UK SVA regulations/ban on modified cars

Road-race engines and ancillaries - general discussion
Guy Croft
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UK SVA regulations/ban on modified cars

Postby Guy Croft » Sun Aug 13, 2006 11:53 am

I have heard recently that there is a proposal to ban modifications to road cars and that is likely to go before Parliament soon. I heard that the Police are all for it. I heard that SVA testing may be involved.
I do not know how correct any of this is.
This - if true - has very serious implications and in usual UK Government style it will be likely be forced through as an unsophisticated, poorly constituted piece of legislation.
I cannot find anything on the internet. Does any member know anything substantiable (not rumour) about this?



Postby Evodelta » Sun Aug 13, 2006 1:43 pm


PPC mag ran a few articles on it at the end of last year/start of this year, I'll reprint what I think was the final article on it here from back in February/March, I'm sure they won't mind as they are an open minded lot and were poised to fight this.

"Ever since rumours of government legislation to bring a halt to our hobby by enforcing a test similar to the SVA on any modified car started circulating, we've been overwhelmed with feedback from readers who've contacted their MPs to fight these proposals.
So far all we've been able to report is hearsay and as we mentioned last month, trying to get a definitive answer from the DVLA has been like trying to get blood from the proverbial stone - their spokespersons don't seem top be able to, well, speak.
However, thanks to the efforts of PPC reader Phil Bromson we now have news that all is not lost. Phils MP is Dr Steven Ladyman, who's the Minister for Transport and therefore responsible for the DVLA. Phil confronted Ladyman at his Friday night surgery and expressed our fears.
He was told there was nothing to worry about.
Ladyman said: "I assure you that the new procedures are not going to be any stricter than the old ones and that they will have absolutely no effect on people who want to modify their cars" There is nothing in writing yet, but Phil has promised to forward Ladymans written reply when he receives it. We will wait with cautious optimism and will keep you posted."

I know you wanted something substantiable and I'm sorry, but it appears to have come from an MPs mouth so may not qualify :wink:

If you would like to email the Editor of PPC about any developements his address is
Alternatively they have their own forum too: so you could ask there too (maybe there is a thread on it).


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Postby Julian » Sun Aug 13, 2006 6:09 pm

I've seen this discussed repeatedly over the last six months and so far I have yet to see anything firmer than the wispiest of mists. As I've understood it the essence is that they are trying to create a legal framework for the situations where people are doing something particularly stupid. At the moment you can do almost anything to your car and the worst that it is likely to happen (assuming you don't cause a big accident) is that you get a pink ticket for having a car in dangerous condition, 3 points on your license and a ‚£40 fine.

The reverse of this is that they are very much aware that modifying cars is a serious business and brings in a fairly large amount of tax each year and more importantly it brings in business from abroad. Killing the industry off is very much counterproductive - in that respect I do not feel that out trade is actually at that much risk but the subtler sides of the implications from best case to worst case could have significant impact.

While there seems to be no firm source of information on the proposed paper all we can is sit and hope now.

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Postby Wallace » Sun Aug 13, 2006 8:43 pm

I must admit - it always struck me as a bit odd - that one week after I passed the MOT, I unbolted the original Fiat/Lancia brake calipers and fitted Wilwood ones.

And yet the insurance guys were happy when I told them, the car was still "legal" and I was happy in myself with the conversion - BUT - it hadn't gone though any testing etc and could have been an accident waiting to happen.

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Postby Julian » Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:43 am

Not so long ago you had to get a vehicle inspection whenever you started making changes to the car - not because of any law but because the insurance companies wanted to know the car was safe - essentially you got an individual risk assessment. Now they do it all over the phone and base the premium on what you tell them - far from ideal but on the other hand it means they only have to inspect the cars that are being claimed on rather than insured...


Postby SteveNZ » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:00 am

How is the law currently in regard to modifications? For the the brake example above?

In NZ they are currently cracking down on noisy exhausts :lol: Its a big deal at the moment, if you have a modified exhaust you have to get a noise test, under 95db or its illegal.

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Postby Julian » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:20 am

The british law is a bit on the vague side. Full vehicle type approval has quite strict rules on what can and cannot be done - including exhaust noise. SVA is less strict and basically tests that the vehicle is safe for occupants and pedestrians.

The yearly MOT tests by comparison are barely worth worrying about as they only test the bare essentials for operational safety - like bearings, bushes and hydraulics.

In terms of what you can change there is no real limit - there are ways around the emissions and catalytic converter rules that are 100% legal which are what worries most of the rest of the world when it comes to modifying. Exhaust noise is subjective, you can be stopped for having an exhaust that is too noisy but it is a matter of anti-social behaviour rather than a set legal limit. If you keep the noise down below 100db you are very unlikely to fall foul of the law here. 95db by comparison is positively civilised!

For an MOT the brakes have to work - simple as that... well a bit more than that, they have to work evenly and sufficiently well to meet the test requirements - sadly those limits are quite soft and it is easy to have a car on the road that barely has enough braking power to be worth measuring.

The MOT itself is a strange beast - you are required to have one for a road car in use and they are only valid for a year but they are not a certificate or roadworthiness - as far as the law is concerned the MOT certificate proves nothing once the car is driven away. It is down to the driver of the car to ensure that it is roadworthy (note - not the owner of the car although the owner can be liable for a share of that responsibility). What consititutes roadworthy is a mess but basically if you could take your car to an MOT station and have it pass then it constitutes safe but there are elements not tested in the MOT that are requirements for the car to be safe. If that all sounds like a mess then that is because it is! Even the police here tend to be very vague on what is and what is not legal!


Postby SteveNZ » Mon Aug 14, 2006 11:40 am

I understand the MOT, its the same in NZ. We have an annual warrant of fitness, WOF (every 6 months for cars older than 6 years). This tests the most important safety items (and legal red tape) but it cant check everything. The driver is ultimately responsible. I think a WOF is much more in depth than a MOT. It sounds like SVA would be part of a WOF too.

WOF also checks that the car meets "manufacturers specifications". Some modifications are allowed, larger wheels etc but it is quite strict what is allowed and what is not. Some modifications (like a roll cage) require a lot of red tape to make legal, even though the quality of the modification is not in question.

When is an SVA done?

Im interested because I read on another forum, someone removed their steering wheel with airbag. It was replaced with an aftermarket item and this was apparently legal. This is totally illegal in NZ, you cant remove an airbag, its a safety item.

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Postby petert » Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:24 pm

They're trying to do a similar thing here in Australia, to get common laws accross all states. They aren't going to stop modifications, but they are trying to limit power/weight ratios, regardless of the year the car was made. For example, it's currently ok to drive around in a pre '76 5.8L V8 Ford Falcon with blower sticking through bonnet, making 1000hp. As it doesn't break any emission rules, it's legal. Whether it's stupid or not is another matter. Post '76 cars start to have emission rules, so they can be pinged, if the authorities wanted to catch them on something.

Under the new rules, a blown engine would be limited to 4.6L, from memory. The authorities have come to realise that the power of turbo engines, currently entirely legal emission wise, is getting out of hand. It's fairly easy to get a GT-R Skyline to 600hp and still idle like a kitten and breathe out clean air. In the past, the authorities have been able to stop high output N/A engines through excessive emissions. They currently have no control over turbos or old cars making huge hp.

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Postby Julian » Mon Aug 14, 2006 1:23 pm

The problem they are going to face is that as soon as you have turbos with electronic control it is possible to fool those tests with ease. Most modern ECUs come with switchable maps so it is a matter of simplicity itself to flick a hidden switch and the car is instantly within limits.

How much power you want out of the engine is pretty much arbitrary too - the Greek hillclimbers are extracting figures not far short of 1000bhp from the old 2.0l 16v twincam turbo. If you extrapolate that to a larger capacity engine you can see that it isn't hard to push way beyond 1000bhp - what you would do with it is another matter. Bugatti have proven the hurdles you face and expended millions on overcoming them and in many cases inventing completely new solutions in the process.

I know the power:weight ratio limit is good in principle, especially for putting the reins on new drivers (much to the consternation of a friend of mine) but it is a flawed system.

On the subject of SVA (single vehicle approval) the test has to be done before the car can be registered. It isn't particularly hard to pass but there are pitfalls so it pays to be thorough. A lot of people complained about it when it was introduced but the reality is that it makes sure kit-cars or imports are up to standard and as such makes then that little bit safer. It used to be that anyone could bolts 4 wheels on a chassis and call it a car and the results could be lethal.

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