Wednesday, December 21, 2005

They Must Be Mad

The Prancing Mouse - tongue-in-cheek badging on the F500What happens when you take a standard Fiat 500, rip out everything, put the stripped bodyshell (with newly flared wheel arches, of course) back on a custom racing chassis and fit a super-light, 150bhp, Ducati 999R motorcycle engine in the boot? You have the F500, perhaps the most ridiculous supercar known to man.

It will do 0-60mph (0-100kph) in under 4 seconds. It is limited to 120mph (195kph). It has the most ludicrous power to weight ratio in the known universe and better performance than a Ferrari Enzo. Indeed its makers, racing engineers Hartham, refer to it as "truly a miniature Ferrari in every sense".

This sort of insanity and irresponsible engineering is very likely to get people killed. But they will die with the smile to end all smiles on their face if they do it at 120mph in an F500. Fantastic. If I had the spare cash, I'd order one today.

And you've got to love the badging.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Done And Dusted

I've finally done it! I've completed all the DVLA paperwork, the Customs paperwork and the insurance documentation and the Fiat is on its way to receiving UK plates.

This process is in fact simpler than you might imagine for a classic car. It does still require some research however. Fortunately for you, if you live in the UK and you are bringing a classic car in from within the EU, I've done the research for you.

Purchasing Your Car

All the usual business applies here when selecting your vehicle. Once you have decided this is the car for you and set about purchasing it, make sure you end up with the legal equivalent of the V5 log book for the country you're in. This is both proof of ownership and proof of age, which is very important later on.

In many EU countries the legal transfer of ownership must be carried out by a special type of solicitor (not like the UK, where a green slip and a handshake is enough!) Don't forget to check what the local laws are regarding transfer of property, and if you find you do have to hire such a parasite (I mean, individual), factor this in when setting your budget. It will cost a few hundred pounds.

Getting Your Car Home

So, vehicle paid for (corresponding backs scratched) and legal paperwork in hand, it's time to head for England! Your best bet is usually by ferry, so most people head for the nearest UK-serving ferry port. Note, if you have bought a particularly slow vehicle (such as a Fiat 500) I strongly recommend staying off European motorways, unless of course you are seeking the ultimate cure for constipation.

Fresh off the boat in your chosen UK ferry port, proudly sporting your newly purchased classic car, you can pretty much expect to drive through Customs and off home without any issues - they're not in the business of bothering people driving old cars with foreign plates. Unless afforementioned cars are stuffed with canabis.

Getting An MOT

That's the next job. An MOT should be sought immediately and can be done on the chassis number. Also while odometers reading in kilometres are technically illegal in the UK, this is not part of the MOT test, so the car will pass without modification. Do, however, strategically position little triangular bits of black tape on the headlamp glass to correct the angle of the beam for British roads, or it will fail.

Headlamps will be set up for the "wrong" side of the road. Of course, the reality is most classic car headlamps in original condition are about a dazzling as bicycle lights so, post-MOT, ghastly tape can be removed without unduly upsetting your fellow motorists. However it is preferable to set the lamps up correctly for driving on the left.

Getting Insured

Once again, UK insurance can be obtained using the chassis number. Here it is a case of "buyer beware". BIBA themselves (shame on them!) put me through to a bunch of crooks who were going to charge me £200 for one month of insurance by chassis number, on the basis it was "specialist" insurance. This is nonsense. I contacted my usual classic insurer of choice, Footman James, who immediately covered the car on its chassis number for the same fee as I would've been charged to cover it with a UK plate.

Paying Your Taxes

Or indeed, not. There is nothing to pay on a second-hand classic car, as VAT is considered to have been paid in the EU member state when the vehicle was new. And there's no import duty because you're within the EU. All you need to do is obtain and fill in all the details you can on a VAT-414 form from Her Majesty's Revenues & Customs. This is available online. It will ask you for a UK license plate, but leave this blank and send the VAT-414 with your DVLA application (covered next) and the DVLA will fill it in and forward it to Customs.

Getting UK Plates

The final step! Now you have all the information to hand the DVLA will require before they will issue a UK license plate. You need to fill in the DVLA V55/5 form (this is only available by calling or writing to the DVLA - you cannot get it through the Post Office or download it). You should receive an information booklet with this form, telling you how to fill it in, but even with that much of the information requested is not relevant to a classic car. I called the DVLA to ask their advice and they took me through it step by step. I advise you to do the same if you're not sure.

Don't forget, if the vehicle was first registered prior to November 1973 in another country you should not be due to pay any road tax. In this case the "license fee" (as I think they call it) should be £0.00.

Once this form is completed, you will need to include a cheque for the admin fee (currently £38), proof of identity (e.g. passport), proof of address (e.g. bank statement), original vehicle documentation from the EU country in which the car was purchased, car MOT, valid UK insurance certificate and your completed Customs VAT-414 form. Pop this lot in the post to your local DVLA office (in my case Chelmsford, but the DVLA can advise you) and wait.

Note this is where the proof of age mentioned at the start is very important and must be included with the V55/5. If the DVLA cannot ascertain the age of the vehicle they'll issue a Q plate, and no one wants a Q plate on a classic 1960s automobile!

De-registering The Vehicle

When I said you were done, I lied. You're finished with the paperwork for the UK, however, you must also inform the authorities in the relevant member state the vehicle no longer resides there (the equivalent to a SORN declaration in the UK). This obviously varies from country to country and you'll have to find out about this yourselves, but I imagine the consulate for whichever country is concerned will be more than happy to assist you.

And that's your lot. In due course you should receive a V5 logbook for your car, with which you can go and commission your UK license plates. We're still looking forward to this happy day, as we only sent the forms off a week ago, but we qualify for black and white plates (the same rules apply as for road tax) which will look really nice on our cream Fiat 500. Can't wait!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Road Tax

A UK Road Tax disc on display Today is a good day to rant. It's Monday morning, I have a hospital visit this afternoon (just routine, folks) and I want to be at home in bed!

So, road tax. This isn't a new issue any more, but I got to thinking about it yesterday, and it really, really annoys me. Ever since the UK government began taxing motorists for the use of the nation's tarmac (as if they don't take enough tax from the cost of petrol), they have incremented the exemption year for tax so that cars over 30 years of age are tax exempt.

Why? Because these vehicles are clearly labours of love. They wouldn't be on the road at all if people weren't looking after them, they do very few miles and it's like a reward scheme for people keeping little bits of motoring heritage alive.

These museum pieces would all be on the scrap heap if it wasn't for the dedication of their owners and no one would ever see Lotus Elans, MGB GTs, Jaguar S-types, etc. - even more lowly specimens such as Mk 1 Ford Escorts or indeed, our own little Fiat 500, would be forgotten and resigned to black and white photo albums by now.

So it's a nice gesture to give people who poor their hearts, souls and wallets in to the maintenance of these days gone by of motoring a bit of a break. Great idea, no? Well the buggers stopped all that in 2004.

My 1974 Lotus Elan, a beautiful car, every bit a classic and in spite of being over 30 years old now, will never be tax exempt if the current government has anything to do with it. My father's early Jaguar XJ-S convertible, in spite of still having about 15 years to go, will thoroughly deserve classic status when it gets there. There weren't very many made. However under present legislation he can forget about it.

The government is just not interested any more. Worse than that, they seem to be discouraging any future classic car ownership. I'm sure they have got more important things to worry about, but why oh why did they change the rules when everything was going along just swimmingly?

There's also a more serious implication for post-'74 classics. It has to affect the value of vehicles built after the tax "watershed" - especially vehicles which span both sides of the cut off date. The ones registered prior to '74 must be more sought after than post-'74 vehicles, precisely because they are tax exempt.

The most gauling thing for me is my car was actually built in 1973 and was registered on 1st January 1974 as the original owner was one of these people who wanted to try and get one of the very first plates of the year. D'oh!! At least the Fiat is 1971.