Fess up to the Feds for all our sakes

| 2 Jun 2011

As the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs starts delving our hobby to empower its elbow against the expenses cheats in parliament (OK, that's a bit strong, but I have to get your attention!), it got me wondering about the scale of our hobby. And more importantly, the difficult task that faces the FBHVC.

Tackling the latter issue first, the poor old Federation (a sort of kindly uncle watching over all of us, but armed with a baseball bat should anyone get threatening) has one hell of a fundamental dilemma. And that is that the bigger and more impressive the stats of classic car ownership and usage, the bigger the bat it carries, but the bigger the potential opposition it may stir up.

In an ideal world, the results would say that our hobby is a massive industry, generating squillions of pounds and vital to the national economy (which it is), but that no one actually uses the cars very much causing lots of nasty pollution or raising any road safety issues (which is rather less true, I hope).

Of course, they could exaggerate the figures (rather as some people might fiddle their expenses claims, there I go again), but they assure me that there is no need. And hats off to the Feds, so far they have managed this balancing act with great aplomb.

So, how big is our hobby-cum-industry? Well, the last big survey was in 2006 (with a supplement added in 2009) and the results, considering the Fed is the first to admit that given much of the trade's unwillingness to reveal its full income the numbers could be ridiculously conservative, are eye-opening. If you are not familiar with them, I just thought I would share a few, hopefully interesting, snippets about who we are, what we do and what we spend.

Our hobby is worth £3 billion a year (that's enough for 182,000 duck houses apparently) including £300 million in exports and employs close to 30,000 people in the UK, 52% of whom are under 45 (the point being that we are training up and providing work for a new generation, you see).

Then there are the cars. In a great demonstration of the Fed juggling its data as mentioned about, there are 400,000 road legal classic in the UK, BUT 83% are used fewer than three times a week and 65% of them travel fewer than 900 miles a year (shame on you, 65% of owners). Mind you, this point allows me to post lots of piccies of my classics being used so you don't have to stare at a wall of text. Here's another...

Historic vehicles account for a mere (ahem) 1.3% of vehicles (note, not cars) on the roads in the UK. Of the cars, Triumph is king, followed by Austin, Morris and Zundapp (nah, it's actually MG in fourth), then Jaguar, Ford and Riley.

So what about us, the hobbyists? We are younger and poorer than usually assumed and our cars are less valuable with 67% of them valued at under £10,000. No shock to me there, just some reassurance that I am amongst friends of similar brokeness!

The majority of us consider our vehicles to be in very good condition (that makes me a minority, don't start discriminating against me), and 30% of all enthusiasts are engineers (makes sense, I guess).

If the stats are bigger than you expected, you also need to bear a few things in mind. For a start, there is the point made earlier about trade revenues, but also remember that the survey only considers vehicles owned by members of FBHVC clubs and your classic only counts as a historic vehicle for the sake of the survey if it is 30 years old. So, this might be a big lump of ice, but it is still only the tip.

If you would like to know more about all this, the Federation has rather usefully made all these reports available for download at its website. To take part in this year's survey click here