Check out the latest Life on Cars

Check out the latest Life on Cars

by Danielle Thompson (November 2021)

FORESTS. They make excellent backdrops for Ford Escorts and Audi quattros sliding about sideways and making lots of noise – but it turns out they have a rather more useful application if you’re into old cars. 

For years we’ve been using the nation’s woodlands for rally stages, where men in bobble hats can converge in the freezing cold, waiting patiently for a split-second glimpse of a Subaru or a Mitsubishi being driven to within an inch of its life by a Scandinavian with no fear. They’re also good for woodland walks and providing squirrels with food and shelter, of course, but it transpires that they’re also rather handy for capturing carbon too. Which has given the nation’s classic car experts an idea. 

It's easy to think of historic vehicles – as in anything over 30 years old with wheels and an engine, and which also includes old cars exempted from road tax by the government – as being just about the worst thing going for environmental damage. There’s no way an Austin A35 or a Vauxhall Victor can match a brand new Nissan Juke for tailpipe emissions, and for the vast majority of these really old cars, they aren’t even being used for essential commutes. One accusation I had put to me a few years ago is that we are, quite literally, polluting for fun. Which is, of course, nonsense. 

This is largely because while there are more than 1.5million historic cars, bikes, trucks and buses on the DVLA’s records, they account for less than a quarter of one per cent of the nation’s driving every year, because the vast majority of them never go more than 1500 miles in a year, trundling back and forth to shows. It is a drop in the ocean pollution-wise – but even a drop is too much, which is why classic car owners like me are being asked to do their bit. 

This week the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs – the umbrella body for most of the UK’s car clubs – has set up a scheme to offset the carbon emissions of older cars. In essence, you punch into a website what your car is and how many miles you’ve done in it – and it tells you how many trees you’ll need to have planted to undo the damage, and what it’ll cost. 

For my Reliant Scimitar GTE the cost of planting enough trees to offset my car’s emissions for a year comes to a frankly dizzying…. £20. For the cost of a round of drinks or a cheap pair of jeans I can enjoy a year’s worth of taking my old car to shows, knowing that I’ve done a little bit to help the environment. I’m not going to pretend that it alone will save the penguins, but it’s a start, and it’s a far more enjoyable way of being eco-friendly than using paper straws that disintegrate the instant you try to drink anything through them.  

Added bonus - we’ll get more rally stages too. What’s not to like? 

David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly

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