May 04, 2022 By C! Magazine Staff Words & Photos by Lester Dizon

The Vintage Vehicle Law: What Does It Really Mean?

We take a close look at Republic Act 11698 and cross our fingers for its correct implementation.

Republic Act 11698, otherwise known as the Vintage Vehicle Regulation Act, became a law on April 15, 2022. The new law recognizes motor vehicles as an integral part of Philippine culture and history where old vehicles specifically – whether they are classified as vintage, historical, classic, or collectible – must be protected and preserved, and their use must be regulated. RA 11698 also exempts these old cars from certain laws and regulations that were made after the vehicle’s manufacturing date.

Since the new law encourages the ownership, maintenance, preservation, and restoration of vintage vehicles, as well as recognizes the contributions made by the people who own, maintain, preserve or restore these vehicles, it is seen as a landmark victory for classic car enthusiasts and a potential boon for the local auto restoration business. But what does it all mean, really? We took a look at RA 11698 after it was published in the government’s Official Gazette and here’s what we learned:

Vintage Vehicles According to Law

Section 4-h of the new law defines “vintage vehicles” as motor vehicles that are at least forty (40) years old from the date of manufacture. The chassis, engine, steering and suspension assemblies of these vehicles should either be original or authentic, and the body should not have been generally altered. Thus, vehicles assembled in April 15, 1982 (and earlier) are now considered as vintage vehicles under the law. A 1982 Mitsubishi Lancer SL, even though it has been updated with the front bumper and spoiler assembly from a later GT model, qualifies as a vintage vehicle.

1982 Mitsubishi Lancer SL

The law does not cover replicas and reproductions of classic vehicles. While the 1959 Corvette replica made by Hot Rod from Mars in Angeles City, Pampanga looks like the real classic Chevy sports car, it was locally fabricated, assembled and completed between three to four years ago, which does not qualify it as a 40-year-old vehicle. The same applies to a reproduction 1957 Porsche Speedster built on a 1977 VW Beetle because, even though the VW chassis is more than 40 years old, the Beetle’s steel body was “generally altered” when it was removed and replaced with the Speedster fiberglass body.

1959 Chevrolet Corvette Replica

1957 Porsche Speedster Replica

Exemptions from Standards and Modern Regulations

RA 11698 exempts vintage vehicles from meeting modern standards such as emission, pollution, safety and road use standards that were made after their date of manufacture. For example, a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle with an air-cooled and carbureted horizontally-opposed flat-4 engine can now be registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) without needing to have it emission-tested. Likewise, the Beetle’s owner won’t be flagged down by traffic enforcers and cited for not having a side mirror on the passenger’s (or right) side because these were just optional accessories and were not mandated by law in 1973.

1973 VW Beetle

However, the law requires vintage vehicles manufactured after December 31, 1967 to be fitted with safety belts as mandated by the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999 (RA 8750). Thus, when you drive your pre-1968 classic car, such as a 1965 Ford Mustang or 1967 Chevy Camaro, you cannot be cited for “driving without a seatbelt” because of this provision. The authors of this law based the cut-off year on the American Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 when seatbelts became mandatory safety equipment in 1968 car models.

1965 Ford Mustang

1969 Chevy Camaro for restoration

Regulating the Use of Vintage Vehicles

But of course, there’s a catch to these exemptions. The law recognizes the “small number” of existing vintage vehicles and “their expected limited use”, which, in other words, call for the regulated or occasional use of these vehicles. After all, the preamble of RA 11698 defines it as an act “regulating the use and other activities related to vintage automobiles and other historical, classic or collector motor vehicles” so, we expect that there will be new regulations that will dictate when vintage vehicles can and cannot be driven on public roads. But if you think about it, only a few people own a 1928 Ford Model A that they dare drive to work in Metro Manila traffic.

1928 Ford Model A

In some states in America, for example, vintage cars registered as “Historic Vehicles” can only be driven on weekends, holidays, and during parades. Their limited use is regulated by law to minimize the car occupant’s exposure to risks on the road and to minimize the vintage car’s emissions and carbon footprint, especially since these vehicles are exempted from emission and safety standards. Currently, RA 11698 limits the use of vintage vehicles to personal use, leisure driving, or promotional purposes but not for public utility. (Sorry, 40-year-old jeepneys, taxis, and buses.) We just hope that the LTO will not put an emphasis on the regulated use part of the law when they make the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) 60 days after the law has been passed.

Vintage Vehicles = Big Business

In the US, which is the world’s largest classic car market, the vintage vehicle business is worth more than $30 Billion while the auto restoration business is worth about $1.9 Billion per year. Recognizing the large and expanding international business of buying, selling, maintaining and restoring vintage vehicles, the law seeks to improve the local classic car market and maximize the business potential of local restoration shops.

Restoration shops that import, restore, and export vintage vehicles, which provide skill improvement and employment for local mechanics, technicians, artisans and restorers are encouraged by the law to avail of the fiscal and tax incentives provided in Republic Act 11534 or the “CREATE Law“. And by encouraging the promotion of automobile tours, and the establishment of vintage car museums, exhibits, motorsports and events, the law also seeks to enjoin shop owners to make the quality of their restoration world-class.

Import, Export and Taxes

Vintage cars are now exempt from the law that prohibits the importation of second-hand cars. Any person or entity can legally import vehicles that are 40 years old or older, provided that they pay the corresponding Customs duties and taxes based on the vehicle’s current value. It’s a given restored-and-modified (RESTOMOD) 1968 Buick Riviera or one that needs work (for restoration) will have a lower tax valuation than a pristine numbers-matching 1968 Buick Riviera Gran Sport in Concours condition.

1968 Buick Riviera GS

Likewise, a right-hand drive (RHD) 1959 MGA Roadster can now be legally imported into the country because the law allows the importation and use of RHD vehicles manufactured on or before December 31, 1970 as well as the importation of RHD vintage cars for use in motorsports. On the flip side, anyone can export any vintage vehicle freely, provided it doesn’t have any historical significance to the country. Sorry, but President Manuel Roxas’ 1940 Cadillac cannot be exported back to the States, except for its full restoration, after which, it has to be returned back to the Museum of Presidential Limousines in Quezon City.

1959 MGA Roadster

Permitted Modifications

RA 11698 allows a limited amount of modifications to a vintage vehicle. It permits period-correct factory upgrades made when the vintage car was in production or within ten years of the end of production, such as installing a Ram Air induction system in a 1968 Buick Skylark that was not originally equipped with one. The carburetor, brakes, suspension, axle and running gear can be changed to improve efficiency or safety while fuel injection systems can replace carburetors to improve fuel economy and emissions. Aftermarket accessories such as radios, aircons, and directional lights can be added to improve comfort, convenience and safety.

1968 Buick Skylark Custom 350

The law also allows the installation of a new, modern engine in a vintage car as long as it is the same brand and the same general specifications of the original engine, or it belongs to the same historic model line as the vintage car. An original but tired 307 cubic-inch (5.0-liter) small block V8 in a 1971 Chevy Camaro RS can be replaced with a brand-new 300hp 350 (5.7-liter) V8 crate motor or a remanufactured period-correct 375hp 402 (6.5-liter) big block V8 because these engines were available during the car’s production. Installing a modern 426hp 5.7-liter LS V8 with EFI would qualify the vintage car as a RESTOMOD.

1971 Chevy Camaro RS

Special Plates, Registration, and Others

The LTO will issue special “Vintage Vehicle” license plates for vehicles registered under this law. The registration will be valid for three years and an onsite registration system will be provided for vintage cars that are not regularly used or displayed permanently in a museum. The law also applies the option to place the vintage car’s license plates in LTO storage when it is no longer drivable. However, the law didn’t mention if the registration fees will be lower since vintage cars will on the road less frequently than other vehicles.

The great thing about RA 11698 is that undocumented vintage vehicles, especially those whose registration papers were lost during the Typhoon Ondoy floods, can now be registered subject to several conditions and a one-time reconstitution fee of P10,000 in addition to the regular registration fees and charges. The law also recognizes the assistance of vintage car clubs and special interest groups in the reconstitution of registration documents for vintage vehicles. The LTO will be tasked with creating a national data base for vintage vehicles that will also include a list of licensed restoration shops, parts suppliers, car clubs, and special interest groups.

So, if you own a 1967 Pontiac Lemans, registering it as a vintage vehicle exempts it from emissions testing and the Seat Belt Law. If you drive a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 500SE like we do, you have to wait another year before you can apply the exemptions. If you drive a 1996 Nissan Sentra, you’ll have to wait another 14 years before it can be considered as a vintage car. By that time, most of us will be driving electric vehicles, which is covered under Republic Act 11697. But that’s another story…


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