The NSW CMC stance on historic registration is disappointing and short sighted

Today I read a report from the NSW Council of Motor Clubs about their stance on historic registration.  (It was published in the Magazine of the Jaguar Drivers Club of Australia).   Basically their stance is to support the status quo (with minor amendments for street rods) and so NSW continues to have the worst historic registration system in the country.  Obviously the final decision rests with the NSW Government, but in order for the Government to act, the CMC would need to support change.   I find this stance disappointing and short sighted.

As I understand it from speaking to people inside the three clubs I am a member of, and reading various submissions, the main reason why clubs oppose a change to a system like they have in Victoria and South Australia (with 45 and 90 day permits for example), is the concern that if owners of classic cars can use them at non-sanctioned club events, then the clubs will become less relevant and attendance at club events, and even membership of smaller clubs will suffer.     The other argument is that the costs will go up – This argument, while true, and is actually a non starter – we already know the cost for the Victorian and South Australian schemes and they are still reasonable and much better value.

Actually I think the opposite is true.   Lets face it, many car clubs are suffering from declining and aging membership.   While there is nothing wrong with aging membership in itself, it means eventually there will not be enough new members to keep numbers up.   Without enough new members, who is going to be the next custodian of some of the lovely old cars that are sitting in garages all around the country?   If the cars are not used?  Who is going to wear them out so they need repair, or parts, or restoration?    To support the classic car hobby, we need thriving businesses that can compete with each other on price, quality and service, and without the cars actually being used, these business will eventually start to close down resulting in lost knowledge and higher prices.   Garage queens are the worst thing for the classic car hobby.

I’m 35 years old and often one of the youngest attendees at various car club events that I go to.   The current historic system is completely useless to me, so I keep four cars on full registration, which is hugely expensive for the amount of times per year they get used, and the biggest car related cost I have.     Having a young family and work commitments means that while I would like to attend more club events, it is often impractical for me to do so, so I find other ways and reasons to use my cars – maybe a late night drive….  maybe while I’m doing some errands….   Maybe taking a classic if I’m going on a weekend away with my family.     None of these things are possible with the NSW system, but would be in Victoria or SA.    I know plenty of people in my age group or younger that have an interest in older cars, but it is too impractical and expensive to get involved.    And why would you join the club if you don’t own the car, or plan to buy it?

Personally, were NSW to adopt a Victorian style system, I would continue to be a car club member.   They offer interesting events that I would like to do more of, the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable members and chances to meet people with similar hobbies and interests.     But as well as getting to the occasional club event like I do now, I would also be able to use my cars in a more cost effective way, and in time would even consider buying more.   I might even convince a few more people to get involved in the classic car hobby.   There are always great low-cost classics for sale, yet the cost of registration makes the whole proposition too expensive for a hobby.

The CMC report mentions that in Victoria historic registration went from 10,000 to 50,000 and implies that it is somehow a bad thing.   This is a great thing!  Most of these cars would not be on the road anymore without this system.  True there are probably a few people who abuse the system, and they should be prosecuted.   There may even be a few minor loopholes that can be closed (e.g. campervans, or towing, or commercial use).   But people in NSW abuse the current system too, and when rules are broken, rule breakers should be punished, not the majority.    I also have friends in these states who have rescued old cars that were on the brink of scrappage and brought up them up a roadworthy state to be enjoyed under their system.

The reason why this decision is so short sighted is that the classic car club movement desperately needs to attract the next generation of members.   With the spiraling cost of housing in Sydney, and the time pressures on those people for work and family, the current system simply puts the ability to consider having a classic car out of reach of most younger New South Welshmen.   Once you get people interested in the hobby, they’ll join the clubs – they’ll need the wealth of information that the club members have to offer.   But you’re not going to get members if they are not already interested in the hobby.     Sadly, over the next twenty years I see many once thriving clubs folding, and some of the lesser known but really interested and historic vehicles unable to find a new custodian to lavish the same care and attention that their previous ones have.

Jeff Kennett might have enticed the Grand Prix and other events to Melbourne, and his successors might just poach all the classic cars too!

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