India lifts ban on vintage cars

2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Smoggy India has declared war on old cars, so much so that in late 2014 the country banned any vehicle older than 15 years from its capital, New Delhi. Now, the ban by India’s powerful National Green Tribunal (NGT), a sort of environmental court that handles disputes in Indian eco issues, has been tweaked slightly, with collector car owners and enthusiasts getting a reprieve. On December 18, the NGT announced that vintage cars will be allowed on roads for “rallies, exhibitions, and maintenance.”

It was a victory for the Heritage Motoring Club of India and other enthusiasts in the NCR, or National Capital Region, who had petitioned for special permission to drive their vehicles on roads for hobby-related events. The NCR, which packs 47 million people into an area slightly smaller than West Virginia, refers to New Delhi and the urban areas surrounding it.

Said NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar, quoted in India’s The Hindu newspaper: “We direct that antique cars which satisfy prescribed norms under the Motor Vehicle Act would be allowed to ply on the road for rallies, exhibitions, and maintenance, and not otherwise. We also observe that the applicant association, as part of their corporate social responsibility, would make a contribution towards the environment by planting trees and providing dustbins which would help in improving the ambient air quality of Delhi.”

Kumar did not explain how officials will distinguish collector cars from the many ancient Hidustan Ambassador taxis that have long ruled India’s roads. Nor was it specified what was meant by “maintenance,” or if there are mileage limits. No matter; Madan Mohan, vice president of the Heritage Motoring Club of India, is relieved that enthusiasts’ voices have been heard.

“We are very happy that at last the NGT understood our stand and [has] allowed us to use our cars for rallies and maintenance,” Mohan told The Hindu. “Our fight will be on to get permission for weekend drives, as well. Nonetheless, we are happy with the permanent exemptions that the NGT has made.”

It’s also good news for Sandra Button, event chair of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, who has participated in concours and collector car events in India and is “well aware of the car knowledge and enthusiasm that exists there.” In fact, the 2018 Pebble Beach lineup includes “Motor Cars of the Raj,” which will feature cars with ties to India.

The NGT’s reversal on vintage cars diverges from its ruling against diesel vehicles just three months ago. In September, the NGT refused to lift a ban on 10-year-old diesels, siting their carcinogenic emissions, according to The Times of India.

India isn’t alone in its concern about harmful exhaust and emissions. In an aim to curb pollution (and traffic congestion), a 2016 Paris municipal law banned all cars registered before 1997 from the city on weekdays from 8 AM to 8 PM. Also banned from the French capital on weekdays are trucks and buses registered prior to 2001 and motorcycles registered before 1999. So, basically, every interesting French vehicle ever made is now banned from or highly restricted in France’s own capital.

According to The Local France, the ban applies on all roads inside Paris’ A86 ring road, which acts as the city’s limits, but not the ring road itself. Violators are subject to a minimum fine of €22 (about $26). When the law went into effect, The Local France reported that the ban affected approximately six percent of Paris’ 600,000 vehicles.