Were police right to stop this ‘unroadworthy’ Austin Allegro?

Should the MOT exemption for 'historic vehicles' be axed?

Were police right to stop this ‘unroadworthy’ Austin Allegro?
Photo: Essex Police

A 45-year-old Austin Allegro in “a very poor condition” has been removed from the road after Essex Police officers spotted it in a Tesco car park.

Officers from the Colchester District force were taking a break from ‘Operation Roadrunner’ when “their attention was drawn to a very loud vehicle driving at inappropriate speeds and manner”.

Photos posted on the force’s Facebook page show an Allegro with rusty doors and no steering column cover. Reports posted elsewhere on social media suggest that the car’s exhaust was missing.

According to the Facebook post: “PC Faraday ran on foot to the other side of the car park to get in front of the vehicle and PC Pulham caught up with it and managed to stop it before it left the car park and put other law abiding road users at risk.

“The vehicle can no longer be driven on the road (or race around any more Tesco car parks).

‘Nanny state or sensible and prudent?’

Although there’s no suggestion that the Allegro was being driven without an MOT, the actions of the police officers have shone a light on the subject of classic cars and the MOT exemption for vehicles registered more than 40 years ago.

Posting the photos on the magazine’s Facebook page, Practical Classics‘ editor, Danny Hopkins, said: “This Allegro was prevented from carrying on its journey by police after being spotted in a supermarket car park yesterday… it was deemed unroadworthy? Nanny state or sensible and prudent?”

Meanwhile, Dominic Taylor-Lane, founder and managing director of the Association of Heritage Engineers (AoHE) sparked a debate on X (formerly Twitter) by saying: “It has long been my belief that the classic vehicle community is one major accident away from potentially draconian measures to restrict or worse still ban older vehicles.

“Those that use the privileges currently afforded to classic vehicle community to drive around in what are essentially moving scrap need to be taken to task by genuine enthusiasts who want to see the classic vehicle community survive and thrive.

“Those I have challenged on the subject in the past have been belligerent and aggressive with some kind of a privilege complex.

“They are not enthusiasts, they are in fact a liability that could jeopardise not only our hobby but all those whose livelihoods it supports. Don’t assume our community has an inalienable right to survive, the future is partially in our own hands and we are now in the crosshairs.“

The future of the 40-year exemption rule

Last week, the government announced that MOT tests will continue in the current 3-1-1 pattern after it ditched plans to delay the date of the first test to four or even five years.

The news was greeted with support from the industry, with Stuart James, chief executive of the IGA, saying: “Public safety is paramount, and the decision aligns with our commitment to protecting motorists by ensuring the continued effectiveness of MOT testing in identifying potential safety issues as early as possible.“

Kevan Wooden, LKQ UK and Ireland CEO, added: “This is a fantastic outcome for UK road users and the aftermarket. We lobbied hard alongside our industry partners to push back against the proposed changes on the grounds that they would put the UK’s hard-won reputation for road safety at risk, endanger our national net zero ambitions and increase costs to motorists.”

But what does the future hold for the 40-year exemption rule for historic vehicles? Does the Allegro pulled over in a supermarket car park highlight the need for a change?

Just because an old car might be able to dodge the annual MOT test, does it mean that it should? Motorists need to appreciate that knowing an older car is safe and roadworthy is better than the feeling that they’ve saved £50 and a trip to a local garage.

Fifty quid for an experienced, knowledgeable and trusted mechanic to take a thorough look at car and identify any defects before they become a serious issue. A lot of people spend more than that on TV subscriptions – every month.

And then there’s the issue of the car’s roadworthiness and the owner’s obligation to keep it that way. As stated by the Department for Transport (TfL): “Whether or not you are exempt your vehicle must be roadworthy and you may wish to voluntarily undertake an MOT test anyway.”

A car can be classed as unsafe, even with a current MOT certificate, but motorists could be fined up to £2,500, be banned from driving and get 3 penalty points for driving a vehicle in dangerous condition.


  1. as a garage owner, mot tester and classic vehicle enthusiast. I can say for 100% that we must scrap the mot exemption. The government has ( told to me by a MP ) the false assumption that all owners of classic vehicles know how to look after and maintain their vehicle. This is far from correct. Many owners are not experienced engineers and dont have access to things like a car ramp. We are one serious accident away from a faulty classic vehicle causing deaths or serious injuries. ANY vehicle being used on public roads should have a mot.

  2. Personally, I have never been able to understand why this rule was ever introduced – if we stop and think the MOT is a minimum standard and given that every vehicle using public roads should have one.

  3. There are two problems here regarding the mot exemption for classic vehicles. Firstly the standards applied by the current mot test does not apply to older vehicles. Most of us “Old guys” who would have worked on the now 40 + year old cars when they were new have long retired. Younger testers would probably be unaware of things like lift in king pins, rod brakes,emmisions and British European Headlamp beam testing and apply modern standards to classic cars.I like many other classic car owners believe there should be a classic car test available as even with the best intentions it is impossible to check a classic car braking system without a brake roller system and the ability to carry out a full inspection of the underside. This is particulaly important when welding repairs have been carried out by novice welders.
    Secondly the Allegro is obviously a death trap it does not represent the many thousands of true classic car owners who spend a lot of money each year on their hobby. Take a look around any classic car show and you will see the standard to which the vast majority of classic cars are maintained.

  4. Basically no, the rule shouldn’t exist. It’s common sense that 40 + year old cars are going to need a regular check up..ie, mot ! Can’t see the sense of the law at all.
    Oh and by the way.. PC PULHAM. ?? Love it. 😆 😂

  5. As a classic car & motorcycle owner I tend to agree with Andrew Puddifer, but feel that it would be very regrettable to lose the 40 year MOT exemption now because of one or two irresponsible individuals. Most classic vehicles cover very little mileage annually so perhaps a bi-annual thorough check would be suffice to maintain safety and peace of mind along with the various checks we all tend to do periodically.

  6. Totally wrong in my opinion I’ve been testing since October 1996 and know all about king pins and Trunions as I used to work on car’s that had them as an apprentice and if what you say is true WHAT are they teaching new testers NOW on these so called MOT courses !!!

  7. A Classic MOT TEST i test Jensen 541R Marcos triumph GT6 and others right up to Lamborghini avantado I TEST to the regulation s don’t know what you TESTED to

  8. As a specialist classic vehicle restorer I tend to agree with most of the comments here, in that there is a minimum safety standard to be maintained for any vehicle that is used on the public highway.
    However you cannot hold a 60 year old mini to the same standard as a 2020 Peugeot. Things have changed and technology has moved on.
    A classic test dependant on the vehicle that is presented would be a far better way to assess roadworthiness.
    Also which one of the two officers involved in this incident holds a valid MOT testers card ?
    Surely the vehicle should be independently inspected by a qualified person rather than some bloke who doesn’t like the look of rusty doors!
    We all know that there are cars out there on the road now that have structural corrosion, that is of grater risk, that’s covered by a bit of plastic and can’t be seen or tested….


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