UK kit car industry has already adapted to guidelines previously introduced over the preceding decades, yet further changes to IVA and MOT regulations that already offer very little real benefit – although widely accepted and followed – would leave only a negative impact on the market as an entirety.

‘Ask anybody in the industry if they feel this is a good idea, and they will say no,’ explained car restoration and modification specialist Ben McDowall. ‘Chances are this plan will kill off any character in the car, too.’

This feeling is resonated in a letter available to sign and send to the Department For Transport.

‘Many kit car builders want cars with a period feel to them,’ it states.

‘Being forced to use a more modern engine is not really an option for them and using an older engine, possible coupled with a modern ECU allows them to retain a period feel but give some consideration to emissions which in most cases, will be far better than what the original manufacturer ever thought possible.’

The kit car industry has managed to survive in the face of legislation which has ensured the process is as difficult as possible, but if the proposed plans were to be put into action, the future of the market looks bleak.

You can find the full 'Improving Air Quality and Safety' report here..

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs has held an emergency meeting on the subject, and we're awaiting to hear its conclusions. The Federation played a huge part in removing the threat to classics in the last round of regulations, and will consult with the government with immediate effect.

We'll keep you updated via the AutoClassics website and Facebook.

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