Most classic car enthusiasts in Ireland are hoping the Government will continue to exempt their vehicles from NCT tests following a public consultation on the issue that is due to end this Friday.
A new EU directive on roadworthiness testing due to come into force in May 2018 will require that any vehicle less than 30 years old must be tested, but leaves it up to member states to decide if and to what extent “vehicles of historic interest” that are over this age would be tested.
This has prompted the consultation, which is being conducted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). It outlines four possible options regarding NCT testing for cars over 30 years old.
The Government could exempt from the NCT cars that were first registered before a fixed date, which would be either January 1, 1960 (option 1) or January 1, 1980 (option 2). Or it could exempt cars on a rolling basis when they turn 40 years old (option 3) or 30 years old (option 4).
The consultation has been attracting a large volume of responses from clubs and individual enthusiasts. According to the RSA, more than 300 responses had been received at the end of last week.
An informal poll by The Irish Times of several clubs, including the Irish Vintage and Veteran Car Club (IVVCC), suggests that most of them will be pressing for a return to the rolling 30-year exemption.
This exemption had been previously in place since the introduction of the NCT in 2000 until 2010, when the RSA recommended a change to the current fixed cut-off date of January 1st, 1980. Any car first registered after this date has to be tested indefinitely.
The agency said this move was made to “gradually bring Ireland more in line with the current roadworthiness Directive, and also because the RSA believed that vehicles which were 30 years old were still relatively modern and in frequent use on Irish roads”.
While acknowledging that vintage cars are used infrequently, typically covering less than 2,000km a year, the RSA appears to have listened to complaints about the lack of consultation over the unpopular 2010 move.
RSA communications manager Brian Farrell said: "Nothing has been cast in stone. These are just proposals, no decision has been made and we are genuinely looking for people's views on the proposals that are there."
However, the chances of the agency recommending a return to the 30-year rolling exemption are understood to be slim.
Mr Farrell said that returning to this exemption would result in some 2,000 vehicles being removed from the testing net straight away. Option 1 (the January 1960 cut-off point), by contrast, would result in up to 7,500 vehicles being required to undergo testing, although some 4,000 of these are current declared off the road.
Peadar Ward of the IVVCC said a decision to go for option 1 would seriously damage the old car movement. "These cars are part of our motoring heritage and the owners support many charities with them throughout the year."
Mr Ward said he understood the RSA’s concerns over the numbers of motorists regularly using cars that are 30-40 years old which are currently exempt from testing.
“While there will always be a minority of people who will try to abuse any concessions available, we do not believe that this is widespread,” he said.
“The cost of maintenance and the running costs of older cars far outweigh the benefits to be gained from fuel-efficient modern vehicles with longer service intervals and greater reliability.”