Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

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 nev va 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?

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