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Coming out of your Shell

Coming out of your Shell Published: 26th Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Coming out of your Shell
Coming out of your Shell
Coming out of your Shell
Coming out of your Shell
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It sounds the ideal solution to rusty wreck; just use another, better body! However, there’s a lot of legal hurdles to overcome as we reveal here

Restoring the original body is likely to make the completed project more valuable, compared to using a second-hand ’shell. It will not only require re-registration but it is also likely to be worth less, because the vehicle would no longer be seen as an original.

A subsequent attempt to pass the car on as original would be deceitful and could land the vendor with a legal challenge, especially if it were found that the original VIN identifying marks had been either disguised, or tampered with. Similarly, keeping quiet it is also illegal. Most restorers prefer to keep the car’s original identity intact, including the number plate and VIN. For this to happen, the DVLA stipulates that the original and unaltered monocoque (for a separate chassis car, the identification is attached to the original chassis, not the body) is retained.

Should you convert a separate chassis saloon car to a droptop and paint it a different colour, for example, you remain bound legally to inform the DVLA, even if you were to retain the original and unmodified chassis and, therefore, retain its identity.

If you wish to replace a monocoque bodyshell (or chassis), with one of the original specification, and retain the car’s licence plate and VIN, only a brand-new, unused and unmodified part is permitted.

While brand new bodyshells are available, such as those marketed by British Motor Heritage (BMH), you will need to ensure (and also prove) that the new body is to the original equipment’s standard specification and not upgraded, to meet modern legislation.

Apart from verifying the original specification, the DVLA will require proof of a bodyshell’s purchase.

Apart from retaining its existing, unaltered (or a new and unmodified) bodyshell, chassis, or frame, a restored vehicle must also feature at least two of its original major components, to keep its original identity.

These can be the front and rear suspension, the two axles (not just one), transmission, steering assembly and engine. Eight points are needed. An original (or new), unaltered monocoque body, chassis, or frame/chassis is mandatory and scores five. The original front and rear suspension, both axles, the transmission and the steering assembly score two points each. The original engine nets only one point. Should the car fail to total eight points, or neither an original unaltered, nor a new unaltered bodyshell (chassis, or frame) is used, the car would lose its licence plate and would require re-registration.

It’s permissible to rebuild a classic, on a used monocoque, chassis, or frame, but you will have to sacrifice the original car’s complete identity, including both the VIN and registration numbers. As the DVLA cannot ascertain the car’s exact age, it will be seen as a new entity of parts, even if a donor car was of the same age. Therefore, the dreaded ‘Q’ prefix number plate will be issued but only should it pass a Type Approval process, the IVA inspection, so that it can be declared road-legal.

Ultimately, it is best to be aware of the potential registration pitfalls, before establishing whether, or not, a project is viable. Consulting document INF 26, for further information, is well worthwhile and you should bear in mind that the DVLA investigates each application on a case-by-case basis.

To shell or not to shell?

Trigger’s broom?

We’ve all seen that famous Only Fools and Horses scene where he describes his ‘original’ broom. It’s the same with cars and if not enough originality is left in the conversion then the car’s identity will be lost forever. It’s only original once…

Putting a price on it all

New bodyshells aren’t cheap – even a MG Midget one from BMH costs almost £8000 and that’s before painting and fitting! That’s why you need to weigh up whether it’s worth doing. Midgets have yet to regularly touch five figures for example!

A case of a new identity?

Before all these changes it was quite common to change the body type, from saloon to convertible, for instance, and retain its identity and it still is legal – albeit only on a vehicle with a separate chassis – so long as you inform the DVLA

Five top tips

Seek advice

Before embarking on a reshell get as much advice possible, both from specialists, makers of the respective bodyshells and from the DVLA, the latter who is only too happy to help and advise you

Name changer

A Peugeot 205 GTi, to take as an example, that has been re-bodied, with a 1.1-litre donor, will not only require re-registration but it is also likely to be worth less, because the car would no longer be seen as an original GTI. In the DVLA’s eyes (and certainly, from those of an insurance company) the car is more likely to be viewed as a 1.1-litre, with GTi running gear and ‘GTi’ would not appear on the V5C, only the new engine size

Identity crisis

DVLA defines much of the car’s identity as resting with its original and unaltered state. While determining the vehicle’s age is only part of the process, retaining the original identity of the complete registered vehicle depends on the extent of any changes made

Back of the Q?

A Q registration is the last thing you need as it will devalue the vehicle plus lose any MoT and road tax let-offs. Oh and in case you’re wondering, no you can’t put a personalised plate on the vehicle either to disguise the fact…

Keep all receipts

You stand a better chance of fighting your corner if you keep all the bills and invoices – and this includes those from previous owners. If done right, in accordance with the rules, there’s nothing wrong reshelling a classic



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