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FIVA: “Mint” condition restorations equivalent to customization, should be rejected

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FIVA-lauded 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coda Tronca prototype. Photo courtesy FIVA.

While it makes exceptions for period-modified vehicles in its recently released Charter of Turin Handbook, the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens casts a wary eye on customized vehicles and vehicles restored to better-than-new condition equally, arguing that neither should be considered historic.

“An exceptional amount of original historic material is lost in so called ‘Concours restorations,’ which exaggerate an imaginary mint condition,” Thomas Kohler, one of the driving forces behind the Charter of Turin, wrote in an article included in the Handbook. “Immense effort is made here to extinguish every ‘annoying’ or ‘unsightly’ trace of age and therefore the historic substance is stripped to the bone. This creates an absurd situation, as age and substantial material integrity are the basic requirements on how a vehicle can be recognized as an original object of cultural history.”

Intended as a guide for historic vehicle enthusiasts, owners, and restorers, the Charter of Turin Handbook offers a number of essays and practical advice on how to implement the principles of the Charter of Turin. The Charter, enacted in early 2013 with the goal of convincing the world’s governments to recognize historic automobiles as cultural artifacts, positions FIVA and the Charter itself as arbiters of what vehicles should be considered historic, based on FIVA- and Charter-supplied definitions.

For the most part, the Charter and the accompanying Handbook take a dim view of modified vehicles. Article 4 of the Charter states that “historic vehicles should not be modified more than necessary. Unavoidable modifications should not interfere with the historic substance. As a matter of principle, they should not alter the vehicle’s period engineering and appearance.” Meanwhile, the glossary in the Handbook breaks down modified vehicles into those with period modifications, “period-type modifications,” and “non-period modifications,” implying only the former carry any historical significance.

Describing the Charter as “a new way to conceive (of historic vehicles’) restoration and preservation,” Roberto Loi, President of the FIVA Culture Commission, wrote in the Handbook that “we should avoid bringing vehicles back to a ‘better than new’ or ‘mint’ condition” and that the historic substance of a vehicle “needs to be preserved as much as possible.” The Handbook glossary cautions that restoration should follow the principle of interfering “as much as necessary and as little as possible.”

Loi points out in the Handbook that the Charter of Turin was conceived “as a guideline and an advice for good practice, rather than an imposition for our members.” Similarly, Patrick Rollet noted on the Handbook’s introduction that “FIVA’s intention is to protect and promote a correct and historically respectful way of looking at the past and we hope the new Handbook will prove both fascinating and useful to those who choose to apply the principles of the Charter to their own vehicles—as well as prompting further discussion and debate on the cultural role of historic vehicles.”

However, Loi also wrote that historic vehicles “should no longer be seen just as a hobby, a toy for grown-up boys, but rather a part of the cultural heritage of our civilization.” In addition, FIVA has worked with various governments, its own member organizations, and other groups to argue for and secure exemptions from old car bans and other restrictions for historic vehicles, arguing that “historic” vehicles are not simply “old” vehicles. FIVA’s definition for historic vehicles (“mechanically propelled road vehicles which are at least 30 years old; which are preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition; which are not used as a means of daily transport; and which are therefore a part of our technical and cultural heritage”) also closely matches up with the European Union’s definition for historic vehicles (at least 30 years old; “historically preserved and maintained in its original state and has not undergone substantial changes in the technical characteristics of its main components;” and “considered to be hardly used on public roads”), already used as the basis for exempting historical vehicles from roadworthiness testing.

The Charter of Turin Handbook is available as a downloadable PDF at