Classic Cars – Stronger Than Ever

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By Chris Pollitt

Turn on the news today and it makes for depressing viewing. There is of course the minor issue of a global pandemic, then there is Brexit and of course, there is also the news that the Government has decided that come 2030, the sale of new ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles will be prohibited. This, of course, has provoked something of a reaction in the automotive world and of course, the enthusiast sector. Happily though, things aren’t as bad as they seem. 

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The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) has released some timely information that goes to show that the classic sector has, in fact, never been stronger. Not only that, it’s also growing. This is great news, not least because the figures the FBHVC have released go to show that the world of classic cars is not a small one. It is actually a vital contributor to the UK economy to the tune of over seven billion pounds per year. Impressive. 

We’ve had a look through the information released, and highlighted some key numbers below. However, if you want to read the full release, you can find it on FBHVC website. Right then, let’s see what’s what…

Strength in Numbers

According to the latest data, there are 1,538,927 historic vehicles registered in the UK at the moment, which is a huge leap from the 1,039,950 recorded in 2015. But that’s a number for cars and vehicles over thirty years of age, meaning the number will be much greater when you take into account modern classics and specialist vehicles. 

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The number of owners is also growing. The FBHVC reports it to currently be around 683,967 people in the UK, which is up from 2016s figure of 493,000. The classic car and vehicle world isn’t shrinking, it isn’t plateauing, it is in fact growing. This is, of course, great news. 

We’re Worth a Few Quid

This is the important one, and it’s what we need to remember when worries about the future of classic cars start to niggle our minds. The classic car industry is worth some £7.2bn to the UK’s economy. That is a lot, and not an amount the powers that be can risk damaging. 

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Furthermore, there are over 4,000 businesses that operate to serve the classic car industry which in turn create some 34,113 jobs. And these are the clear cut, defined classic businesses. There are many that function in the modern/specialist car space as well as classics, so in reality, that number will be bigger.  

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We Don’t Make a Massive Impact (In a Go0d Way)

Small numbers have their place here. There is a worry that classics will be ‘taxed off the road’ or put into ‘pay as you go’ schemes. And while there is nothing to say that won’t happen, the fundamental fact is there is nothing to motivate the Government to implement such schemes. Despite the size of the industry, we actually make a small impact on the roads. 

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In the UK, there are 43,000,000 registered vehicles (including SORN). Historic vehicles make up just 3.4% of that number. And of that 3.4%, less than half are on the road – just 44%. The rest are currently on SORN. Of the 56% that are on the road, on average they only cover 1,200 miles per year. 

In terms of the environment and the impact of classic cars, the figures are minimal compared to the rest of the traffic out there. Furthermore, there is the matter of a vehicle’s carbon offsetting against its lifecycle, by which we mean the carbon created in the production of the vehicle is in essence ‘paid off’ as the car is still in use all these years later. A new car hasn’t been made to replace x-classic. 

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So what does all this translate to on the roads? Well, of the classics that are on the road and driving, they rack up 800,000,000 million miles per year. And that sounds like… a lot. But it’s not. In fact, that’s just 0.2% of the 356.5bn of the UK’s total annual mileage. Again, classic vehicles have a tiny impact. 

What Does The Future Hold? 

There are no certainties, and as such we can only speculate at this stage. However, it seems the numbers are very much in the favour of the classic car and its future. We, as a group, have made and continue to make a considerable impact on the UK economy. This is good, as it gives us strength and it gives us a position of power.  

Then there is the relatively low environmental impact that our significant chunk of industry brings. We love spending money on our cars more than we like driving them, it seems. But this is no bad thing, as it – and again, this just hopeful speculation – would presumably make it harder for restrictions to be put in place? It would certainly make them hard to justify. 

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These figures are promising, and they show the world of classic and heritage vehicles is in a strong, positive place. The new car market is ever changing, there is no doubt of that. But the factors faced by new cars and the modern internal combustion engine are not, at this point at least, the same as being faced by us. From what we can see, we have many years of motoring left before our passion falls under any significant scrutiny, which is just fine. So go out there, enjoy your classic, drive it, work on it, spend on it and embrace your passion. It’s not going anywhere just yet.

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