The classic cars incentives announced in the Budget could transform the island into a classic vehicle restoration centre, according to the old vehicles federation in Malta.

On Wednesday the Finance Minister declared the registration tax on 50-year-old classic cars was being removed and annual circulation licence for classic cars would be replaced by an administrative fee of €8, irrespective of their value.

“These measures encourage the collection of classic cars that could eventually see Malta become a southern Mediterranean centre for classic vehicle tourism, develop into a classic vehicle restoration service centre, and even attract film companies that need shots of old cars,” Stephen Zerafa, from the Federazzjoni Maltija Vetturi Antiki, believes.

The federation yesterday welcomed the measures after months of lobbying with the authorities.

A vehicle is deemed classic now if it was made 30 years ago and is classified by the vintage classification committee. Out of the 315,000 licensed vehicles on Maltese roads, some 3,000 are classic, veteran or vintage. Mr Zerafa, who is also a member on this committee, said vehicles are termed classic if they are “very faithful” to their original manufacture.

Although the classification committee does not restrain the vehicles’ use, owners take great care of their cars and do not take the vehicles out on the streets too often, not only because they are generally not fuel-efficient but also because spare parts are rare and restoration is expensive. Classic vehicles are used sparingly on weekends and for exhibitions.

“The Maltese have always been obsessed with cars, and they love classics. The federation has over the years stressed that the classic vehicle scene in Malta is beneficial to the economy and merits support.

“The first breakthrough came in 2003 when the road licence fee of classic vehicles was halved.

This was followed by other incentives including the introduction of a classic insurance policy,” added Mr Zerafa, himself the owner of six classic motorcycles and two classic cars.

The oldest motorcycle in Malta is a 1903 Minerva and the oldest car is a 1904 Cadillac.

Asked whether these Budget measures encouraged the increase of older, polluting cars, Mr Zerafa said that according to research carried out by the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens, classic vehicles in Europe make up only 0.07 per cent of the total vehicle mileage, so their greenhouse contribution is negligible.

Yet, the activity generated by the classic vehicle scene is worth over €16 billion annually.

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