November 2015

It’s been 25 years since the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency started their old vehicle re-registration scheme and the Club has been involved since the beginning. I remember the sceptical looks when representatives of classic car and motorcycle clubs suggested to the DVLA’s civil servants in 1990 that enthusiasts could be trusted to check and verify re-registration applications.

At the time the DVLA were up against it. Their decision in 1983 to close the register to old vehicles had started to unravel. Lots of owners were getting cross that requests to keep their classic’s registration were being vetoed, despite the existence of irrefutable paperwork.

To their credit, the Swansea bureaucrats went along with our suggestion and a quarter of a century later the scheme has flourished. Over the years I’ve steered over 600 applications through the DVLA’s re-registration process. That’s both the V765 Scheme where owners can reclaim their vehicle’s original mark – and the allocation of an age related registration where the original has been lost.

The DVLA hold regular meetings with our colleagues in the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs to discuss how the scheme is running. These have been supplemented with occasional larger events involving owners club’s representatives. The latest of these took place in September and I was invited to join a large group of classic vehicle owners at the DVLA’s training centre in Swansea. John Vale, the DVLA’s head of vehicle registration policy took charge. After his introductory comments, the 80 club representatives split into smaller groups, to be briefed about how different parts of the re-registration scheme were being administered. These were led by the DVLA staff, who deal with re-registration applications day to day.

We discussed almost every detail of re-registration and it was clear that the civil servants appreciated being able to explain their various procedures face to face. In our turn, we found it helpful to have our often quite complex questions answered in detail.

We were briefed about a number of important updates. John told us that the closure of the DVLA’s network of local offices in 2013 and the transfer of their records to Swansea, had revealed that re-licensing had not always been dealt with in a consistent way. The result of this was a number of applications had been rejected recently as these ‘consistent’ rules have been applied. Significant amongst these was the requirement that more original evidence than an expired tax disc is needed to make a successful V765 Scheme application. Many club representatives, including me, have retrieved original registrations in the past using only a licence disc as evidence. This sounded like a change in policy, but the DVLA stuck to their mantra – they were now applying the rules consistently.

The event took place against a background that the DVLA were investigating some apparent breaches of the re-registration rules. This appears to involve cars that have been rebuilt with reproduction body shells – and whether the resulting vehicle is a genuine classic, or a modern reproduction. It has been common knowledge that a number of classic vehicle owners have received letters from the DVLA, asking for documentary proof of their vehicle’s age and its eligibility to be allocated an age related registration. There have been suggestions that Swansea intended to write to other – if not all – classic vehicle owners, making similar requests.

John Vale made clear he did not want to talk about the publicity around the re-registration of particular classic vehicles. However he reassured us that the DVLA did not intend writing to other vehicle keepers beyond those who had already been contacted. We took from this that Swansea have taken a close look at their records following the transfer of local office files, and that some questionable re-registrations have been identified.

Listening to John’s comments, I cast my mind back to 1990 and the agreement struck between the DVLA’s civil servants and classic vehicle owners. The resulting re-registration scheme has lasted these past 25 years because both parties have trusted each other. Let’s hope the DVLA receive reassuring answers from the vehicle owners they have contacted, and that this important scheme can continue.

While in Wales I was able to meet one of our long-standing members, Laurence Jones, to discuss the electronic ignition system developed by the late and much missed Henry Maidment. Since Henry died in 2009 we have been trying to reproduce his marvellous bespoke system which he refined over the years to an impressive level of reliability. Laurence and I have been discussing what to do for some time – aided by Henry’s comprehensive paper records. We have decided that re-manufacturing an ignition system to Henry’s original design is unrealistic. This is because the programming technology he used is now outdated. Instead, we are talking to current classic motorcycle ignition suppliers, to see if one of their systems can be adapted to fit our machines.

In the meantime, Laurence has agreed to offer a fault finding and repair service to members who are still running L.E.s fitted with Henry’s system. Equipped with detailed original records, and a large stock of components which the Club bought from Henry’s widow Betty, we are confident that the remaining systems can be kept functioning for many years to come. More details of how you can contact Laurence appear in the magazine under our Services Available to Club Members banner.

After a long period out of stock, our popular filter kit for the 295 multi jet carburettor is now back on the shelves at Bullers End. It has been necessary to redesign the filter. In the past we have used a cost effective sintered bronze component from a compressed air application, but this item is no longer available. The latest filter looks like the original felt faced part, but comprises a turned brass core with a fine mesh soldered around it. More details and pricing are available from Trevor Aston and his team in Walsall.

Finally, my trip to Swansea included a stop-off in Bristol to collect a large cache of secondhand L.E. parts donated to the Club. Keith Phipps our member on the spot has been looking after these while I arranged a date to visit; many thanks, Keith. I will be advertising these in OTL under my usual Various Items Donated to the Club in the magazine’s Unclassified Advertisements. Keep a lookout for details


Dennis Frost