Suffolk Spectacular

Friday

I waved my work colleagues goodbye and drove off into the sun with roof open, but soon stopped on A47 as the clouds gathered and temperature dropped, jumper on, roof closed. I took Steve’s advice and jumped off the A14 at J51, a decision well taken as I was soon treated to some delightful villages. I came across a petrol station so took advantage, and on hearing the distinct toot from a fellow 500 I had a coincidental meet up with Richard and Lianna with their cute VW Caravan.

I arrived at my destination, the Dolphin Inn in Thorpeness, around 3.45 in sunshine, to be met by the Scanes and Edmunds who were sitting, as planned, in the garden. The Inn was not open but I was signed in and took the opportunity of grabbing a Beer, well I am on holiday, and to my amazement the landlord said if anyone else wanted anything, just help yourself and make a note. I soon returned with 4 more thirsty travellers and a scrap of paper!

The evening was very social in The Kitchen, who had opened especially for us – and allowed dogs which is a bonus for Tinker and her 4 mates.   No incidents, the humans all behaved very well and we wandered off to our various sleeping establishments.

Saturday

Very comfy bed, albeit I thought I may self-combust with the heat! I met my other Dolphinites for a fantastic breakfast, though was envious of Janet’s Smoked Salmon on Scrambled Egg (must have tomorrow), then the rest of the club all pulled up outside for our first outing. We had a lap of honour round Thorpeness, sadly it seems too early for this sleepy village, but we enjoyed it. Our first visit was Aldeburgh where we were allowed to park all together on the front.

We all went separate ways for a wander round the lovely fishing town, before moving off to The Bawdsey Radar Bunker, which also had opened just for us, and dog friendly – I could get to like this County! Next stop was lunch in a very busy pub, but organised with a specific varied menu to make it quicker and easier to order at our reserved tables. It has to be said that the steep decent to the parking area, right on the edge of the water, with Fiat brakes, was a little alarming. All 19 cars made it, though Will took this moment to find he had no foot brake! Onto Sutton Hoo, for an amble round the Museum, Tinker was farmed out at this point, strangely the Café allowed dogs but the Museum did not. Then I joined others to walk round some grassy mounds of Archaeological interest, Sally and I were tempted to have a dig to see if we could find anything! This was also the first Ice-cream opportunity for some. The day was over all too soon and we headed back. Tonight’s meal was in the Dolphin so I sat in the garden, in the sun, with a beer, sleepy dog and a box of Fiat Spare Parts to identify – I gave up fairly quickly, pleased I had recognised the fishing float as a fuel filter, and spotted the windscreen wipers. Great evening, charming company, lovely food with excellent service – bed exhausted.

Sunday

Smoked Salmon for breakfast which tasted as good as it looked. Then all assembled at The Dolphin again for a drive out to Coastguard Cottages, to sit in the sun, in the garden overlooking the sea. Marvellous. We managed to avoid all the other vehicles on the narrow roads and runners who decided today was a good day for a marathon. Then it was a drive off to Southwold for either a walk round the gorgeous town and/or trip round Adnams Brewery (would be rude not to). Tinker was abandoned to Colin and Mandy, well what is one more small dog when you already have 4?

The tour was very interesting, culminating in a taster session where you could drink to your hearts content or not depending on whether you were the driver or not. I then tracked my dog back to the car and sat in the sun enjoying a Crab Sandwich.   Back to various hostelries fairly early, I sat in the garden (with a beer) chatting with Adelle, Keith, Lianna and Richard till it was time to change and walk to The Edmunds for a fish and chip supper from a take-away van, followed by a local ice-cream. Again, a very social evening with DJ’s Amy and Zoe and a “fun” quiz which highlighted a small amount of competitiveness within the group! Small stroll back to flop exhausted in bed.

Monday

Time to say goodbye to a few ☹ and then pack the car and drive out to Snape Maltings followed by the little village of Orford. More lovely journeys on country roads, some rather better than others and thankful that we were in small cars. Snape was very interesting with things to do for all ages and interests, whether it be antiques, clothes or walks – or for the chaps, a sit in the sun/shade to wait for wives to show off their purchases! Then a group park in Orford for refreshment, it was very busy and the Café on the front was full so we found a pub with a garden and sat out for lunch or coffee. Then it was my turn to leave the group. My Sat Nav took me a totally different way home so I saw more of the UK. I did have to stop for the sake of Tinker who was suffering on the front seat, I repacked the back seat, put her bed on my suitcase so she got the benefit of the wind through her locks, and she fell asleep instantly.

Fantastic weekend – Steve and Mandy have set the bar very high for future planners.

Felicity Greenfield

June 2018 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for June 2018 is now available to members.

Contents: Suffolk Spectacular; A Fiat 500 with attitude; A day in Hurley, hosted by our President; Bridge of Allan Classic car show 13/5/2018; Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble ‘Drive it Day’ 22/4/18

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

 

London Classic Car Show Report

Taking place over 3 and half days from 15th to 18th February at Excel in London, this was a very large and prestigious event with 30,000 visitors across the weekend. With over 700 cars being exhibited some with a value in excess of £500,000; it was primarily a showcase for rare and highly desirable vehicles polished and prepped to within an inch of their lives. It included a long concourse in the centre of the floor space where every two hours a selection of historic vehicles and performance sports cars were driven along it leaving a trail of high octane fumes. It was a petrol head paradise.

At the end of 2017 a selection of car clubs were invited by the organisers to apply, after much correspondence the application from Paul Anderson on behalf of the Fiat 500 Club UK was accepted. This was the first time the club has had a stand at the London Classic Car Show and with another club pulling out at the last minute we had a double size plot at our disposal enabling the four Fiats on display to look even more charming with space for them to be fully admired. The committee had to a make their selection from several cars submitted for consideration by members and choose Jack’s impeccable white 1961 Nuovo 500, Paul’s dark blue 1970 Nuovo 500 with beautiful deep cherry red seats, Lisa’s rosso corallo red 1973 500L with Abarth styling and Tracey’s rare RHD 1971 Giardiniera. Tracey’s West Country gem had been trailered from South Devon in order to attend; the other 3 were driven to the venue on a rainy Wednesday evening for the allotted load in time.

Rod, Roger, Janet, Paul and Christine dressed the stand with the Fiat 500 Club banners and display boards along with a selection of merchandise and a table and chairs for club members to enjoy the occasional sit down, eating rather too many cakes and chatting. The stand was located next to The Getaway Car section, and the odd juxtaposition of some of the fastest cars situated adjacent to some of the slowest and under powered was rather amusing. The Getaway Cars had been curated by actor Philip Glenister (DCI Gene Hunt in the TV series Ashes to Ashes and presenter of For the Love of Cars) and on Saturday afternoon after an invitation from Rod he visited the Fiat stand for a few photographs.

Over the weekend several club members visited the stand and hundreds if not thousands of attendees took time to enjoy the Fiat 500s on display taking photographs and talking to the owners about their cars. There was genuine interest expressed with people reminiscing on being owners in the 1960’s and 70’s and others marvelling at their miniature magnificence.

One visitor remarked we were the happiest and most welcoming stand at the event, it had been noted a few other exhibitors appeared to take the world of classic cars very seriously. The club’s presence resulted in signing up many new members over the weekend. If you are one of them, welcome and do come to an event in 2018, you will be assured of a good time.

 Lisa Bardsley

April 2018 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for April 2018 is now available to members.

Contents:Very Important Data Policy Information; 500C Riva article; London Classic Car Show report; Steering rack conversion for Fiat 500; Sharnbrook Breakfast meet and driveout reports

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

Rizzle’s Boxing Day Blast

After a fabulous 2017 in our 1970 Fiat 500L ‘Rizzle’ (including glorious Goodwood and the luscious Lake District), we decided to end the year in style. We seized the Boxing Day and after the usual checks headed out into the chilly sunshine.

We found ourselves re-visiting one of 2017’s outings – Foxton Locks, Leicestershire. It’s only 20 miles from our house and is a beautiful place for a meander along the canal.

It was packed with people trying to walk off the Christmas Day blow out and as usual, Rizzle stole the show. With admiring glances and smiley faces aplenty (just one of the great things about owning one these great little cars).

After a hearty walk and a much-needed hot chocolate, we headed home, accompanied by more invigorating waving and tooting.

Back in his kennel an excitable Rizzle had a quick polish and was lovingly put back to bed. With those big, puppy dog eye lights Rizzle reminded us that he’s not just for Christmas! We’ll try and let him off of the leash any excuse we get.

A happy and healthy New Year to all, here’s to an even more fun packed 2018 – we feel a ‘Suffolk Saunter’ coming on!

Richard Simister & Lianna Lawrence

MOT exemptions – what does this mean?

What follows is a summary of the current (as of January 2018) documentation from the DVLA and other sources. The opinions are the author’s own, and should be used as the basis of a decision one way or the other to apply for or expect MOT exemption, especially if the car has been ‘modified’ from the original specification at the time of manufacture.

With production of the Fiat 500R ending in 1975, it’s now been over 42 years since a Fiat 500 of any sort rolled off the production line. From 20th May 2018, this means all Fiat 500 cars, vans and estates etc… are exempt from the annual MOT test, as from that date, and any vehicle over 40 years old can be exempted. This is quite a significant change as previously, whilst the 40 year rule applied to vehicle excise duty exemption, only vehicles made before 1960 could be exempted from the MOT, which at the time of the Government consultation amounted to 197,000 vehicles. With research at Transport Research Laboratory indicating that fewer than 3% of vehicle road casualties (in 2011) were caused by vehicle defects, the Government felt it was time for a change.

The Government consultation received 899 notices of public support for their proposal to exempt all cars over 40 years old on a rolling basis from the annual MOT, and what was interesting was that more people (1,130) were against it – mainly on the grounds of safety. The backdrop to the change however was probably that an increasing number of older cars would be unable to be tested by modern MOT stations. They didn’t have catalysts, and whilst an increasing number might have ABS, electronic devices and fuel injection, the items in the MOT test not applicable to the older car was getting longer and longer. The consultation also contended that such cars tended to be maintained in good condition, and were used infrequently and for shorter trips. It also, as mentioned above, harmonised vehicle excise duty exemption with the MOT exemption date on a 40 year rolling basis.

But, in terms of the exemption, it is ‘can’ rather than ‘will’ because there are certain rules DVLA put in place with this change. There are two main requirements, (i) the vehicle needs to be of ‘historic interest’ (VHI), and (ii) must not have been substantially changed.

What is a Vehicle of Historic Interest (VHI)?

Vehicles of historic interest, such as a Fiat 500, or derivative, are defined to have been manufactured over 40 years ago (on a rolling basis) and which have not been substantially modified in the past 30 years. Also, it must not still be in production – obviously, the ‘new’ Fiat 500 is not considered to be the same car(!). Owning such a vehicle still allows you to get the car MOT’d, you can still do so where stations accept older vehicles. The VHI status of such vehicles is undertaken by the owner via self-certification, usually at the time of renewing the vehicle excise duty (even if that is zero). It is not clear, but worth noting for the future, that just because a previous owner self-certified a vehicle as being VHI, does not mean that status continues when you buy it – it is up to the purchaser to ensure any modifications as within the exemptions for ‘substantially changed’ (see below), and that proof of when any modifications were done in period or at least 30 years ago are present and handed over with the vehicle.

When is a vehicle ‘substantially changed’ or modified?

Vehicles that have been substantially changed or modified since 1988 (or 30 years on a rolling basis) would not be exempted from the MOT, the onus would be on the owner to ‘self-certify’ this. It is really important to note that it is also possible such a vehicle might require re-registration, which would be a separate process (i.e. it might get a ‘Q’ plate). By the way, all ‘Q’ plate vehicles must have an MOT, they are never exempted.

It is worth noting that just because your vehicle is tax exempt doesn’t mean you will be automatically exempt from the MOT at the next test date. You will have to certify at the time of VED licence renewal that your car is exempt from the MOT, and self-certify about the ‘substantial change’ part mentioned above. Note that the advisory documents (see a link to all documents at the bottom of this article) state ‘If a vehicle keeper cannot determine that the vehicle has not been substantially changed, they should not claim an exemption from the MOT test.”

The “substantially changed” criteria is based on the main components of the vehicle – (i) chassis or monocoque body shell, (ii) sub-frames, axles and running gear, and (iii) engine. Taking each of these in turn:

Chassis or body shell: Whilst the Fiat 500 can have a full sunroof, and a partial sunroof, on the earlier cars it’s possible to swap these panels around as they bolt in. Later models had this as part of the roof section so you’d have to cut the car about to make a completely roll-down roof. However, it is probably the case that if you had an ‘L’ for instance, you could put a full roll-top sun-roof on the car, and it would still be classified as ‘unmodified’. However, it is highly likely that cutting the entire body shell apart and making a Fiat 500 into a Jolly ‘evocation’ model, would mean the car has been substantially modified. Anyway, it’s also possible that your V5 would then also be wrong if it still said ‘saloon’, and if you asked for that to be changed, you can expect a visit from the licencing authority… The onus would be on you to prove this had been done 30 years ago, with documentary evidence. Changing a Giardiniera into a van, or vice versa should (again) be acceptable, but as with all this, if in doubt, ask the licencing authority before making a declaration.

A point to note about kits such as the Barchetta is that if the Barchetta is taxed as an Historic Vehicle, and the change from Fiat 500 saloon to Barchetta was made over 30 years ago, then the MOT exemption would probably go through – but you would have to prove the change was made 30 years ago, and it would have to be already classified for the purposes of vehicle excise duty as Historic.

Sub-frames, axles, and running gear: If you have removed the suspension components, and changed to a fully independent suspension set-up, or taken the body shell and made a silhouette of the car and put it on a space-frame, these changes would almost certainly render the vehicle to require an MOT, and might even mean the registration changing to a ‘Q’ plate in extreme circumstances. Changing the steering from a steering box to rack and pinion could be considered a substantial change. Putting in a sequential gearbox would also be a substantial change.

Changing from cross-ply tyres to radials is of course OK – on the basis of safety and also lack of availability. Fitting much wider and larger wheels that were not available in period is unlikely to be consider a ‘substantial’ change as they aren’t really covered by the criteria but we might have to wait and see on that one, once other car makes encounter similar issues if challenged by the DVLA.

Engine: The engine needs to retain the same format. In our case, this means two cylinders, and petrol powered. Changing from a 499cc to a 695cc engine should be OK as an Abarth / Fiat 500 did have such an engine in period, and provided such a change was made within the 30 year rule, you should be OK. However, making any other change such as moving the engine forward and making it mid-engined, or changing to a four cylinder engine, or a motorcycle engine would be a substantial change. It’s also possible that a bored-out 750cc engine is not considered a period engine, as it was not offered in period by the factory – the onus, again, would be on the owner to prove that such a change was available in period, or that ‘their’ car has been fitted with that feature for over 30 years, and not done more recently.

In the club, most people have not modified their cars ‘substantially’ but anyone with a motorcycle engined Fiat 500, or thinking about making a Barchetta ‘kit’ body or buying one where the conversation is recent, or where they have cut away the sides to make an evocation of a Jolly, for instance, are probably the owners of a ‘substantially modified’ Fiat 500 and therefore require an MOT at the very least.

The only possible exemptions to the above are where the changes have been made because the original parts are no longer available and you are acting to preserve the vehicle, or the changes have been made on the grounds of efficiency, safety or environmental improvements. You could argue, for instance, that fitting disk brakes would fall under this definition, as could – perhaps – changing from a steering box to rack and pinion steering (which in the case of right hand drive cars are becoming more difficult to source). There are slightly different rules and exemptions for commercial vehicles, licenced as such, and the rules for motorcycles are different too.

Please note that this VHI and substantial change process affects all cars over 40 years old, even those previously exempted i.e. manufactured before 1960, not just for post-1960 cars through to 1978.

All of the Government discussion documents, updated in December 2017 can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/roadworthiness-testing-for-vehicles-of-historic-interest you are advised to read the documents on this link, especially the one ‘Substantial change guidance’ which has formed the basis of this article.

As with all such legislative changes, it is early days, and we’ll aim to keep you up to date with what we find out. As the guidance document does point out, Car Clubs such as ours, as members of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) are here to provide advice on such matters, though such advice will not be binding on the authorities and they will not be obliged to go along with our observations to you (we cannot enter into a discussion with the authorities on your behalf). Obviously, it is important not to try and ‘hoodwink’ the licencing authorities, as this might mean they change their mind and become stricter in the application of the exemptions, so if in our opinion your car is not exempt, we are not in a position to advise otherwise.

What if my vehicle is not classified as a Historic Vehicle already?

By now, all Fiat 500s will be tax-exempt because they are ‘historic vehicles’. When the car tax needs to be renewed, or preferably before, find your V5C, and in the change section alter the Taxation class to ‘historic vehicle’. This changes the status on the system. Without this, you will not be asked to self-certify your vehicle as being MOT exempt from May 2018 onwards. As with all documents, make a copy before sending to the DVLA. Any subsequent V11 reminders will have the status as ‘Historic’.

An incentive to get this done sooner rather than later is that any unused months of tax will be refunded to you within 6 weeks once the status has been processed, if relevant.

If your vehicle is already exempt from an MOT (i.e. declared manufactured before 1960) but the system is saying it isn’t, you will need Form V112 and you will need to state it as class ‘O’ (vehicles manufactured or registered before 1st January 1960). It’s possible that this form will remain after May 20th 2018, and that it will be just a simple date change to the definition.

In Summary

  • The Fiat 500 (1957-1975) is considered to be a Vehicle of Historic Interest
  • As it is over 40 years old, it will be exempt from the annual MOT provided
    • It is already classified as Historic Tax class
    • It has not been significantly modified in the last 30 years with
      • No major changes to bodywork
      • Engine is still 2 cylinders and 695cc or lower
      • Motorcycle engines, mid-engine changes, sequential gearboxes are not allowed
      • No changes to braking, steering or suspension unless due to safety, environmental or efficiency purposes
    • The responsibility for declaring this is the owner by self-certification
    • If a vehicle pays vehicle excise duty, it cannot be MOT exempt
    • Changes to your vehicle taxation class is not automatic, and requires a declaration from the owner on the V5C, as this then triggers the MOT exemption on Tax renewal.

Finally, just because your vehicle becomes MOT exempt, doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to get your car MOT’d, for as long as that is possible and keep your car roadworthy. Cars found to be in a dangerous condition risk the owner a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points.

Happy motoring!

Julian Wakeley

February 2018 Newsletter

The Fiat 500 Club UK magazine for February 2018 is now available to members.

Contents: Minutes of the 25th AGM of the Fiat 500 Club; Virginia, new member Carlo Pambianchi’s story of finding his Fiat 500; MOT Exemptions  –  What does this mean?; Rizzle’s Boxing Day blast by members Richard Simister & Lianna Lawrence.

Members can access this issue in the ‘members only’ Magazine section HERE but only if you are registered. If you are a member, but can’t get access you can register for your access code when you are asked for your username (at the bottom of the screen) – please have your valid Membership Number ready. Please note, we do check this before accepting registrations and it could take up to a week to get access approved.

London Classic Car Show

The Club will have a stand at the London Classic Car Show, Excel from Thursday 15th – Sunday 18th February 2018.

Please use the special code (F500) to book discounted tickets, which now includes Single adult day tickets at £20. Come along and see us there!

Regent Street Motor Show

After purchasing my shiny red 1973 500L in October I decided it would be wise to join the Fiat 500 Club UK to make the most of owning my precious gem of a car. Much to my surprise within a week of joining Gino Mansi phoned me to enquire if I would be interested in attending with the Regent Street Motor Show with my car. After researching the event on the internet, I realised this was a big deal. The whole of Regent Street, one of the most prestigious shopping streets in London, would be closed to traffic on Saturday 4th November creating the UK’s largest free motor show, how should I refuse? Gino kindly arranged my participant’s vehicle pass with the organiser, which as the deadline loomed arrived less than 24 hours before the start time, causing a degree of anxiety waiting for it.

Although I only live 7 miles from the glittering West End in Forest Hill this would be the longest drive I had undertaken in the car. Driving into central London can be pretty daunting at the best of times let alone in a car built in 1972. Rising early on a wet Saturday morning, my husband Paul, Cooper our little dog and I bundled into the car and commenced the drive to Regent Street. Arriving too early for the allotted entry time of 9:25 I parked up close by and waited, not long after I spotted a number of Fiat 500 in convoy emerging from a side road. I pulled up the starter lever and joined the others as they filtered into the entrance area at Piccadilly Circus. After a short wait for our designated area to become accessible each of the cars were marshalled into position creating a colourful and charming line up of twelve beautiful classic Fiat 500s. Even the rain did little to diminish the eye catching jewel like quality of the cars colours. None of this was lost on the people admiring the cohort with hundreds of photos taken throughout the day and raising lots of smiles and joyous expressions. With such positive reactions from the general public, tourists and motor enthusiasts I considered if this is what owning a classic Fiat 500 generated from people then I joined the right club.

The Fiat 500 Club UK had been specially invited by the organisers to celebrate the model’s 60th anniversary and it was the perfect showcase as the year draws to a close. The Talbot Owners group was the other car club invited, and was joined along the concourse with a large number of historic vehicles many of which would be participating in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run the following morning. The event’s official free programme devoted a full page to the Fiat 500 Club UK and in so doing assisted in spreading the word about the organisation.

Along with experiencing the pleasure our little cars were giving the throngs of passers-by, it was the perfect opportunity for me to meet members of the club. They are a welcoming bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting and bonding over our shared passion. I enjoyed hearing potted histories of ownership and other club happenings. Credit must be given to Felicity who at 4pm had the task of driving her delightful yellow 500L back to Leicestershire in the dark and drizzle. I believe she had driven the furthest to attend and made my 7 mile bimble seem woefully inadequate.

As a brand new member I wanted to share my first club experience. It was a terrific day out and would urge any members who have yet to get involved in any of the club’s activities, to join in without further hesitation. You will receive a warm welcome and have a great time. Thanks again to Gino for inviting me.

Lisa Bardsley

Lost Love

I first saw XCD 690K, a down-at-heel white Fiat 500L with a flat tyre, one grey February day in 1985, sitting among other cheap run-arounds for sale at a local garage. That first glimpse was to be the beginning of a very special relationship.

Illness and self-employment don’t go well together. In the 1980’s, I’d had a long spell unable to work and was looking for an inexpensive form of transport. Paying the mortgage was more than the usual struggle, the family car had been sold and riding a motorbike in winter was unthinkable.

Two days later, after a bit of patching up, a new MoT and the expenditure of £180, I was initiated into the world of compact motoring. On the way home I more-or-less mastered the crash gearbox and, in time, came to understand the technique of driving a 499.5cc Fiat 500, employed by generations of Italians – that you keep the accelerator flat on the floor until death stares you in the face!

Over the next 20,000 miles and four years, XCD 690K was my sole transport, in and out of London, round the M25 and on the school run along the narrow, sunken lanes of the Surrey Hills. My daughter, now a sober adult with a family of her own, loved the little car. She named it ‘Tot’ and even started the ‘Tot Supporters Club’ with her friends.

Eventually, my health long restored, the Fiat and I parted company as roomier transport was needed for a family of teenagers. But, in the quarter of a century since, I’ve never forgotten the fun and adventure of 500 motoring.

Recently, a chance conversation with the DVLA revealed that XCD 690K still exists, but where? Apparently the car is not taxed or insured. Does anyone know of its whereabouts at present? I would love the chance to see my little friend again.

                                                        Denis Jones