Matters of moment, December 1988

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Old cars: use and abuse

The Veteran to Classic car scene has expanded enormously over the years, and now represents a highly important part of the overall motoring movement. In fact, the new Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs claims to represent nearly 300,000 owners with 400,000 vehicles.

The number of competitive events for old vehicles has multiplied, with autojumbles to sustain them and concours d’etat for those who prefer to polish (or tart-up) their cars in exchange for prizes — the pre-war idea of posing elegant girls with beautiful cars is virtually forgotten.

Innumerable contests such as the Mille Miglia and Alpine Trial are now re-enacted in the hope that former glories will rub off on them in spite of inappropriate entries being accepted; next year any pre-1959 car which has appeared in a film or on television is invited to rally to Nice, and no doubt many will deem the publicity worth the £1300 entry-fee.

Classic car shows are rife, for anything from aged and better-forgotten family cars to E-Types and Dinos, and the Brighton Run, which began as a challenge to enthusiasts to coax primitive cars perhaps not long dragged from barn and hedgerow to the finish, now clogs the A23, many of the passengers being celebrities with no motoring connections.

Worse still, the value of anything on wheels which is old has increased alarmingly from the viewpoint of young people hoping to take up the old-car hobby, to the extent that “old” cars are being constructed in increasing numbers!

Sentiments have certainly changed since the Veteran Car Club was founded to preserve historic transport heirlooms, and the Vintage Sports-Car Club was formed for those with the right motor-cars (sporting ones made before 1931), or with the right ideas but the wrong cars. But in this altered old-car world the VCC still conscientiously attempts to correctly date its pre-1905 veterans, and the VSCC called a meeting open to all its members on November 19, in an endeavour to revise its elegibility rules.

We are very glad that the VSCC has decided to ban newly-built “old” cars. Other problems are less easily solved: is it within VSCC rules, for instance, to scrap an original body on a vintage chassis to create something more sporting? If an historic engine exists, can a modern chassis of original type be made to accommodate it? Conversely, what of a racing-car devoid of its original engine?

These are just some of the difficulties involved in regulating those who are keen to win speed events and trials with old cars. The VCC, the VSCC and all those who administer the significantly strong old-car movement will need to be vigilant indeed.

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