Which bit is the real 'car' ? - Cliff Pope

In the world of classic cars it is quite common to come across the statement that a car has been 'rebodied'. New bodyshells are available for Minis, MGB's, for example, and new chassis have long been available for Land-Rovers.

My question is, does a rebodied car retain its legal identity as say a 1961 Boggs, number 123AAA, or is it a 2001 Boggs replica on a current plate, subject to current safety regs, emission levels, etc?
At what level of replacement of body parts does a car stop being the older model? I don't mean from a purist enthusiast's point of view, but legally.

A friend recently disposed of a 1926 Riley. It consisted of a wooden dashboard with a commission plate screwed on, a steering wheel, the original Logbook and an old tax disk. The buyer was going to put the bits together with a collection of other bits and make a car, which he said would be a 1926 Riley, details and reg no. as per the log book. From this it would appear that the heart of a car is its commission plate, and that as long as this is supported by a logbook and the number plate is correct, then any chassis and body will do. Of course, it is easier if the commission plate simply unscrews, rather than being stamped into the door pillar.

Is this correct? And if so, what is the difference between rebodying a car, and swapping all the mechanical bits into another shell and changing the number plates?

Cliff Pope
Re: Which bit is the real 'car' ? - Chris
When I was last in Boston I visited the USS Constitution. At the antrance it said something along the lines of "this is the USS Constitution," but in an exhibit on one of the lower decks (in very small print) it said that around 98 percent of the timbers had been replaced over the years. Was I cheated? On the other hand, none of us is made from the same bits of carbon we were made of twenty years ago, yet we still make claim to a passport. If he thinks it's a Riley, and he has a logbook and a plate to prove it, who are we to argue?

Re: Which bit is the real 'car' ? - Ian Cook
HJs book (sorry, can't remember the title even though I have the book) gives very good guidance on what parts of an original car are needed to retain identity. It depends on a points system covering engine, gearbox, axles etc.

If nobody beats me to it I'll look it up tonight.
my car. - chris watson
i have a right mixture of parts. a lada riva with a fiat 124 twin cam engine, leather bucket seats(a new addition), adjustable suspension, massive stereo, i have made the chassis stronger, i have chopped the boot off and replaced it with a hatchback from a lada samara so i can open the back to pump out the music. but only about 10% of the original car remains.
Re: Which bit is the real 'car' ? - peter
There is a very long thread on this on the Ford AVO site, might be worth a look.

There are several separate threads around the 2/9.

The DVLC rules are fairly specific, certainly the Riley in question would only qualify for a "Q" plate if they found out.

PS What has happened to Q plates under the new scheme? Does anyone know?
DVLA guidelines. - David Woollard

Rather than the second hand interpretation of a private website it's well worth visiting www.dvla.gov.uk/vehicles/regrebil.htm .

There you will find the very detailed and rather odd rules. Had it in Favourites as I have some Land Rover restoration work in hand and wanted to keep things spot on.

Rather daft that I could buy a brand new chassis and fit it to my 40yr old LR with no problems. If I found a mint second hand chassis that would likely need a Q-plate.

Tell me how those two situations are materially different.

Re: DVLA guidelines. - David Millar
Thanks for that DVLA url David. I have now bookmarked it myself for future use.
I recall Denis Jenkinson of Motor Sport used to get very exercised about this and quite rightly insisted on describing suspect historic racing cars as replicas. There were/are situations where there were two or more claimants to the ownership of some of these theoretically valuable cars.

So from the DVLA standpoint, the Riley first referred to should get a Q plate and isn't really a Riley as made in Coventry. Thankfully, my own 30s car retains original chassis and running gear and part of the original bodywork so still deserves its original no (worth around £2000-3000 according to the ads I see). The Lotus +2 I had rebuilt on a factory chassis also looks to have been OK but I wonder about my old 1963 Elan which was dismantled by the guy I sold it to just as prices went through the roof when the FIA approved only early Elans for international historic racing. Could it (ABW 363A from memory) have ended up as two valuable historic racers?

I need to think carefully now about my 1954 Ford Pop. After 20+ years of dereliction I was thinking a rebuild into a 50s/60s special would get it and another valuable no plate back on the road. Not, according to the DVLA guidelines, on an old chassis. Presumably, though, a new previously unused chassis is OK since I remember a Telegraph feature last year on someone with a project for reviving just such old sidevalves using modern chassis and no Q plate on his demonstrator.

David Millar
Re: DVLA guidelines. - Cliff Pope
Thanks everyone - some interesting information there. The DVLA site does not answer the question of what year to assign to a Q-plated car. All sorts of regulations on lights, seat belts, emmissions, catalysts etc depend on the year of manufacture.Also of course the taxation category. Can a Q-plate be an historic vehicle, or does an historic vehicle have to have an age-related number?
Also, how much repair work can be done to a chassis or shell for it still to be original?
If the bit that is replaced happens to be the bit with the Commission Number, is it correct to stamp or refix the number?
What if the repaired part, eg bulkhead or inner wing, comes from another vehicle and has a different number?

The DVLA rules on points seem to be saying that a car can have a brand new chassis and body, but as long as say suspension, engine and gearbox are 'original' (ie possibly totally rebuilt with remanufactured parts) then the car is original.

Cliff Pope
Re: DVLA guidelines. - David Woollard

Good point about the age/status/taxation of a Q-plate. Looking at the site again it sems quite clear that, for example, the Land Rover made of a chassis from one and all other parts of another needs a Q-plate. For this it needs a SVA test at £150 and you might assume safety related items would have to meet the standard SVA requirements.

Also I think that a Q-plate cannot be a historic vehicle or tax exempt, but that isn't completely clear.

What does come out of it is that you need to do everything possible only to take on projects that will pass the normal registration requirements. A Q-plate for a classic car is a disaster really.

Re: DVLA guidelines. - mike harvey
Didn't Trig in fools and horses have his original broom? 10 new heads and 7 new handles though. Seriously, many damaged nearly new cars have new bodyshells fitted and maintain their original identity. It's only one part of the car isn't it, though a substantial one.
Regards, Mike
Re: DVLA guidelines. - John Slaughter

It all seems a bit of a mess really. I imagine there are a few MGB's out there sporting Heritage shells, Gold Seal engines, gearboxes, axles etc., rather like Trigger's broom, and I'm sure there are a good number of 'two into one' Land Rovers too - after all with them swapping parts is almost a National Sport! However, I bet they still have the original registration and are tax exempt.

What, I wonder, do DVLA see as so magical about an 'original' gearbox for example - can you change the internals and have the casing with (perhaps) the original number on it? By the time they thought of this idea surely many of the cars affected have of necessity had major components changed anyway.

Is this really necessary for taxation purposes? The big losers are likely to be the buyers who think they may be buying an original classic vehicle but are not. I can see why the Government want to avoid abuses, but it's a difficult one. For high value original classics, it's surely buyer beware. Let's be honest if you're buying a 40 yo LR with a good few miles on the clock, you'd probably be pleased to hear it had had a reconditioned engine at some stage, unless you're looking for that elusive 'original' vehicle.


Re: DVLA guidelines - Cliff Pope
I've only just thought of this point, but does the points system apply at a particular moment in time, or is it cumulative?
Suppose a car just clocked up its 8 points for originality, but 5 years later suffered say gearbox failure and needed a replacement. It would then be down to 7 points, so should switch to a Q plate? Cars that have early replacement of mechanical parts would suffer a lifetime points handicap when it came to later restoration.

Cliff Pope
Re: DVLA guidelines - David Woollard

These quite valid points have been debated at huge lengths in the Land Rover Forums this year. They are of particular interest to LR owners as these vehicles lend themselves to component/body/chassis changes more than any other.

Taking it from the legal point of view, rather than high value classic originality standpoint, it was mostly agreed if it seems right and fair then it would be OK....given that no stupid liberties were taken with the DVLA rules.

The "taking the p" types of vehicles were the likes of a 1960 tax exempt Land Rover 2.25 petrol being taken apart for a re-build then fitted with a one-off shortened Range Rover coil-sprung chassis, a V8 engine, 5-speed gearbox, Range Rover axles, Volvo seats and so on. I gather there have been routine checks outside major Land Rover shows with such vehicles taken off the road pending an inspection and Q-plate.

At the sensible end of things you have the situation where, over a 40yr life, a LR will have had 60% of the chassis cut off and replaced with repair sections, a 2.25 petrol engine replaced with a 2.25 diesel, the series 2 gearbox replaced with and all synchro series 3 one, noisy axles replaced with newer ones, a truck cab is replaced with a full hardtop.

No-one could possibly track all these changes and they are all within the spirit of keeping the vehicle in good order and maintaining the original registration identity.

Re: DVLA guidelines. - Bill Doodson
My old Harris Magnum II bike that I built in 1984 with all new parts but a second hand engine is on a Q plate. At the time I think I could have probably registered it as new but would have had to pay car tax or somethind similar. Q it was.

Re: my car. - Stuart B
Chris are you saying the car is a mixture of parts or are you personally are the mixture of parts, if the latter where is the grey matter going to come from then?
Re: my car. - Sandy
What about unit construction vehicles? Looking at Practical Classics, some brave people seem eventually to have eventually cut out almost every bit of the car and welded in new metal; rather like USS Constitution mentioned above.

Perhaps if you do it a bit at a time and incorporate the original bit with the chassis number?

I'm afraid that sort of thing is not for me, so I must carry on with the Waxoyl and WD40 which at least keeps my old car original. Being a bit old myself, I wonder if I'll survive to see it become a classic!

Take care

Value my car