A gloomy outlook

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Amidst all the festivities and partying (horrid expression!) which afflicted the country after Christmas and New Year (no Boxing Night Exeters or racing at Brands Hatch, alas) I hesitated to spread gloom and alarm. However. it will be as well to heed a warning issued recently by that organisation which exists to protect the motor sporting world from any adverse legislation from Governmental sources namely, the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.

This essential body has warned that should the Roadworthiness Testing Directorate, Section 4(3), now going through the EU, be accepted unamended it could, take a deep breath, “wipe out the whole historic vehicle movement in Europe”. Why? Because it stipulates that all member states must ensure that vehicles which do not meet the minimum requirements relating to braking systems and exhaust gases are not to be used on the road.

Pause to digest the full implications of such a law…

Obviously these regulations are directed at comparatively recent vehicles, but they would stop the use of anything prior to about 1985 on Britain’s public roads. Normally this fearsome prospect would be resisted at the plenary session of the European Transport Committee. But at the meeting last October, the expected vote against regulations which would pose a direct threat to the use of old vehicles was not held. The FBHVC regards this as “a very worrying situation”.

The new EU ruling by the RTD would be the end of so much pleasure derived up to now and over a very long period indeed by the use of vintage and older vehicles on our roads. No longer would those millions of people turn out on a cold November morning to watch the cavalcade of motoring history pass by, in the form of many hundreds of working pre-1905 horseless carriages on their way to Brighton. No longer would charities benefit from spectators viewing old vehicles driven to club and other rallies around the country. It goes further than that. The restoration of such vehicles is very big business indeed, employing a worthwhile number of employees, as is the sale of such cars, from specialist salerooms and in the very many auction houses. If such vehicles were only able to be driven on private ground, much of their appeal would be lost, and a trade which is auseful contribution to Britain’s prosperity would die away. Suppliers of spares, restorers, dealers, even clubs which have paid staff to run them, would be seriously curtailed, if not destroyed.

Clearly the EU control is intended to promote safety and reduce pollution. But the comparatively small numbers of older vehicles in use, so small that they are granted tax-free status here, have an infinitesimal effect on such ideals. Low compression engines are said to emit fewer harmful fumes than modern engines, older cars are slower overall and carefully driven, as befits such valuable objects. At one time it was felt by Government that it would be as wrong to dictate to the populace the age at which its motor vehicles must be scrapped as to ban pavements to old people. Now the EU could wipe out from every road in Europe the use of older vehicles, whether for pleasure or as utility transport.

It is unthinkable! This is not a political paper. But there is an election looming, so there is time to protest to your MP if you object to a Federal Europe, in which Brussels will rule our way of motoring and our everyday lives, even to single currency (those awful bank notes, to which the Daily Mail in particular has drawn critical attention) and so on. And the FBHVC deserves your full support. That it has valuable “clout” was seen when a senior UK member of the EU RTD was called from the aforesaid ETC meeting to be shown a FBHVC press release against the proposed legislation which, praise be, seems to have diverted the threat to our vehicle-freedom, at least for the moment The Federation’s new secretary is Michael Holt-Chateauneuf, Jim Whyman having served so effectively in this position previously. The address is PO Box 2506, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9QW. WB