On the first day of Retro Classics in Stuttgart, I spent a very pleasant hour or two with Patrick Rollet, president of the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens.
He had asked to meet me following our news story and my blog on the problems likely to be caused by FIVA’s differentiation between an historic car and an old car, which it would like to be adopted across Europe.
To recap, to be an historic vehicle the definition requires it to be more than 30 years old, well maintained in original condition and not a daily driver. Naturally as an owner of classics that are poorly maintained in unoriginal condition and driven daily, I saw this as a threat to what, before changing its slogan, the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs used to call upholding my freedom to enjoy my classic car how, where and when I want. And I reacted accordingly.
So, it was with a little trepidation that I met M Rollet, expecting to find myself confronted with an angry man. Truth be told he seemed a bit more bewildered, or perhaps slightly exasperated, than angry.
When he started to explain I could see why and it is only fair that I report his side of the argument. You can read elsewhere about the misunderstanding and misinterpretations M Rollet feels have skewed the perception of FIVAs description, but his longer-term disappointment, in a sort of deep sigh of resignment kind of way, runs a bit deeper than that. To summarise, here are a few of the reasons why M Rollet and his FIVA colleagues are frustrated in (not quite) his own words.
1) Classic owners always seem to jump to the conclusion that FIVA is working against them, when it actually only exists to represent them.
2) Given that its power as a lobbying group is determined by its strength in numbers why would FIVA want to do anything to alienate or exclude most of them?
3) Everyone seems to assume that FIVA is part of the EU’s Brussels administration dishing out edicts to enthusiasts when actually it is the opposite, its raison d’etre being to persuade the authorities to do what is best for classic owners.
4) While we are on the subject (my words, not his, but I am warming to this) why does everyone assume that FIVA only deals with Europe? It does have its offices in Brussels, because that is where it does most of its work, but actually its role and reach is global, including the Americas.
5) It reet sticks in ma craw (OK, those definitely weren’t the urbane Monsieur Rollet’s words) that people are always leveling accusations that FIVA just represents the elite. In fact M Rollet has an MGB, vice president of legislation Tiddo Bresters has three VW Beetles and a Type 3 stationwagon and they see FIVA’s job, like C&SC’s (so he said, quite correctly) as embracing and defending all enthusiasts whatever their means. Also see point 2).
Difficult to argue with any of that, but does it allay my fears? Well yes and no. I definitely don’t think that FIVA is out to get us or would ever sell enthusiasts down the river, or promote legislation that is detrimental to us, but then I never did. FIVA’s hierachy are enthusiasts at heart just like me and as an organisation it would never seek to impose (nor should it for its own long-term survival) some sort of classic apartheid.
On the other hand, I do still worry that, while I know its intentions are good, it could naively provoke a definition being enshrined in law that could be used against us (willfully or not) by those who do not have enthusiast’s best interests at heart. I put this to M Rollet and he sadly concedes that it is a very bleak view, but not absolutely impossible.
So, what is the answer? Well it could be as simple as a tiny amendment to the definition to make it less finite. Just add “generally” or “on the whole” or “for the most part” at the start and I guess I would be happy that FIVA is describing rather than proscribing.
Or we could come up with a whole new definition. I rather like simplifying it to a phrase coined by FIVA VP or external relations Gautam Sen when all this blew up: ‘Used because of the pleasure gained from driving them.’ Now just imagine the policy-makers and pen-pushes trying to get their heads around a truly “conceptual” definition such as that.