Is an electric classic still a classic?

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It’s not generally considered good practice to populate your company’s blog with dirty words. Yet in one of our core specialisms – the Enthusiast auto market – ‘modification’ is a term that can cause significant offence. When you’re dealing with aged vehicles many drivers feel were built to perfection, the verb ‘to modify’ does not mean to enhance; to some it means to inflict damage.

in 2018 we surveyed enthusiasts to see how they felt about the idea of modifying classic vehicles. Over three quarters (76%) of respondents agreed that classics should be preserved as they were originally made (without modification), However when we took a closer look at the data, we also saw that over half (56%) of that same group would not find a modified classic unappealing.

To some within our industry, it’s now a case of purism versus pragmatism; indeed, we’re hearing a number of brokers’ enthusiast customers acknowledging that modifications may in certain cases be deemed necessary, if for no other reason than to keep these prized possessions on the road. Modern safety and roadworthy requirements have been introduced for good reason; the same is true of air quality legislation. Not all cars built for a different earlier age can be relied upon in 21st Century driving conditions in the same way as modern vehicles.

There will always be enthusiasts for whom any modification is tantamount to vandalism, while for others the challenge will be modifying a vehicle for the sake of roadworthiness or compliance without detracting from the car’s core aesthetic qualities. For example, in the past 12 months we’ve underwritten Singer Porsche 911s and Eagle E-Types that have been tastefully modified and well-received by many within the market – though perhaps they’ll never be approved of by everyone.

The question, as the industry’s acceleration towards electric vehicles continues in earnest, is what happens to the world of classic automobiles when we go beyond the tipping point, when electric is the norm and classics suddenly feel like they’re from a different world entirely? In the US we’re already seeing electric modifications to classic cars, to the chagrin of the purists, for sure, but perhaps an indicator of what’s next for the global market as a whole.

If you can get past the friction that’s implicit in any scenario where so-called petrol-heads start driving vehicles that don’t need petrol, electric modification could be quite a sensible move. These are short-use vehicles deployed on quiet stretches of country road and then returned to the safety of the home garage. While an infrastructure shortfall may temporarily slow the wider uptake of electric vehicles, a lack of charging points really shouldn’t impact classic owners.

This argument is unlikely to persuade many enthusiasts to proactively seek out electric modification, but it could make the pill less bitter to swallow in the event that such modifications end up being mandated by a future Government as part of further emission-reducing policies. And if this happens, there’s one further benefit: the value of your classic, so often the reason why owners avoid modifications, should be preserved, as going electric will be the only way to get a classic out onto the road in the first place.

Got a classic car risk that needs underwriting? classicquotes@ers.com | 0345 600 3890

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