Europe ‘banning’ modified cars – scaremongering?

Posted on November 15th, 2012 by Rob Marshall

Despite our sky-high fuel, VED and insurance rates, you might be surprised to hear that the UK is the envy of many European motorists, specifically owners of modified and personalised cars. In this country, if you want to fit upgraded or modified parts to your car, you can simply bolt them on. Assuming Construction And Use Regulations are not breached and issues related to the MoT Test can be overcome, all that the modification-savvy enthusiast is required to do is provide the relevant insurance company with details of the alterations.

In safety terms, the number of incidents that are caused by mechanical failure is so negligible that inspecting parts or sanctioning DIY-fitted upgrades is low on the priorities of the various road-safety organisations, including GEM, which concentrate their resources on more pressing and relevant road-safety issues.

Yet, fitting upgraded alloy wheels, up-rated brakes, modified suspension and so on, in certain parts of Europe, can involve several inspections, long paper trails and a great deal of expense. Speaking to a performance car enthusiast in Luxembourg, it was revealed that every non-original part has to be both inspected and approved by the SNCT (the equivalent of VOSA) and this inspection can only take place at the SNCT HQ, situated in the country’s capital city. Similar situations exist throughout the EU.

In fact, this is not the complete story. Every replacement part that was not fitted as standard equipment has to be supplied with a European Type Approval Number and its relevant certification. If no Type Approval exists, then alternative certification has to be supplied to the Luxembourg or other local authorities. However, if this paperwork is not recognised as suitable, which is often the case with car parts made outside of Europe, then the responsibility and expense to have the parts both inspected and approved rests with the car owner.

Such edicts have been common in mainland Europe for several years and so I was unsurprised that the draft EU Roadworthiness document, which defined a roadworthy car as being unmodified from factory specification, caused ripples among not only the car enthusiast community but also aftermarket, newspaper and enthusiast press, all of which thought that modified vehicles would be banned from Britain’s roads. Since then, the UK’s representation for the European Commission has refuted this and has stated,

‘Whether or not cars have been modified is not of itself relevant: what counts is whether they are safe and that is what is assessed by MOT tests in the UK and by the equivalent tests elsewhere.’

However, bearing in mind the difficulties involved with adding even minor enhancements to a vehicle in certain parts of mainland Europe, it is certain that further restrictive legislation on fitting modified components will be levied in the future and may well be implemented in the UK.

Europe ‘banning’ modified cars – scaremongering?This expert fitting of a V6 engine into a Mark Two Vauxhall Cavalier has been done to a very high standard but the conversion would have been almost impossible for road use in certain parts of Europe. Rob reckons that it is inevitable that legislation will emerge in the future that will, at best, make it harder to make such alterations.