Dedicated to the memory of the late Brian Archer who fulfilled his dream to re-create John Sprinzel's Sebring Sprite Coupé


DVLA Rules

To assist those rebuilding/restoring cars in a modified form:

In July 2015 I opened a discussion on my news page with: "Two of my regular subscribers have recently brought to my attention the fact that the DVLA (or should that be DVLC) are going through a process of verifying that so-called 'historic' cars are what they are claimed to be i.e. genuine pre-74 cars. In one case, when the new owner of a very original 1969 MGB GT sent in the necessary paperwork to make a change of ownership he was bombarded by a stream of paperwork requesting details of chassis no., engine no., and numbers for other major components. They wished to know whether the chassis was original and apparently allocate points for each item, which points need to total a certain level (?) for the car to retain its original status and reg. no. plate. It would appear there is a danger that some cars might need to display a "Q" plate and go through the stringent 'Kit Car' MOT. Those of you who are restoring/rebuilding Sprites or Midgets in a revised form i.e. as a Sebring or Lenham, etc would do well to ensure you begin with a genuine car with all its numbers and endeavour to retain that continuity if the original identity is to be retained. The use of a Heritage or Wheeler body-shell as a replacement might prove problematical. It is quite a thought that Frontline's Limited Edition MGB GTs which use Heritage shells and Mazda engines might end up with a 'Q' plate!" I invited contributors to assist with information and their experiences on this subject".

These documents show what you might expect to receive from DVLA


A constructor (name withheld) told me that in conversation 'with VOSA Tech, it came to light that any arch where the outer skin is welded to an inner bowl would be classed as part of a monocoque, and therefore removal would lose the vehicle's identity in the eyes of DVLA (on VOSAs tech advice)'. However, he goes on 'Having talked to VOSA and DVLA and the Department of Transport's Transport Technology and Standards division, it is apparent there is no change in legislation. There should be no issues to prevent registration, MOT or road use if the materials used are the same as those used in period though this is not the case with others supplying new bodies in fibreglass when aluminium was used in period.'

Next, a response from Steve Nash who said: "Having spent a lot of time on this with modified Land Rovers, I can be confident that a new replacement shell will not require a vehicle to have an IVA test. It is actually quite clear on the DVLA web site, but the basics are.... You can use a new, unmodified, replacement chassis or monocoque. This is deemed a replacement part like any other. However, if you were to use a second hand chassis or monocoque, it would officially take the identity of that vehicle, not the one you are building. If that identity has been lost (e.g. scrapped), it would force it into requiring an IVA test. It is quite clearly defined by the DVLA. I've always been amazed by the 'debating' that goes on!
As to the Sebring Sprite issue too: The definition for the body is based on it's structural members. A 'chassis' is well defined. A monocoque is also well defined in that it is the entire shell, less any non-stressed outer panels. A Spridget is neither of these as it is of unitary construction. It's stressed members are formed by the front chassis rails, bulkhead assembly, floor, sills and rear arch assemblies. This can be driven around without needing the outer skins attached. Therefore, adding Sebring or similar bodywork doesn't (or shouldn't!) require an IVA test".

Then, from David Morys: "My, my the responses were quick in coming. However I think Steve's remark sums up the system or nonsense quite well. "Therefore, adding Sebring or similar bodywork does't (or shouldn't) require an IVA test". Well, I spoke to somebody yesterday and the person who inspected their newly imported Austin 7 had obviously been subcontracted in and new zilch about cars and was due to inspect horse passports (or whatever they are called) the following day! It was the same with our building regs the guy was subcontracted in for the day. Inconsistencies are bound to occur and this is shameful. I don't think everybody will be so lucky as our Austin 7 owner and we must not be misguided enough to think that DVLA inspectors are all the same. Some will undoubtedly know their business well and will most assuredly know that no Sprites/Midgets were built with the whole of the front and rear end missing and regardless of whether panels are welded or bolted to the tub. As such I think the mere fact the Sprite/Midget has unitary construction will have no bearing whatsoever on what DVLA decide and will to a large degree hinge on who you have on the day. My whole point here is that unlike re-shells of like for like the Sebring, WSM or Lenham for that matter, no longer resemble a Sprite or Midget even to the uninitiated eye. In fact were the original Sprinzel Sprites ever registered as such in period. They were certainly never supplied without the aforementioned panels that the works Healey Sprites were. Anyway I will have to disagree with Steve in that I think healthy debate is good for the soul and we are not discussing the minutiae of what type of stitching was used on a seat squab or some other trivia"

Steve Nash then replied: "I think David has slightly misunderstood my comments. My reference to the 'debating' relates to replacement bodyshells. This is, without question, well defined in the government web site link I sent you. The grey area is when part of a body is replaced when it isn't part of the stressed structure. So, the ambiguity will always occur in some over engineered older vehicles like the Spridget. David is so right when he says it will be down to luck of the draw in who carries out the test. I can well imagine they will often take the simple approach of not letting any shell modifications through. It removes any need for the tester to have any specific knowledge of the vehicle in question. Sad, but I suspect he may well be quite right about this. As I said, a Sebring conversion 'shouldn't' need a test, but with the lack of professional testers, it is likely to vary from test to test! As an aside, at what point does a section of the car become non original? Like most older vehicles, most major component's have been replaced on mine over the years. If VOSA take the over-simplified approach of just looking at component serial numbers, you could find your car losing it's identity!"

From Alan Anstead: "Interesting about DVLA. Surely each vehicle will have to be assessed seperately as Sebring reps come in various forms. Can a historic vehicle be fitted with a K series or zetec but where is the line to be drawn. I consider my car to be a Sprite with a replacement bonnet and hardtop".

To which I replied: "Certainly, every car will be different. Should one be faced with having to complete a detailed questionnaire followed by an inspection of the vehicle you would need to study carefully the DVLA notes on "Radically Altered Vehicles" to see if yours will fall into that category. If it does then tot up the points which apply to your car i.e for chassis, engine, gearbox, etc. A car built up with its original chassis or a new replacement and fitted with a Sebring bonnet and hardtop would not, in my opinion be a radically altered vehicle, while a Sebring Fastback might well be. (This is my personal opinion which remains untested at this point)."

More from Steve Nash: "Hi Martin ..... need a hotline!! I think you have hit the nail on the head with the comment about the rear bodywork. Those with a steel Frogeye and the addition of a GRP roof and bonnet have no concerns. Those that replace the steel rear bodywork with a different material are the ones that might run into problems, me included. The problem is purely down to what DVLA/VOSA consider part of the 'frame'. My argument is that the rear skin panels of all Spridgets are not structurally stressed. This precludes them from the remit of the points system. But, as was pointed out quite rightly, this will depend on who you get inspecting the car! Replacing an engine with another make won't be a problem as long as no structural changes have been made to the 'frame' to install it. But, in real life, it is likely that more than just an engine will have been changed. Transmission, axle, suspension, etc. tend to be changed too. In this case, too few points will be left in the DVLA system and the car would loose it's identity. Rgds Steve".

and from David Morys: "Hi Martin, It occurred to me whilst reading the two recent e-mails regarding engine swaps that though these would have been done in period even engines from other manufacturers being inserted as a historic vehicle the installation of a K Series might prove problematical. As a member of the MG Car Club it would be interesting to see what problems if any those in the K Series Midget Register section of the club have experienced. The change has to be declared for insurance purposes of course as even a humble 1.4 can push out nearly double the BHP of the A Series. Oh, one final point why bother with changing the character of the car - go out and buy one of the excellent new MX5's if you want new car performance and handling. One more thing just how many historic vehicles are there in the UK? It must run into the tens of thousands, are the DVLA going to follow up every one?"

and Martyn Wilks: "Regarding the DVLA and IVA could I ask why you would want to (or need to) involve the DVLA in inspecting the car in the first place? I have built kit cars in the past and the requirement is obvious but if you are converting a Midget to a Sebring Replica then why go through all the hassle that could and probably will happen as well as the cost involved. Just asking as it is a route I may be going down in the future".

To which I responded: "To answer David's point first: I think the DVLA are merely checking on a car's authenticity (as a 'Historic Vehicle' when there is a change of ownership, although John Baggott's car was inspected when he was rebuilding it after 30 years off the road - perhaps he had been in touch with them over some point.
Martyn has perhaps not realised that this debate began when the DVLA asked for a lot of information on an MGB GT which was entirely unmodified - I don't think anyone is suggesting one invites an inspection by the DVLA merely that vehicles which are extensively modified could have some difficulty at a future date".

My Conclusion from all of the above:

i) At commencement of your restoration or build you need the original vehicle complete with its documentation, registration plates, original (not copies of) chassis number plates i.e both the one screwed to the sloping panel under the bonnet and the one screwed within the nearside door shut. Retention of the original engine number is also desirable unless you are changing to an alternative power unit.

ii) If you are going to use an alternative bodyshell you are allowed to change it for a new one from the likes of Heritage or Frogeye Spares Co but if you were to use a second-hand one from another vehicle you could risk losing the registation number, having to accept a "Q" plate and having to put the car through the IVA test. [However, how an inspector would know the shell used is not the original if its two identifying number plates are 'in situ' I really don't know.]

iii) The Sprite-Midget bodyshell is of UNITARY CONSTRUCTION (NOT A MONOCOQUE) and with its rear wings and shroud removed can be driven around without its outer shell. Therefore there should not be a problem in fitting a fastback style body to it.

Obviously individual inspectors, depending on their knowledge and experience, may take a different view on some of these points and you may need to fight your corner to get the required result.



[Please read the whole of this page carefully so you have a full understanding of the position]

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