The MoT (Ministry of Transport Test Certificate)

1960s MoT Certificate

When I was a fresh-faced lad of twenty I took my recently acquired (25th November, 1965) J2 along to the local garage for its MoT. The garage proprietor, Si Janes, suggested that a ride out in the car could be useful for a brake test so off we went down Memorial Road gathering speed (as it was slightly downhill). Si shouted across (above the roar of the engine) “when I raise my arm I want you to do an emergency stop”. Sure enough, the arm went up and several (I won’t tell you how many!) yards further down the road we came to a halt. “Brakes b’aint be too good boy!” said Si, but he still gave me my MoT, which I’ve kept to this day (along with the car).

Times have changed and I would not dream of taking a car on the road in this condition. Come to think of it, it has not been on the road since, but that’s another story for another day!

The point of the aforementioned tale is two twofold. Firstly, it hopefully brightens up the subject matter and secondly it shows overseas readers what a UK MoT certificate is like – the certificate has not really changed much over the years. The MoT document is still a form VT20 but it now has green print and the managing authority is VOSA (Vehicle & Operator Services Agency) except that in Northern Ireland it is DVA (Driver and Vehicle Agency). VOSA is an executive agency of the Department for Transport (formerly known as the Ministry of Transport).

If you have a modern car the MoT test is quite stringent and the initial failure rate is around 30%. New additions to the test are being introduced on a regular basis and many of these are as a result of EU Directives from Brussels. The initial failure rate of our type of cars is probably less that 10%.

Late last year, the UK Government embarked on a consultation exercise to establish views on the desirability of exempting classic cars from the MoT test; three options were given for their exemption, only exempt pre-1920 vehicles, only exempt pre- 1945 vehicles, exempt all pre-1960 vehicles (of which there are approximately 162,000). The result of the consultation was that there was a majority in favour of exempting all pre-1960 vehicles.

The above paragraph is only a very broad summary; the full results can be viewed at

The exemption comes into force on 18th November but it will still be possible to take one’s car for a voluntary test. However, as far as I know, VOSA has not yet communicated with testing stations concerning the post 18th November arrangements with the result that some seem to appreciate that they will still be testing a few pre-1960 vehicles whilst others don’t think they will be!

The exemption from testing has sparked some heated debate with some questioning the assertion in the consultation document that most classic cars are maintained to a high standard. They point out that the MoT test is in fact a key aid to maintenance. Not only does the looming arrival of the date for the test ‘press-gang’ owners into action to thoroughly check over the car before the test, but the test itself covers some items that owners cannot check ourselves. For example, two people and a ramp or a pit are essential to check the operation of the steering.

Nothing could have illustrated better the value of a proper steering check than the experience of one of our readers, who might well have been left with no steering due to the wear in the casing of the drag link end. To quote from his experience:

Whilst turning the steering wheel backwards and forwards the MoT Examiner noticed that the drag link end was moving vertically up and down before moving the road wheels. A ‘fail’ certificate was issued and the owner drove the car home slowly. Upon disassembly it was found that the inner shoulder in the “tube” that supported the cup had worn away allowing the cup to tilt, which in turn moved thetapered peg over at an angle. This caused the slot in the casing to wear away, allowing the ball to protrude through the slot which would have eventually popped out.

‘Sympathetic’ MoT stations are becoming rarer these days. By ‘sympathetic’ I do not mean that they will give you a certificate without a thorough examination of the car, but that they understand our cars and know what to look for. Many of us will have our own ‘sympathetic’ garage where the proprietor is pleased to welcome us and show an interest in the vehicle. However, newer owners may not be aware of these establishments so perhaps it might be of benefit to publish a list of ‘sympathetic’ garages?


7 thoughts on “The MoT (Ministry of Transport Test Certificate)

  1. Richard Parry says:

    Dear John
    Is there any indication that insurance companies will in future demand an MOT before giving cover?

  2. Ed Hosford says:

    Good morning John, I am firmly convinced that to remove the compulsory MOT from any vehicle is a retrograde step in safety, and I am sure our Insurers will eventually will come to see this. If the Government disallows the voluntary testing at the same price as a MOT we will be left with obtaining very costly engineers reports to satisfy our Insurance Companies.

    To start your “Sympathetic” garage list: Island Autocare, East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

    Best regards, Ed.

    • JOHN JAMES says:

      Thank you Richard and Ed for your comments. There is no current indication that insurance companies will in future demand an MoT before giving cover. My ‘gut feel’ is that most owners will continue to get their car MoT tested and from my reading of what has been published it will still be possible to do this. Thank you Ed for the ‘Sympathetic’ garage details – I have a couple in this area and will start a ‘directory’ for ongoing publication.



  3. Ron Benson says:

    Recently one of my old car friends went to tax his car at the local DVLA office and enquired as to the new regulation regarding non testing of pre 1963 cars. Never heard of that said the young lady behind the counter, but I will ask my supervisor. He new nothing of it either! So there you go. Nothing like joined up Government.

  4. Tony Shaw says:

    Thanks for that one John, my first MOT in September ’64 was on my £55.00 P.A. at Fishers Garage in Wigston near Leicester. I can still hear the tester’s colleague as he went for the brake test run ”He thinks he’s bloody Fangio”.Having discovered that the brakes came on roughly together, he kindly put the car on the ramp, readjusted the cables and sent me on my way with my ticket. I get similar treatment from Malcolm Beer these days, just a few more expleetives ! So Mill Garage, Houghton, Huntingdon is my recomendation for your list.

  5. Gerry McCarthy says:

    My local garage recommended that I bring my TD in every year for an annual check up, where they would put it up on the ramp and check brakes,steering and suspension. I thought about creating a small check list for him to sign and stamp but wondered if one might already exist.

  6. Martin Moore says:

    Hello John ,
    Not informative but a light hearted experience when I took my Willys Jeep for its first MOT in 1960 it was all very new in those days and the tester was reluctant to take the vehicle out on the road and he had to try the brakes in the yard , all went well until he asked for the handbrake to be applied whilst the Jeep was still moving. The handbrake works on the transmission and is pulled on by an umbrella handle in the dash, nothing happens for a few moments but when it does all four wheels lock up and we were nearly ejected through the screen . Happy days .
    Do wonder in these days of the sueing culture if we could be found ” negligent ” if something failed with no MOT to say that it had had a professional check .
    Regards Martin .

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