The International Automotive Gala took place on Feb. 24 and 25, 2018 at Xochitla Ecological Park in Tepotzotlan, State of Mexico. Organized by the Mexican Federation of Classic and Collector’s Cars (FMAAC), at its 2018 edition, everything from a Made-in-Mexico 1965 Renault Dinalpin to a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda were on display.
In 2014, the event broke the Guinness World Record by organizing the largest parade of classic cars (1,674 old-timers) in conjunction with the History Channel. The expo included Mercedes-Benz Class S and Volkswagen Sedan of various epochs, a collection of old Chevrolet and Ford pickup trucks, several Porsches, Renaults and Fiats and a variety of vintage motorcycles that profiled an 1968 Carabela 250 and a replica of a Indian bike produced at the turn of the 20th century.
Mexico Automotive Review decided to use this occasion to take a closer look at classic cars and ask the question: what makes some old car a true classic? Is it its age, its preservation level or its ability to continue rolling with the same components with which it left the factory? In Mexico, all these features play a role on whether a vehicle can be legally considered a classic by qualifying for Classic-car license plates.
Knowing whether that 1959 Ford Taunus or 1927 Ford “T” rolling down Paseo de la Reforma is in fact the old-timer it looks like can be tricky. There are replicas out there that assemble the chassis of a sixties’ roadster on the platform and engine of a VW Sedan. But whether that car carries official classic-car license plates tells plenty about that vehicle.
Mexican law stipulates that for a vehicle to be eligible to carry these plates, it must meet a series of requirements. Among others, the vehicle must be at least 30 years old, lack any kind of modification to its main components, retain 80 percent of its original pieces, remain in perfect mechanical condition and have all papers in order and all taxes paid in due.
To obtain these special plates, drivers must pay and undergo more procedures than drivers looking to obtain plates for any other used car. Any driver looking to show classic-car plates on grandpa’s 1948 Cadillac must go to the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) and ask for their specialists to extend an expert ruling on the originality. Only then can these plates be assigned. The experts at IPN are tasked with checking every inch inside and out the vehicle to verify the authenticity, antiquity and performance of all components.
It is to be expected that a 1958 Ford Thunderbird or a 1939 Fiat 500 “Topolino” have had their tires, sparkplugs and wiper rubbers replaced over their lifetime. But, as mentioned previously, the majority of the vehicles’ components must be the ones with which it originally left the production line. Critical parts of vehicles such as engines, powertrains, steering vehicles and frames must not have suffered any kind of modification that could affect the vehicle’s original structure.
But why would people go through the trouble of all these procedures? Aside from driving a beautiful rare vehicle, obtaining these kinds of license plates brings a series of advantages for the driver. Contrary to the US, where using classic-vehicle license plates restricts the use of well-preserved vintage vehicles, cars with this kind of plate in Mexico can be exempted from some rules that regulate how much other cars circulate.
First, no vehicle tenure tax is levied on cars with classic-car plates. Secondly, these vehicles no longer need to pass emissions tests. Finally, they can circulate any day in Mexico City as the “Hoy no Circula” program is not applied to them provided their plates and papers are in order.
And there is of course the advantage of being part of Mexico’s classic car clubs, owning and driving a piece of automotive history, taking part in elegance contests and showcasing that old 1968 Jaguar E-Type or 1975 Dodge Valiant Super Bee in classic car fairs and rallies like the International Automotive Gala.