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Do test stations have the discretion to pass historic American vehicles?

Q. I have an American vehicle that I bought a few months ago. The previous owner gave me test certificates dating back to when it was imported – the current one runs out shortly. The vehicle was first used in 1968 and has red rear indicator lights – I’m concerned it may fail its next test.

Do test stations have the discretion to pass historic vehicles due to exceptions for vehicles of this type?

A. No, they don’t! American imports often have ‘dual function’ lamps, where the indicators may be incorporated with the position lamps or stop lamps. This aspect of the test is covered in Inspection Manual (IM), under Section 1.4 (Direction Indicators and Hazard Warning Lamps) and 1.2 (Stop Lamps).

Section 1.4 states that “Vehicles first used before 1 September 1965 may have direction indicators incorporated with stop lamps, or combined with front or rear position lamps, in which case front indicators may be white and rear indicators red.”

Due to the age of the vehicle in question, it will fail the test unless the rear indicators are converted to amber. The legislative basis for this requirement is contained in the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 (amended).

This is not the first time that our attention has been directed to red rear indicators on post-1965 American vehicles with a clear MOT test history. As we don’t know what condition this vehicle was presented in previously, there’s no telling whether

a tester has missed anything – but two wrongs don’t make a right – the presenter has been lucky in previous years but will have to accept that these will fail the MOT test in future.

American vehicles with red rear indicators, while not a common sight on British roads, are widespread enough that any tester not familiar with the requirements for direction indicators should be advised – there is no exemption for any vehicle to have red rear indicators if it was first used on or after 1 September 1965.


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