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Classic Cars Definition Criteria

19 aprile 2020

[Premessa in italiano – Blog post in english] Qualche settimana fa Christopher Boles mi pose una serie di domande in tema di omologazioni e certificazioni. Questo mi ha portato a fare una ricerca più ampia in chiave comparativa europea. Il primo passo è cercare una definizione precisa di Auto d’epoca.  

A few weeks ago Christopher Boles asked me a series of questions regarding Homologation and Authenticity Certificates*. His input stimulated me to set up a wider research and thorough reflection on the subject. So, before tackling the issue I will deal with the following topics:

  1. criteria underlying the definition of Historical / Classic car [‘auto d’epoca’];
  2. the decision-making process leading to the assignment of such a status, and the tax regime to which they are subject once they become ‘legally’ classic cars.
  3. the different types of omologations and certifications.

In this blog post I will deal only with the first one: criteriology.

1) Classic car owners may have different tastes to define their beloved old car. Countries and institu-

tions need to go beyond subjectivity and find a set explicit criteria to redefine ‘old cars’, in order to regulate their road use and to decide about their inclusion / esclusion in a tax regulatory framework.

Now, since countries and institutions are just abstract entities made by humans, that is by different minded people, it is common ground that subjectivity can not be eliminated: the challenge will be therefore to limit it as much as possible, taking into account everyone’s needs (i.e. different cultures and conceptions, economic imperatives, environmental sensitivities, ideological idiosyncrasies… -could I add “etcetera”?).

Nevertheless, in the definition of classic car we can find three objective criteria: a) age; b) originality; c) sporting significance. To these three criteria we should add another one, rather subjective: d) historical / social relevance. Of course, a quantum of arbitrariness lurks in each of them, but while (a) can be conventionally stipulated, (b) goes subject to compliance checks, and (c) is usually attested by supporting documentation, criterium (d) calls into question – in addition to features like ‘rarity’, ‘exceptionality’, till ‘uniqueness’ – the reference to a set of symbolic values related to the technical and artistic progress (and even to social emancipation), which are recognized in some car models. The latter here, if / when it is allowed as defining parameter (as it happend in Italy for youngtimers), become matter of discussion, and sometimes, as we shall see below, clash between opposing positions.

Let me outline what I’ve said so far with a comparison between four important European countries: IMO the best way to get an idea of the issue is to approach it from a comparative European perspective: this will help us contextualize everything we will say from here on out.

AFAIK, in all european countries criterion (d) is considered implicitly included in the definition if (and only if) the three objective criteria called above are fulfilled. In France it seems true¹; and neither in Germany nor in the UK seems to be going differently. The same applies to Italy.

However, since in Italy the exemption or reduction of the (property) tax was in force (at least till 2015) also for cars between 20 and 29 yo., a set of subjective criteria was implicitly up for this specific category. In 2015 these tax breaks were abolished by a state law. The measure raised many controversies and was applied unevenly in the various regions of the country. Among many other classic car enthusiasts, I myself reacted harshly against that law (I will explain the reasons in detail next week). 

Finally, in 2019, another measure granted a 50% tax reduction for youngtimers, by adding a paragraph (1-bis) to article 63 of law no.342 -Nov. 21 2000. In the meantime, however, the controversial clash between the two most important institutions in the automotive sector (ASI and ACI) has grown.

The controversy came on the alleged need to define a list of models to be preserved (supported by ASI and by the historical certification departments of some car manufacturers), and the opposite position according to which ALL over 20yo. cars can be defined ipso facto historical vehicles, that is to say  strictly speking – not auto d’epoca as over 30yo are, but nevertheless be entitled to tax benefits, as long as they have a CRS (certificate of historical relevance). As can be clearly seen, there is a logical inconsistency here, because if the relevance is ascribed to all members of the category, certifying one by one would have no meaning. Again, I took a stand 🙂

I’ll explain the reasons that led me to support the adoption of a closed list nex week. And, of course, as promised above, I will deal with the topic of the decision-making process leading to the assignment of the status of Classic cars in Italy, as well as the related issue about the tax regime they are subject.



1. « [L]es véhicules de collection présentant un intérêt historique ou ethnographique de la position 9705 sont ceux qui répondent aux trois seuls critères cumulatifs suivants: [a] qui sont âgés d’au moins 30 ans […] [b] qui se trouvent dans leur état d’origine […]  [x] – qui correspondent à un modèle ou à un type dont la production a cessé ». L’eldorado fiscal des voitures de collection.


2 commenti leave one →
  1. 19 aprile 2020 11:49 PM

    This should be an interesting series of articles that will certainly wake up the car community. Just how do you decide which cars to keep and which cars to put aside? Then at what level of authenticity or significance?

    "Mi piace"

  2. 20 aprile 2020 9:09 am

    Good question: IMO authenticity / originality is mandatory, otherwise we heve outlaws.This and ‘age’ are cumulative criteria (necessary and sufficient conditions).

    ‘Sporting signifiance’ should be understood on the basis of an additional feature that provide added value (in the sense that they deserve to be preserved). This category does not imply necessary and sufficient conditions and should include both: vintage cars with documented racing past (overlapping criterium a.) and some iconic youngtimers. In this case, and to a certain extent, it may derogate from the ‘age’ criteria. In this way some cars built in the 2000s should also be considered ‘classic cars’, i.e. Ford GT, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Honda S2000 etc.

    In all fairness, I am not entirely convinced of this categorization, as overlaps should be avoided. in any case: work is in progress.

    "Mi piace"


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