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Kit car emissions – ‘industry destroying’ new rules proposed

Kit car emissions: the dramatically styled 'Nova' kit car

The 'Nova' pictured here, was styled by Richard Oakes with engineering by Phil Sayers, combining a fibreglass shell on a VW Beetle chassis and mechanicals. Versions of the Nova have appeared in a number of films, including Cannonball Run II, Death Race 2000, Winners and Sinners, Condorman and Mani Di Velluto.

Within a new Department for Transport legislative proposal entitled ‘Road Vehicles – Improving air quality and safety’, there’s an issue which will significantly change the effect of the MOT rules as they apply to kit car emissions.

A kit car is a car that is available as a set of parts that a manufacturer sells and the buyer then assembles into a functioning car. Usually, many of the major mechanical systems such as the engine and transmission are sourced from donor vehicles or purchased new from other vendors. Kits can vary in completeness, consisting of as little as a book of plans, or as a complete set with all components needed to assemble into a fully operational vehicle.

The document sought opinions with a very short period in which people could respond, from Friday 2nd February until Friday 2nd March. This is probably because it isn’t related to a new Act of Parliament (primary legislation) but will be enforced via a Statutory Instrument wherein a regulation is changed by subsidiary legislation.

The proposed change to the regulations is primarily about Type Approval regarding emissions, for example, making it illegal for car manufacturers to fit so-called ‘cheat devices’ to circumvent the emission checks their vehicles have to go through to achieve Type Approval allowing them to be used on Britain’s roads. There is, however, one provision which says:

We are proposing that for kit cars, compliance with the MOT emissions standards current at the date of registration will be required, despite the use of an older engine. In other words, the current relaxation for emissions according to the age of the engine will no longer apply.”

If this comes into force kit cars which had previously passed the MOT emissions test as it related to the age of the engine fitted, would be likely to fail because the new emissions Test will be set by the age of first registration.

In practice, it would mean that for any kit cars registered from 1992 onwards a BET Test would apply, and a catalytic converter will, in most cases, be needed to reach the required emissions standard.

In an article in KIT CAR magazine, they quote a statement from Mike Lowe, Head of Branch Regulation, International Vehicle Standards at the DfT, as saying, “The change proposed is to treat kit cars as having a new engine (when they are first registered) and thus subjected to the MOT standards applicable to new vehicles (once they reach 3 years old). This is a test with a vehicle idling (for petrol).”

Difficult conversations with kit car owners

So, if the proposed regulation change comes into force, any kit car first registered after 1992 with a much older engine presented for an MOT Test could well fail the new emissions test. This would result in some difficult conversations between kit car vehicle owners whose cars may have regularly passed the MOT in previous years, and the Vehicle Test Station.

It would also affect kit car manufacturers who have a stock of older engines they have available to supply with their kits, or the sale of kits specifically designed to have older engines fitted to them.

When asked about the possible effect on the kit car industry, a journalist associated with Kit Car Magazine stated: “If this comes into force it will destroy the industry”.

Photo: The Nova was styled by Richard Oakes with engineering by Phil Sayers, combining a fibreglass shell on a VW Beetle chassis and mechanicals. A two-seater, it was highlighted by a dramatically opening canopy that combined roof and doors into one.

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