FIVA has reassured classic owners that it does not want a huge number of classics reclassified as “old” cars rather than “historic” vehicles, putting them at the mercy of modern legislation and emissions tests. The move comes after the Brussels-based organisation prompted widespread panic among enthusiasts by issuing a press release saying that only cars more than 30 years old, properly maintained in original condition and not regularly used could be viewed as historic.
When the press release, in which the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens was lobbying for a consistent Europe-wide exemption for historic vehicles from LEZs, was reported, owners of cars that did not meet the criteria were up in arms, especially in the UK. The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs even asked for it to be retracted.
Now FIVA has sought to clarify its position, as well as expressing shock at the reaction and dismay that its motives have been “misinterpreted”. In an exclusive interview with C&SC, FIVA president Patrick Rollet said that the definition had been in use for years and had never previously sparked such fury, plus that the reaction was largely restricted to the UK. He said: “Perhaps part of the problem is that with the Brexit referendum coming up in Britain, there is a lot of scepticism about anything to do with Europe and our press release has got caught up in that.
“Because FIVA is based in Brussels and our name is in French it is easy for people to think that we are part of the European bureaucracy, but we are not, we are a global lobbying group not part of the European Union machine.”
He stressed that since its inception, the definition had only ever been “conceptual”, dreamed up purely to differentiate between “a car that is owned with passion – and pleasure is derived from driving it – and an old car that someone owns just because they cannot afford anything better”. It was thought necessary to have such a description so issues could be easily explained to people with no knowledge of historic vehicles, or in some cases of road transport at all.
M Rollet said that even were the definition officially adopted by the European Union, it would not pass into law because the EU only offers directives on transport matters and each member state was free to interpret them and implement them as it wishes. He added that, further to that, such a definition would be impossible to enforce because there is no such thing as an entirely original car. “We have a particular weapon in culture,” he said. “Our objective is to have historic cars officially recognised as part of our culture [UNESCO has granted official patronage to FIVA declaring 2016 World Motoring Heritage Year] because as the French saying goes ‘you don’t mess with culture’.”