Vintage Tyres Will Be Exempt from S-Marking Laws, Won’t They?
This means your stock needs to have two seven-digit marks – one for the e-mark and one for the s-mark. While you are probably already thinking vintage tyres will be covered by exemptions you may be surprised to learn that you are both right and wrong. It depends how you define a vintage tyre. You see the latest EU directive (the rolling resistance, wet-grip and noise one – regulation 316 as it is known) describes the 2012 law’s exemptions like this: “Some categories of tyres, including…tyres intended only for vehicles registered before 1990.” However, there is a crucial difference in the wording between this and the s-mark rule set to start in October this year. In this version (2001/43/EEC) the word defines tyres exempted on the basis of their age as: “…tyres designed only to be fitted to vehicles registered for the first time before 1 October 1980.” So while the apparent exemption appears to get wider with the introduction of regulation 316 in 2012, what happens to all those tyres that don’t comply in the meantime?
To put this into a tangible perspective, here’s a practical example of what this time gap means. Tyres for a car like the classic Ford Capri produced 30 or 40 years ago would be safe. Nothing much takes that size at the moment and when it comes to replicas of the OE fitment the law is pretty clear that these tyres are exempt from the new s-marking regulations. However when it comes to covers for the classic Mini, which ceased production around 1991, things are as clear as a rally winning Mini Cooper’s wheel-arch mud. And what about collectors that are seeking tyres specifically for their idiosyncratic squeal – which would almost certainly rule them out, according to the new law? Despite the fact 2001/43 comes into force just a couple of years before regulation 316 (that’s the 2012 labelling law) it moves the goal posts on what’s exempt on the grounds of being a classic car tyre by about a decade. This raises the question about a tyre that fits the aforementioned Mini, but wasn’t actually OE on the production line. Does this count as a tyre designed only to be fitted to vehicles registered for the first time before 1 October 1980? So, does this confusion in the market mean manufacturers will have to invest in new moulds and testing procedures to – ironically – bring some of these borderline vintage tyres up to date? The are two reasons why modifying vintage tyres in this way is objectionable. Because it goes against the ‘authentic parts on authentic vehicles’ philosophy of some collectors and secondly, because of the cost (financially, in terms of know-how, and certification) necessary for compliance. You see s-marking tyres is far more than adding an inverted ‘S’ to the sidewall mould. While this article doesn’t have the scope to focus on the exact details of these requirements, the new laws force the manufacturers to produce tyres to technological standards that just weren’t attainable using the tread patterns, tyre compounds and manufacturing technologies of yesteryear. For the same reason that a tyre produced today is between 20 and 50 per cent better in most respects (see radar chart) a tyre produced in 1976 cannot, for example, simply cannot achieve today’s sound standards without radical changes in tread design, rubber compounds and carcass construction.
And this brings us back to first point about authenticity, if all these changes are implemented, the tyre’s size (and perhaps white sidewalls) would be the only thing linking the product back to its ‘original’ fitment. So what options are left? T&A has it on good authority that the UK tyre market potentially has millions of apparently illegitimate tyres. That’s not to say they aren’t quite enough, they just don’t have the right markings. A fair few of these fall in the disputed vintage tyre category and for the reasons stated above the manufacturers are unlikely to overhaul these products’ designs so they conform to the new standards. This means classic mini, Golf owners could be forced off the roads at their next MOT when it becomes apparent that neither their current tyres, nor their replacements are s-marked. And with regard to wider market, either the rules have to be relaxed or tonnes of virgin rubber will have to be scrapped in the name of environmental noise regulations. At the time of going to press T&A learnt that a certain industry body is preparing to lobby government on the subject – the results of which will no-doubt have a marked effect on how the tyre trade proceeds. So, as we are certainly not lawyers and therefore in no position to give legal advice, T&A’s best suggestion is that you contact one of the select bunch of UK vintage tyre suppliers (you can count the members of this elite group on one hand) or even smaller collection of UK-based vintage tyre makers (literally just a couple – Dunlop and Cooper) regarding your supplies of antique, classic or retro rubber.