THE FREEDOMS of ‘daily driver’ type H-plate schemes in some Australian states has a whole new bunch of enthusiasts getting into classic cars. Thanks to the fact they now can, there are lots of new-to-the-scene enthusiasts buying mundane models – such as family-spec VN Commodores and EA Falcons – joining other hard-core car nuts with classic chromebumper toys.
However, there could be a bit of a problem with that.
My concern is not about issues like where to draw the cut-off line for H-plate eligibility. It’s about the fact many of these VN and EA-driving ‘newbies’ are clueless when it comes to mechanicals, and the cars they are buying to cruise with their families and mates are just about f****d.
Think about it: Unlike “– classics such as GTs, HDTs, SSs and ESPs, until recently many of these more ordinary cars had little value. They have been P-plater fodder for years and many (if not most!) had zero maintenance for the past decade or so. I’m not going to say it’s a recipe for disaster but to my way of thinking, it’s a bit of a worry.
I fear a headline such as “Classic-car death-trap: Family dies” and the cops and coroner discover the vehicle involved hadn’t had any type of safety check for years and something crusty or rusty has failed on a freeway.
So I reckon annual safety checks are good idea. Where I live, in NSW, we have annual safety checks (known as pink slips) and it’s simply something you do. It’s easy and doesn’t take much time or money.
Discussing this with a few people in the Aussie classic car scene, I’ve found a surprising amount of – shall we say? – resistance to the idea (Maybe not surprisingly, some of these people reside in states with no annual inspections).
One of the points of debate: “Oh, it’s an unnecessary expense for owners!”
Umm…it’s like $40. A box of beer costs more. ($84 is the safety check fee set by Qld Transport; $170-200 is quoted by VicRoads for a RWC – Ed.)
“Oh, there are no statistics to say cars that aren’t inspected are any less safe.”
Maybe no official statistics are available because with classics until now being such a small part of the overall vehicle population (Half? One? Two per cent?) no-one has thought researching the numbers worthwhile.
So here are my statistics, based my memories of highschool probability: any group of cars in a region where zero per cent of cars are inspected for unsafe things – such as bald tyres – will have more un-roadworthy cars in it than a similar car park that requires 100 per cent to be inspected for unsafe components.
“Oh, you can just find a dodgy mechanic!”
Okay, let’s say 10 per cent of mechanics are dodgy and will pass an unsafe car. In my hypothetical car park where all cars must be inspected, we’ll have 90 per cent of the cars legitimately passed as safe. That’s far better odds for all our safety than “I’ve nevva hadda problem,” from 100 per cent of owners, the vast majority of whom have no clue about safety because they are not enthusiasts and don’t care until something costs them money or they get caught by the cops. Or, something breaks.
And when you think about it, the older and more worn the cars become – such as classic cars that are 25 or more years old – the worse these ‘statistics’ become.
“Oh, the mechanic will rip the customer off by saying there are things wrong when there aren’t.”
That’s possible. But from what I’ve seen, liar mechanics don’t last too long in business. Word spreads fast. Mechanics I know have enough challenges in business – and enough work to keep busy – without having to resort to ripping-off customers.
I reckon regular safety inspections are a great idea. It helps the people who don’t know the intricacies of car maintenance and catches-out the risk-takers. What do you reckon?