Open Menu
Open Menu

Safety, scarcity, legality “all valid reasons” for modifying vehicles, according to FIVA

Published in

Photo courtesy Historic Vehicle Association.

Editor’s Note: In response to an earlier Hemmings Daily article covering the Charter of Turin Handbook, a guide to preserving historic vehicles published by the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens, representatives from FIVA’s Culture Commission wrote us a letter seeking to clarify the organization’s positions on modified and over-restored vehicles. We have decided to print the letter in its entirety below.

Dear Dan,

Thank you very much for your article on the FIVA Charter of Turin Handbook. It was picked up simultaneously by FIVA Culture Commission members both in Germany and Lebanon! We enjoyed reading your analysis and the associated comments. The range of comments do, to a large extent, duplicate a lot of the discussion that took place when the Charter was first being written and the subsequent debates we had and are still having within the Culture Commission.

We particularly liked Jason Herring’s comment regarding a restorer re-creating the Corvette workers “walk across” footprints! This does show the efforts that can be made by enthusiasts who go to extraordinary lengths with their passion.

We would like to clarify the suggestion that we were seeking to exclude either customised or over-restored vehicles and explain why we believe that the “Mint” headline is not quite correct.

Firstly, the ideas we are proposing are that, in addition, to an enthusiast taking care of a historic vehicle, it is worth considering the vehicle from a possibly fresh perspective. They are not rules to be followed and we recognise that the owner makes the final decisions on how the machine is preserved. The handbook contains information, including outlines of potential codes of practice, a “delicate” subject and one that is not static but which, we expect, will change over time. The ideas apply to any historic vehicle, from moped to a Sherman tank.

Secondly, if you will allow us a little history, it may assist with understanding the aim and the development of the Charter better.

Thomas Kohler is a Swiss gentleman and motorcyclist, who was the chairman of the Culture Commission when he promoted the idea of a Charter for historic vehicles. With a background as an architect and archaeologist, it was not surprising that his first thoughts were based on the ICOMOS standards for the restoration of historic monuments ( and that the original text of his article was written prior to the finalisation of the Charter, reflecting his views on authenticity.

Though we have been speaking of “mobile heritage,” reference was also made to the Barcelona Charter, the code of practice for historic watercraft and the FED EC RAIL version of the Riga Charter for heritage railways. Both of which have the problem of parts wearing out and thus the spectre of “originality” arises in these situations too.

If you Google the Ship of Theseus, you will see how old this problem is, or for a more humorous version see

So why bother with the Charter of Turin?

FIVA is an international federation of national federations of vehicle clubs. Most, including our largest member, the American Historic Vehicle Association, spend a lot of time trying to head off legislation that would have a negative impact on the USE of historic vehicles on public roads.

HVA is particularly good at this and has established the National Historic Vehicle Register, as well as a strong presence on social media. For example, the “This Car Matters” YouTube videos have been effectively promoting “heritage” to ensure that the movement is preserved.

The Charter was developed to meet this aim. It is a bit like the historic building movement, which combines organisations like the National Trust in the UK, to promote the movement and ensure its survival.

However, whilst preparing the early drafts of the Charter, there was strong opposition internally, particularly from the US and UK, regarding the definitions, which were seen as too restrictive, given the bulk of the global membership do not own Rolls-Royces or Duesenbergs, but Chevrolets, Citroen 2CVs or BSA Bantams.

The compromise that resulted can be seen in the details of the Charter. For example, article 6 says “…it is not necessary to restore a historic vehicle in a way that adjusts its look and technical features back to the appearance of the manufacturing date.” Plus, probably more importantly article 7 indicates that “…safety concerns, lack of availability or legal prohibitions” are all valid reasons for vehicles to be modified from that of the original. This together with “Especially in the conservation of historic substance, traditional materials may not be adequate. As elsewhere in the field of restoration, modern materials and working techniques may then be used instead, provided they have been proven adequate and durable in experiments or tried in practice,” gives, hopefully, a good degree of flexibility for the owner and/or restorer.

None of which denigrates the tremendous efforts made by Thomas to complete the Charter of Turin and its proposition regarding heritage and the cultural impact of the vehicle in the 20th Century.

One of the actions for the Culture Commission in 2018 is to find real examples of enthusiasts’ vehicles to further illustrate the Charter. This will include machines that have been kept in original condition. We have a Sunbeam motorcycle whose owner keeps it in as far as possible as it was built, complete with stabilised “patina”. We also hope to include a “hot rod” along the lines of the McGee Roadster, together with a London Bus, examples of which have covered multi-million miles!

In the meantime, since it was signed, FIVA has used the Charter to assist with the building of a relationship with UNESCO. This is proceeding well. This is also shown by the fact that the picture of the “half-and-half” Alfa Zagato at the top of your blog has, from left to right, Rony Karam, FIVA’s Ambassador to the Middle East, Mr Khalil Karam, Lebanon’s Ambassador to UNESCO, and Patrick Rollet, the President of FIVA.

It is possible to gain a false impression from the photo ops at posh Concours events that we are only interested in the top end of the market. But this is not true, as indicated above.

Finally, may we take this opportunity to Thank You for stimulating debate around our movement and the efforts we all make to protect, preserve, promote and above all USE our historic vehicles.

Culture Commission

We’ve asked FIVA representatives to elaborate on the standing of modified and over-restored vehicles and will include that response here.