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Major classic-car group takes a stand against electric-drivetrain swaps

FIVA wags its finger at vintage vehicles that have been electrified.

Volkswagen E-Beetle
Want a clean-running classic? VW offers an electric drivetrain swap for vintage Beetles.

What makes a classic car, well, a classic? It all depends on who you ask.

Some go by age, which is arguably the best yardstick. Others might consider a car or truck's marketplace significance. Makes and models that are no longer in production could be considered classics, too, even if they're not particularly old. But what about vintage vehicles that have had their combustion powerplants and gearboxes excised and replaced by electric drivetrains? Absolutely not! That's the opinion of at least one organization.

Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens, or the international federation of historic vehicles (FIVA for short), is taking a stance against these automotive Frankensteins. Founded in 1966, this global organization is dedicated to preserving and protecting historic vehicles. Representing more than 2 million vehicle owners, it has some 85 membership groups located in 62 nations around the globe.

As posted on the consortium's Facebook page, "Conversion of historic vehicles from their original internal-combustion engines to electric power doesn't comply with the FIVA definition of a historic vehicle, nor does it support the goal of preserving historic vehicles and their related culture." The organization does not consider these modified cars and trucks to be historic vehicles anymore since such a significant part of them has been altered.

To meet the FIVA definition of a historic vehicle, any car or truck must be at least 30 years old, preserved and maintained in correct historical condition, and not used as daily transportation. Applicable vehicles must also be part of our shared technical and cultural heritage.

FIVA's stern stance on this issue is curious, though understandable if their stated goal is to preserve as many vintage cars as possible. Still, as electric swaps become more common, and as automakers even start to offer conversion kits for popular classic models, you'd think a little leniency would be in order. Volkswagen, for instance, is doing just this, offering a battery-and-motor swap for its vintage Beetle. Also, what if switching powertrains is the only way to get a super-rare vehicle back on the road? Not everybody has a Bugatti straight-eight stashed away in their shed.

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