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Thinking of buying a kit car? Read this first.


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I've decided to post this up now because I thinks it's useful information for people looking to buy a kit but who don't understand what they might be letting themselves in for. I'm surprised at the number of cars that come up for sale and are clearly not what they claim to be so I thinks it's worth running through a few details and people can then decide whether they want to risk buying a particular car.

This isn't meant to be a definitive guide so if anyone has something relevant to add, let me know.

Thinking of buying a kit car?

If you’re starting to look at buying a kit car then it’s essential that no matter how nice a car looks or how much of a bargain it seems, it need to be correctly registered. Cars appear for sale, often on auction sites, that aren’t what they claim to be and there are a number of reasons for this.

Some background on registering kit cars.

Prior to 1998 and the introduction of the SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) Test, getting a kit car on the road was somewhat simpler than it is today. You could build a kit using new and / or donor parts and the basic roadworthiness was checked by a normal MOT. With your MOT certificate in hand, the car was taken to a DVLA office for an inspection. This would determine how the car would be registered:

Registered retaining the donor vehicle registration - which used a points based system with points allocated for the major components of the donor vehicle that had been re-used plus a NEW body and a NEW chassis. Cars not complying with this system would automatically receive a Q plate. The V5 would be amended to show the make and manufacturer of the kit (but see later information for “specials”) and the appropriate body style change. Cars registered by this method would then be due an MOT after 12 months. However, there will be some older kits around that don’t have the V5 amended but still show something like Ford Escort or Ford Sierra on them. This may be due to an error on the part of the DVLA when they were inspected when the rules weren’t correctly implemented or they may be cars that were only MOT’d, but not presented for the DVLA inspection. This may have been due to the possibility of them getting a Q plate and the apparent stigma attached to it, with people simply just MOTing the car and driving it on the donor car identity. In either case, such cars are incorrectly registered because the description on the V5 doesn’t match the actual car.


In 1998 the SVA test was introduced in an attempt to give cars a more thorough mechanical inspection prior to registration and to weed out dangerous, badly built cars. The test fee was £190 (£38 for a re-test) and on successful completion of the test, a MAC (Ministry Approval Certificate) was issued. The registration inspection that followed was similar to before but now with 3 possible outcomes:

Age related plate – still using the point based system for major components from the donor vehicle plus a NEW body and NEW Chassis. The registration letter would be the same as the donor vehicle e.g. F prefix for a 1989 donor and again the V5 is amended to show the make and manufacturer of the kit and the body style changed to suit. The VIN number will be unique (not the donor VIN). The V5 may have notes added to Section 3 Special Notes to the effect that the vehicle is a kit built from parts, all of which may not be new. The “Date of first registration” should be the date the donor car was registered e.g 01/04/1989 and the “Date of first registration in the UK” will be the date the kit was registered and the V5 was issued.

New registration – cars build from all new parts (with receipts to prove) with the exception that one major reconditioned component can be used (generally the rear axle). Registration would be the current one at the time of the inspection and the V5 is updated as above and the VIN is again unique.

Q plate – applied to everything else not covered by the previous 2 cases  e.g. cars build using second hand parts from a number of different vehicles. V5 updated as above and a unique VIN number.

In all of these 3 cases the V5 should describe the actual car, it shouldn’t say FORD, JAGUAR or any other obvious trademarked manufacturers name. The VIN and engine numbers on the V5 should exactly match those on the actual car. New registration cars would be due an MOT after 3 years, the others might be after a year or possible 3 years depending on how the DVLA processed the paperwork. In any case, any car that has passed an SVA test would now require an MOT.


In 2009 the IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) test was introduced. It was only slightly changed from the SVA test but there was a big increase in the test fee – up to £450 and £90 for re-tests. Registration wise nothing much changed with the same 3 possible outcomes. However, the increased test fee seems to have prompted more people to find ways of avoiding the IVA test and circumventing the correct registration process. This might involve using the identity (V5) of a different vehicle and in particular, using a Dutton V5. Lots of Dutton kit cars made it onto the road prior to the SVA test, these were largely Ford based and poor examples can be bought for not much money (less than the IVA fee). The actual car is either scrapped or broken for parts and the Dutton VIN number, engine number etc is transferred to another kit. The identity on the V5 doesn’t correctly represent the actual car and it hasn’t had an SVA or IVA inspection and so is potentially not safe to use on the road.

No inspection but still correctly registered!

In addition to the pre-SVA, SVA and IVA cases explained above, there is another route for getting certain kits on the road and apply only to a RE-BODY. This refers to a NEW body fitted to an existing chassis and examples would include fibreglass bodies fitted to VW Beetle floorpans , other new bodies fitted to Triumph Herald or other separate chassis cars or sets of fibreglass panels fitted onto a monocoque car (Ferrari replica panel onto an Toyota MR2 or a Peugeot). If the floorpan, chassis or monocoque of the car is UNMODIFIED and the majority of the main mechanical components are re-used, these cars can essentially still be registered without and IVA or SVA test. They retain the registration, VIN and engine number of the base vehicle but are assigned with a new model and manufacturer on the V5. In addition to this, if the base vehicle is tax exempt (pre 1981), the tax exempt status still applies.

In general, cars to be wary of would include the following:

Anything where the VIN, Registration, engine number or body style shown on the V5 don’t match the actual car. You probably wouldn’t want this on your daily driver, so why would you want it on your kit?

Cars with V5’s that say Ford, Jaguar, Triumph that clearly aren’t those vehicles. Possible exceptions to this could include makes or models that include the word SPECIAL in them.  These should exclusively be kits registered pre SVA (1998)  and the DVLA at that time decided to use the description to signify that the kit was based on say a Ford Cortina and so was described as “FORD SPECIAL” or FORD CORTINA SPECIAL”

Anything that claims to be a Dutton that isn’t. A few of these are still around and the DVLA have been quite active in seeking these cars out and looking at them in some detail. For more information on identifying Dutton models, refer to the Dutton Owners Club http://www.duttonownersclub.co.uk/id.html

Cars that claim to be MOT and /or Tax exempt which are using V5’s of much older vehicles (currently 40 years old), unless they are a re-body on a chassis or floorpan that can be proven to be the age it says it is.

So what are the possible consequences of buying or owning a car that is incorrectly registered?

The vehicle isn’t what it claims to be (an offence in itself) which could lead to it being seized by the DVLA and them potentially destroying it or requiring it to be IVA tested and re-registered. This might be triggered a roadside check, an insurance claim or even taking the car for an MOT. The burden of proof would fall on the owner to show that the vehicle is registered correctly, which might be very difficult for anyone who didn’t build the kit and doesn’t have the history and documentation to support this.

A person selling an incorrectly registered car, even in good faith, would have misrepresented it if they advertised it as something that is wasn’t and a subsequent purchaser of the car might be entitled in law to a refund if the problem came to light.


In summary, if you’re considering buying a kit car, check that the identity shown on the V5 matches the actual vehicle. If there are any discrepancies, then the safest course of action is to assume the worst and look in more detail to try and disprove this. The information shown above should allow the registration status of most kits to be fully understood but there will still be some exceptions. If doubt still exists, seek additional advice via the club or the forum.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I suppose one slightly justifying argument for buying a 'ringer' would be if you were going to strip it of it's identity to turn it into a race car, or some sort of track car where the rules didn't require it to be road legal. That doesn't necessarily negate the arguments about it being built shoddily, or illegally from stolen parts/etc, but is one path that might make sense to someone looking to have a track-day toy that's trailered to events. A rather niche case though, I think. Great write-up.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi, after reading the above advice re dates of registration, I noticed on my RH 2B V5 that the date of first reg and date of first reg in the UK were the same i.e. the date passed IVA 01/07/2010, so I chatted on line with DVLA and they suggested I sent the V5 in, so I duly sent the V5 to DVLA with a covering letter and form V888 only to receive it back 3 months later with a covering letter stating they do not take into account the donor car dates classing the kit car as a new entity with the dates from the IVA test. Please see the attached letter if you need to. Thought I would forward this as an update to what is mentioned above, Darrell

DVLA letter 060422.jpg

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I am thinking (always risky), my car is "C" reg (1985), however just like for IVA, the V5C shows date of first reg as January 2000 (SVA date). I wonder if I can now purchase a personalised number for any year up to 2000 (that would be a V reg car) .... it would give me more choice of numbers ... I'm assuming that when a different reg is put on a car they only check that you are not trying to put on a plate thats for a year newer than the date of first reg?

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13 hours ago, richyb66 said:

Interesting. What registration year did the the car get when first registered after IVA, age related to the donor?

It was given an age related plate relevant to the original donor (F reg) I put the personalised plate on when I bought it last year

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23 hours ago, Sparepart said:

I am thinking (always risky), my car is "C" reg (1985), however just like for IVA, the V5C shows date of first reg as January 2000 (SVA date). I wonder if I can now purchase a personalised number for any year up to 2000 (that would be a V reg car) .... it would give me more choice of numbers ... I'm assuming that when a different reg is put on a car they only check that you are not trying to put on a plate thats for a year newer than the date of first reg?

My thoughts exactly and I thought this is something DVLA would want to avoid.

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