FBHVC and HCVA both want to make it harder for classics to be lumbered with Q-plates

The call for evidence by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) concerning its existing policies and registration processes for historic, classic and rebuilt vehicles is gathering pace, with both the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) and Historic & Classic Vehicles Alliance (HCVA) compiling detailed responses to help as many interested parties as possible negotiate the complex 46-question form. And while there are nuances in each organisation’s response, both want to see changes made to enable more classics to retain their original registration numbers, as opposed to being allocated a Q registration.

The difference in response concerns the threshold at which a Q-plate should be issued, if at all. For context, both organisations agree there is no need for the DVLA to have a ‘rebuilt vehicles’ category, and that ‘restored’ can be used instead. However, they differ in how far ‘restored’ can be taken without the car’s identity being affected. The Federation feel that, whilst the use of new components is unavoidable (and that this should be recognised) there should be enough of the original vehicle remaining to enable a suitably knowledgeable person to identify make, model and approximate year of manufacture.

In the Federation’s view, like-for-like repairs carried out to a good quality standard should not affect the identity of the vehicle, nor should minor modifications (e.g. the addition or deletion of a small bracket or the drilling of holes). Modifications similar to those known to have been carried out in period should also not affect the identity. Safety-related changes, such as fitting seatbelts, should be considered on their merits by a technically competent assessor.

The Federation feels that a Q registration should not be assigned until all alternatives have been exhausted. It argues that original registration of the vehicle should be retained where possible to preserve the heritage of the vehicle, and if this is not possible, an age-related plate should be issued.

Both the FBHVC and HCVA are against allocating a new vehicle identification number (VIN) unless absolutely necessary

However, there is a line: the Federation’s stance is that removal, addition or alteration of major components such as the roof from a monocoque body should be considered as a new identity. Only these instances should cause a Q registration to be issued.

Regarding a new DVLA vehicle identification number (VIN), the Federation’s position is similar. Its response talks about the role of specialist historic vehicle clubs, which can reference archives, similar vehicles and expert members. It feels all avenues of this nature should be exhausted before a vehicle is “defaced” with a new VIN. It feels these should only be allocated when no other identification can be established or when the original identity of the vehicle has completely changed.

The HCVA, meanwhile, has proposed a response that seemingly makes Q-plates and DVLA VINs all but impossible. It feels there is no ‘fine line’, and the vehicle’s identity is not brought into question by rebuilding or altering a chassis or monocoque bodyshell, and DVLA should never remove an original registration or VIN from a vehicle due to it being rebuilt.

To reiterate the point, the FBHVC’s position is that the current guidance on ‘radically altered’ vehicles and the points system used (where 8 or more points are required to retain is the original registration) is still broadly relevant, but should be extended to include used chassis/monocoque/frame as in many cases new items are not available – thus opening up greater flexibility when constructing cars period parts.

However, the HCVA’s opinion is that the term ‘radically altered’ should only apply to vehicles so drastically altered that the original historic vehicle has ceased to be. The point at which that line is crossed should be decided by a stakeholder group of experts alongside DVSA and DVLA, with the current points system deemed not fit for purpose. For the HCVA, EV-converted classics also fit in this category, while FBHVC deems electric conversions as no longer being historic vehicles.

The HCVA believes that the only justification for rescinding a registration number is in the very rare case that another vehicle has a more valid claim to that registration number. In such a case, adjudicated by industry specialists, clubs and from expert inspection, the allocation of an age-related registration number, not a Q, should be the default position.

Similarly, it believes the DVLA should never issue a new VIN to a historic vehicle unless it has no claim to an original registration number and there is no chassis/frame number displayed on the vehicle or identifiable to it from archival sources. In a similar vein to the FBHVC, the HCVA feels there are enough resources out there, including clubs, manufacturers and archives, to confirm identity in these cases. Where doubt remains, it recommends an independent stakeholder panel consisting of industry and marque experts, along with DVLA colleagues, to arbitrate.

Although the FBHVC and HCVA’s responses do not fully align, the desire to move away from Q-plates as a default is surely a positive move in keeping classics on the road and preserving heritage. We’re interested by your thoughts on this one – are there circumstances where Q-plates are still appropriate, or are they no longer so? Let us know at ccb.ed@kelsey.co.uk

What is a Q-plate?

If the DVLA has doubts about a car’s age or identity, a Q-plate can be assigned to that vehicle. The registration number will carry the letter Q in its prefix, hence the name.

Normal uses for Q-plates include kit cars, ex-MOD vehicles with classified backgrounds, some personal imports, as well as the contentious ‘reconstructed’ classics and those with no VIN. Some heavily modified cars can also be given Q registrations.

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