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MOT Guinea pig

Sixty years ago the dreaded MOT test was introduced. It is a little known fact that an Armstrong Siddeley was the guinea pig for the prototype test, the car in question was KCY 379.

In the current December/January issue of  Practical Classics Magazine, there is an interesting article drawing our attention to the opening of the M1 motorway some 60 years ago in October 1959. This was the section from junction 5 to junction 18 and was pronounced open by Ernest  Marples the then Transport Minister.  Unbeknown to the general public plans were in place to create another new idea, the Ministry of Transport vehicle road worthiness ' ten-year' test. Like the motorway, it would expand over the following years, though in this case perhaps less welcome.

At that time, Principal Private Secretary to the Minister was John Garlick the owner of a fine 1954 Mk1 Armstrong Siddeley 346 car and it was his vehicle which attended The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Vehicle Inspection Station, Aerodrome Road, Hendon N.W.9 on the 31st October 1959 with a view to setting the parameters for the new MOT test. The results of the test can be seen in the picture showing the two cards which were used that day dated 31 October 1959. The cards rather like some rail or bus tickets of the time are punched on the left hand edge indicating items which require attention. Sad to relate there was discovered a broken hand brake cable and a missing near side reflector! 

With the introduction of the test in about the spring of 1960 the fail items were Brakes, Steering and Lights. The cost which to us today seems very little was 14 shillings (70p) and one shilling (5p) for the certificate. (The average weekly wage was £12.00 )  In December 1961 due to the high failure rate, the test was made applicable to 7 year old cars and in 1962 commercial vehicles were included.

By 1967 the testable age was reduced to 3 years with an ever growing list of items to check. Looking again at the cards in the picture I certainly have no memory of such being used by MOT stations. Were they based on the civil aircraft test records which was the other task of the Vehicle Inspection Station, especially at Hendon? I note that both cards have a dotted line at the top edge which has been trimmed through possibly with a knife. If anyone can shed light on these matters please get in touch, please go to the contact page to send an email. It is the little details which give colour to history. 

John Garlick (later Sir John Garlick KCB) kept the car and it was subsequently given into the care of the Heritage by his daughter.

These are the original test cards issued at the end of the prototype MOT test: 


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