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Classic Cars Certifying Authorities

10 Maggio 2020

[Premessa in italiano – Blog post in english]. In questo post aggiungerò i miei 2 cents alla conoscenza dei nostri amici collezionisti stranieri, circa il percorso che porta qui in Italia all’omologazione di un’auto d’epoca. Va da sé, senza pretese di esaustività e nel modo personale e sgangherato che mi è proprio 🙂  

This is the second in a series of three articles in which I try to add my 2 cents to the foreign collectors’ knowledge about classic cars Certification in Italy. In the first one we tried to establish a set of defining criteria for classic cars. In this article I will tell you about the certification authorities in Italy, in order to have a clearer picture in view of describing the certification procedures (3rd article – coming soon). I updated the work plan, so if you go back to the previous post you will notice some changes; the index is now as follows:

  1. Criteria underlying the definition of Historical / Classic car [‘auto d’epoca’];
  2. classic Cars Certifying Authorities in Italy;
  3. the long and tortuous path to certification.

What I propose here – albeit schematically – is a critical discussion about classic Cars Certifying Authorities in Italy: we would have to do with a bit of history, laws, and a lot of popular dissatisfaction. This survey is necessary to get any chance of understanding the particular Italian situation: in this regard I would immediately like to reassure readers… do not worry if something remains unclear to you, because the same thing applies to us Italians… It’s part of the game, you guys!


Ok, anyhow our starting point will be the present situation. To summarize in a few words what we said last time, there is a war going on: “the two most important institutions in the italian automotive world (ACI and ASI)” have different views on how to manage and regulate that we could call discontinued or no-longer-in-production-vehicles. The object of the dispute is (of course, not only) the interregnum made by those cars that are between 20 and 29 years old, that is already historical cars but not yet Auto d’epoca. Not just a purely semantical debate – even if, in a nutshell, we could say that it is all about $emantics.

Well, who are the duelists? I introduce you to Dr. Scuro (from ASI – left) and Mr. Stichi Damiani (from ACI – right), chief Presidents of the two illustrious italian Motor Institutions, both connected in different ways with the Italian Government and State agencies. What are their respective operating areas?

A.C.I. (Automobile Club d’Italia) is an old non-profit government agency – born between the XIX and XX centuries  and officially founded in 1927 – who carries out important control and development tasks in the Italian automotive department. Among them, the most relevant are the management of the Public Automobile Register (PRA) and regional motor vehicle taxes. ACI’s area of expertise is limited to ordinary mobility and currently does not have certification tasks regarding historic vehicles. However, since 2013 it has shown growing interest in this area too, and through an intense activity and an aggressive policy (against ASI) it tends to consolidate its influence within it.

ASI was born on September 25, 1966 from the merger of two federations of classic cars enthusiasts. Its mission was from the beginning to promote motoring heritage. The passion for classic cars, at first reserved for an elite, grew in the late 70s and becomes popular thanks to the commitment of ASI, whose affiliates reach 3000 in 1982. It was in 1983 that it acquired a substantive political role, when – together with the FIAT, Lancia and Alfa Romeo registers – obtained the tax exemption for 30yo vehicles. In 1997, under the presidency of Vittorio Zanon di Valgiurata, the institution reaches over 14.00 members. The same year, President Roberto Loi took the lead and will remain in charge for over 20 years [!!!].

Under his leadership, ASI continues to grow and expand its influence. In 2000, law 342 gives ASI the right to certify vehicles and to register them in its own register for tax and insurance purposes: the same law extends the tax exemption to 20yo vehicles. In In 2006, the ASI moves to Villa Rey, a sumptuous residence in Turin and, in 2015, scores a master stroke by winning the Bertone collection at auction, thus preventing 79 works of art on 4 wheels from being dispersed outside Italy. However, a very delicate phase in the institution’s history will open in those years, which will end with a sad story. In 2017, after an internal war, President Loi (following a sexual harassment and mobbing affair) is disheartened along with almost the entire Governing Council. An era sadly ends; after a short interim period Dr. Oscuro takes over the presidency in 2018. Is a new era beginning? Who knows…

Both organizations always coexisted, distributing their tasks each within its own sphere, until the moment when the ACI began to challenge the ASI’s monopoly in the classic cars field. It must be admitted that both have contributed to growth a safer and more aware automotive culture, and that ASI in particular gave a fundamental contribution to the development of a social sensitivity towards the historical and artistic value of the automotive heritage. However, it should be noted that the benefits obtained by classic car enthusiasts over time have been paid an expensive price. In fact, both institutions have slipped, a little at a time, into a drift that represents, on a small scale, all the endemic problems of our unfortunate country. And with this war I would say that we have hit bottom.

Over time, the former (ACI) turned into a bureaucratic nightmare, moving from being a service for citizens to a carrier of unjust and vexatious government policies. Just one example: in 1982, the average vehicle road tax (“bollo di circolazione”) changes its DNA and becomes a ‘possession tax’. Consequences were disastrous, both for daily mobility and for classics: Would you like to garage your car until it reaches the right age and become a classic car? Great! But from now on you will still have to pay the whole tax every year. No surprise: that insane tax is still in force! To make matters worse, the ACI is novadays such a powerful lobby that on many occasions it has prevailed over the governments themselves, as demonstrated by the numerous attempts – all aborted – to abolish the PRA, that in fact is nothing but an unnecessary duplication of the Civil Motorization register, which for citizens constitutes a hidden tax. Put it together with the above ‘ownership tax’ and you will have a clear idea of what the ACI real mission is: bleed the driver and parasitize the State’s public economic resources!

On the other hand, the second (ASI), born as a federation inspired by the mission to develop and protect historical motoring heritage of Italy and classic cars enthusiats, ended up resembling itself to the “elephantine” state structures that today want to eat it. In its long career, instead of developing innovative (democratic?) management models for the benefit of affiliates, it preferred to follow a different path, monopolizing the field of certification procedures, adding bureaucracy and monetary burdens for classic car enthusiasts, raising obstacles rather than breaking them down. And all this taking advantage of two weaknesses of the system: a law written badly and interpreted worse, and the mildness of the average Italian, who will never have a clear knowledge of what his rights are. So Italians continue to pay for what is due to them, so they continue to be treated as servants rather than citizens.

For all these reasons, neither of them, neither ASI nor, much less, ACI, proves to be able to solve problems that really interest their affiliates today, so they fall back on self-referential positions, in a struggle for power and the related money flow resulting from Certifications.

What are the alternatives?

We will talk about it next time.

Stay tunned



One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 Maggio 2020 10:14 PM

    You paint a more clear picture of what is transpiring between the two entities. It is harmful for all owners of the cars who wish to take advantage of the taxation and fees that could be due to them. Also, having some authority certify the car as to a level of authenticity if beneficial to any future sale to a new owner. This is why I like to see the ASI plate attached to the car.
    What I do not see (maybe more confusion on my part) is how ACI is involved other than for taxation and financial gain?

    So what does FCI offer to certification? A metal plaque or just some stamp on a paper?

    I am not opposed to paying a fee to have a car certified as there has to be some administration costs for paperwork. To pay year after year for a car to continue the certification is crazy. ( I hope I have that correct?) even if the car is not drivable.

    Now toss in FIVA and RIAR will stir the waters some more.

    Could I have a plane or boat certified if it was made by Alfa Romeo? Then who becomes the authority to judge these?

    As with any “war” between two factions, there has to be a loser. Cooler heads must prevail to benefit the automobile owner. As long as no one will give ground to make concessions, it will only cause ruin for everyone.

    "Mi piace"


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