For decades now, one of the most sought-after and desirable accessories for any historic racecar has been the possession of FIA papers. As an official validation of both conformation and provenance, the hallowed FIA papers have been an essential for anyone wanting to race a car in Europe and can, in most cases, add significant amounts onto the value of any given car.
However, as anyone with experience with these things can attest, variations in standards between issuing countries have sometimes left a wide gap between one set of FIA papers and another. While papers emanating from the UK have been some of the most thoroughly vetted (presumably due to the country’s depth of experts and knowledge), in other countries it has sometimes only been necessary to pay the appropriate “fee” to attain certification.
As a way of addressing some of the problems with this certification process, a year or so ago the FIA introduced a new split system that separates the technical specification portion of a historic racecar from its putative provenance. The first portion of this new system is now termed the Historic Technical Passport (HTP). The HTP is the new document that will be required for any racecar that wants to compete in an internationally sanctioned historic event, i.e., races in Europe, Australia, NZ and Asia. This document is similar to homologation papers in that it is verification that any given car meets the exact technical specifications mandated for that car when it raced in period. This includes all the nitty-gritty details of engine displacement, specification, weight, wheelbase, brake type, etc. Once confirmed and issued, a racecar with an FIA HTP is eligible to compete in any international historic event. However, this document says absolutely nothing about the history or provenance of a given car. The HTP issued for an original ex-Jim Clark Lotus Cortina (and what Cortina owner doesn’t claim Jim Clark once raced his car?!) is no different and no more valuable than those of a Ford Cortina which has been painstakingly built to exact period Lotus Cortina specs. In the eyes of the FIA, both cars are equally eligible to compete internationally. This is a major departure from the FIA’s previous system, and now allows the technical certification for racing of a host of exact replica or recreation cars as discussed in this column a couple of months ago.
However, this is where the second document comes into play. The FIA is now also willing to issue what is known as an FIA Heritage Certificate, which thoroughly vets and documents the provenance of any given unique vehicle. Well, how is this different from the old system you might ask? It is in fact very different and will certainly become the new gold standard for historically significant vehicles. The process has been made far more stringent and, as a result, far more expensive. In essence, now an owner will have to be able to thoroughly document and prove that a car has existed continuously as a complete car since its date of manufacture and has not at any time been “parted out.” For instance, cars built up from scrap or new around an existing chassis plate or previously discarded components would no longer meet the criteria for a Heritage Certificate. It could get an HTP that would allow it to race, but the FIA will no longer certify its history and authenticity. As a result of these new criteria, each car submitted will literally have to be able to document a “bulletproof” provenance at length and, since the FIA will now be investing far more time in verifying these details, the price tag for this type of certification has gone up significantly. Applications for a Heritage Certificate now require a nonrefundable payment of 1,500 Euros, as well as the owner picking up the expenses of an FIA-approved inspector to come out to physically inspect the car and the full documentation. Will it be very difficult to earn a Heritage Certificate under this new scheme? Absolutely. Will having one add prestige and value onto a given car? Most certainly.
The more interesting question, which a representative of the FIA recently asked me, is will the American collector embrace this new scheme? The answer, however, is more difficult to divine. Historically, American collectors have not lent too much importance to FIA papers, since they are not required to race here in the States. However, with more and more Americans starting to race their cars overseas and with the vagaries of international monetary exchange making it more and more appealing for Europeans to buy historic collector cars in the States, I think savvy collectors will see the investment value of having both a Heritage Certificate and an HTP for their historic racecars. After all, even historic racing is becoming more and more globalized…but that’s a topic for another month!