“Stuck at the Lights”

If I had a Euro every time I heard “stuck at the lights” it would have paid for my holiday tour.  Other memorable comments are “good, good”, “toppie, toppie” “don’t go without me” and “ice-cream”

I am not experienced in overseas holidays, let alone driving overseas, let alone driving in an unpredictable 1972 Fiat so believe me when I say I was out of my comfort zone more times than I can count.  However, I was not alone when we all had to make a sudden turn off to the left.  What on a Motorway? A left turn? Surely Paul has his left and right mixed up? Surely the Sat Nav is upside down? No both Paul and Sat Nav were correct, pull over the two speeding lanes to join another motorway on the left, we just made it with a couple of chevrons to spare!

The first 2 night’s accommodation could not have been more different.  Night one was on the Harwich/Hoek of Holland ferry – loved it, loved it, loved it.  Relaxing with a beer, entertainment from the local constabulary dealing with a miscreant, who was eventually handcuffed, and literally, carried away face down and, more importantly, millpond seas.  I even got a friend to travel with me – an orange model balloon dog.  After retiring to the very comfortable room (no Sally I did not have a Porthole), I lay in bed after my shower to watch the TV through a camera on the front of the boat, so could see us on the move.  I was pleased that this experience will be repeated on my last sad night.

The second night – Oh my word!!  We loaded the little babes onto the train transporter and went in search of the rooms.  Cramped, hot, no water. I asked if there was a bar or communal area and was told “this is a sleeper train” to which I replied “not at 9pm it is not!”.  The Scanes and I squeezed in with the Shirley’s for the evening and we had a beer or complimentary sparkling wine and made the most of it.  At least the noise drowned out any snoring, and they did do a very good breakfast.  I woke on a stationary train and on peering out of the window was shocked to see commuters peering back in!  Not being en-suite I hoped to sneak out of my cell room, unseen, in my PJ’s, only to be face to face with a nightie clad Dee looking for a working shower – what makes people get up at 5.30am when there is no work to go to!

Don’t panic – I am not going to describe every 16 rooms (otherwise Christine may edit me!), suffice to say some were better than others, only 2 with a bath ☹, and I may take my complaint about discrimination to singletons to the European Commission, having slept in servants quarters whilst the couples had luxury!!  I felt I managed my suitcase manoeuvres fairly well for a first attempt, having a different hotel almost every night does test the sanity, and memory – now what has been worn already?

By the third day I threatened to go home – one more eyeroll from Paul or tease from another and that was it.  Mind you that is what makes these events, it was all given in jest (I hope) and received in jest.   The more relaxed I got the less they were able to successfully tease me, and I knew when to expect an eyeroll 😊.

Time became a source for discussion once we met up with Lidwina/Tom in Holland, and Christina/Barnie in Hungary – I still do not understand why six thirty really means five thirty on the continent or was it the other way round?!  Then there is the question of how many minutes is “prompt” or “at” or “ish”, I just made sure I was early (so they “don’t go without me”!)

Breakfast chats were comparisons – who had a bath (not me), did your shower head light up(!), how comfy the room was, what complimentary items were taken whether needed or not, and, for a few days, a competition over mozzy bites i.e. quality or quantity – I lost on quantity but won on quality and had to make for a Chemist for some stronger cream, but, I am pleased to say my Lake photo is rather good.  Assistance was rolled out from the first person as to how to use the coffee machine, where a spoon or milk was but most importantly in Sopron – don’t put the chopped prunes on your yoghurt as it is actually pickle 😊.  A daily mystery to me was, what seemed, the illogical layout of the breakfast buffet i.e. butter not near the bread, and pickle near the yoghurt!

Evening conversations were, mainly, about the day’s excitement, Fiat Fiddling, splendid views, have we really just parked inside a mountain!  But it became apparent I seemed to be the only one who saw anything smaller than a mountain!  Apart from the Storks which were abundant and made themselves comfortable atop chimneys or electricity posts.  My spots were carrot/asparagus fields, huge chairs, huge bowling pin, Christine narrowly missing a scurrying mouse. But even I could not spot a Pig!

Apart from the standard traffic queues behind us due to our max speed of 50mph, we also caused a few to the side. This was due to being filmed or photographed, we were waved and smiled at, hooted and flashed (all in a good way). Now surely that is why we all drive these lovable cars?

We only got lost twice that I knew about, and that was only some of us, yes you know who you are!  Once when we opted to walk back to the hotel, and within minutes we were onto Google, trying to remember what landmark was in the area to use as a pinpoint, I remembered the name of a little supermarket selling cheap wine!  And the second time, the next day, was in a Car-Park.  Vince and I stood in the lift, for it to wander up and down and deposit us back on the same floor, we could hear the other few sussing out the different staircases and we all made it out safely in the end.  We found out the next day that the lift did not belong to the Car-Park!

We had our fair share of car “issues” but only 2 major(ish) ones, Gino/Dee had 3 concerning hours whilst various diagnostics were tried and tested, finally I believe it was the petrol filter at fault.  Rod/Sally had a similar time when Lidwina thankfully spotted Rod’s engine trying to escape!  A mounting had slipped. We pulled off the Motorway to find a lovely little grassy area, with a couple of trees for shade and “the boys” set too.  Half way in and a gorgeous 1963 Volvo pulled up with a local offering help.  Rod hoped he was about fixed but we took his number anyway.  Unbelievably, 15 mins later Josef rolled up again with his wife and a flask of coffee, biscuits and cakes.

Other issues around the group were – wobbly wheel, 2 punctures (same car, same day!), spark plug cap, 2 fuses (different cars), clutch adjustments, 2 oil leaks (one minor, one major), lost accelerator return spring, juddering first gear, lost window latch, squeaky door, loose nut, replacement points – this is all normal (“no leaking oil, means you have no oil!) but what really matters is that we all got home on our own four wheels.

This holiday, yes holiday, had all emotions running – worry (will I breakdown today), fear (crossing 2 lanes of speeding traffic), apprehension (will I make it up the next mountain) and finally nervousness (will I be arrested at Customs for my herb plant) but that was all part of the fun and was outweighed by sights never seen before, laughs at/with the group, camaraderie, support and forever-lasting memories – a 2,135 miles well spent 😊

                                                                                                Felicity Greenfield

October 2018 Newsletter

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

Contents: ‘Stuck at the lights ‘  – Hungary Tour by Felicity Greenfield; Summer Events and Shows  –  photo display; Cheshire Car Shows report by Tony Pomelli; Technical article  –  How to set gear lever linkage.

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.

“Poppy returns home” Tour

Some of you may remember an article in the August 2015 magazine titled “Hungarian Adventure “.

In it Rod and I drove to Sopron in Hungary to buy a Steyr Puch 500 which our nephew had seen for sale on the internet. The car was in a pretty poor condition but we had driven over 1000 miles to see it and so we purchased it. The car had belonged to the Grandmother of Krisztina and Daniel who were selling it and although the car had always been in their life it had not been road worthy so they had never been in it, only their father and mother had used it when they were young. It had been in their garage for over 30 years not used.

During the time that we spent with the family we came to realise how much the car and its history meant to them and Rod promised that we would return one day to show them the car when he had restored it. We named the car Poppy because the old name of Sopron was on the documents, but spelt Popy with one p, and being red it seemed only natural to call the car Poppy. Sopron is a beautiful town full of history and ruins dating back to the Roman times but never in all my wildest dreams did I think we would return.

In September 2015 the car was shown at the Manchester Car Show in the same condition that we had brought it home in. It caused a lot of interest and Rod was even offered a considerable amount of money for it but he intended to keep his promise so would not sell it.

After the Manchester Car Show Rod started on the restoration stripping everything off it. Weenie Fiats did a magnificent job of straightening the body work; apparently, they discovered it had been in an accident where it had been rolled. They put new panels where required, which was nearly everywhere, and sprayed the car its original colour, coral red.

This year, three years later, with hours of work and planning from Paul Anderson the “Poppy Returns Home Tour” plan was ready to put into action. We contacted the family with whom we had kept in touch and were able to organise a reunion. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be an emotional tour and on the 14th of June five cars left the UK, destination Sopron Hungary. We were joined by our Dutch friends Tom and Lidwina in Holland and headed to Dusseldorf where we put the cars on a train and boarded it for the overnight journey to Innsbruck.

Arriving early morning we drove to Stadl-Paura mainly on the autobahn. The next day we drove to Wang to a Steyr Puch meeting which was arranged by the Austrian club. It was here that the rest of our party joined us.

The younger members had flown out as they were only able to tour with us for a week due to work commitments but wanted to be with us for Poppy’s reunion.

The Austrian club made us very welcome and had arranged a ride out with afternoon tea at a beautiful venue and on our return to Wang presented us all with certificates and trophies for making the journey from the UK. From here we drove to Vienna for an overnight stop and were able to do some sightseeing the next day.

On the 18th of June we drove to Sopron to meet up with Poppy’s original family and, as expected, it was a very emotional reunion. I’m sure they were delighted to see what had been done to Poppy and that she had been given a new lease of life but at the same time it was sad for them knowing how many years it had been in their family. Lots of photos were taken and they even recreated a photo they had with their father as a young boy sitting in the car. We had a lovely evening meal with them all and the Father got to ride in Poppy. I am sure it was a very emotional time for him but it was a real party atmosphere during the evening and was over all too soon. We said our goodbyes to the family but not to Krisztina and her husband, Barnabas who had arranged to spend a couple of days with us and take us to some beautiful parts of Hungary.

The next morning, we spent enjoying the old town of Sopron before driving to a vineyard at Kreinbacher. The vineyard had its own magnificent hotel which was to be our home for the next two nights. The food was superb and added to that was the wine tasting experience, so we all had a very merry and unforgettable evening, all arranged for us by Krisztina and Barnabas.

The next day they took us to an area around Lake Balaton, we had a walk around part of the lake it was beautiful and to finish off the day we had a meal up in the mountains overlooking the lake. Life doesn’t get any better than this. On our return to the vineyard that evening we had to say goodbye to Krisztina and Barnabas but not before they had a chance to drive Poppy around the car park, in fact we weren’t sure Krisztina was going to give her back, she seemed very at home in it. We were sad to say goodbye, it had been an emotional roller coaster ride but we were so glad we had achieved what Rod had set out to do three years ago.

The next few days took us to some amazing towns and cities. Graz where we visited the Steyr Puch Museum and had the next day sightseeing there before saying goodbye to our younger members who were flying home that evening.

The next day we drove through superb countryside to Salzburg, followed by Ingolstadt, Ludwigsburg, Rudesheim and then onto Venlo in Holland. I could write a page on each of these places but I fear you may have fallen asleep by now but take it from me every one of these is worth a visit.

Before I go one small incident (well not so small) befell Poppy before we got to Holland. Our Dutch friends happened to be following us on the busiest autobahn I think we have ever been on with huge lorries bearing down on us and overtaking us, and something no one wants to hear was a call on the walkie talkie asking Paul to “get off at the next possible exit as something is wrong with Poppy”. Thank goodness Lidwina knowing something about our cars realised she could see more of the engine below our car than previously. The Fiat fiddlers were soon on the case and it was established that one of the gear box rubber mountings had in fact sheared off and caused the engine to drop on one side. Many people stopped to see what had happened but mainly to take pictures of the cars. Two German men, one we now know as Josef, stopped to help, they themselves were in a classic Volvo car but by this time Paul and Rod were under the car, wheel off and dealing with it. With no luck from any local garages that Paul had rung and Rod realising he had brought the old gear box mounting with him they decided that they could do a road side repair.

Josef gave us his telephone number in case we needed any help and then left. It took us two hours to repair the car and just as they were finishing Josef and his wife Christel arrived with cakes, coffee and soft drinks for us all which were much appreciated. It just goes to show that in whatever country you are in, the classic car enthusiasts share a unique friendship.

After this we continued on our way home. We said goodbye to Tom and Lidwina in Holland and headed for the Ferry and then it was plain sailing, as they say, the rest of the way home. What a memorable tour it had been, we saw so many beautiful places, towns, cities, rivers, mountains but the one that I will mostly remember with affection is Sopron in Hungary where Poppy had come from.

A very big thank you to Paul and Christine, without them this tour wouldn’t have been possible:

To Krisztina and Barnabas, for organising our outings around Hungary and helping to plan the reunion with their family. To Robert, Matthias and Philip Prokschi for their help in supplying parts and entertaining the younger members when they arrived and organising our trip to Wang. To Michael Repka, his wife and father, for arranging a lovely meal in the wine region and leading us safely into Vienna in the dark. To Josef and Christel for being so kind to us in their country and last but not least to everyone that came on the tour with us and made it such a unique and memorable time. Thank you all.

                                                Sally Scanes

August 2018 Newsletter

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

Contents: Poppy returns home tour; Laon experience; Laon tour; Circuit Historique de Laon 2018 – A Scottish member’s tour; Grom Gelato London launch event.

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.

Suffolk Spectacular


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.


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.


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.


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