Death of a British Friend
An old friend has passed away after 93 years of reliable service.
In the past it brought a splash of color to any British vehicle and informed any interested individual the age and type of vehicle that it represented. It also told you what county the vehicle called home and such important information as the type of engine and horsepower. Details of the number plate was also included and of course the age etc. As such plates never change once issued it made it easy to trace the history of the vehicle.
Ed. to Geoff Wheatley
I was trying to picture in my mind just what it was, a "Log Book". I have had several 'Brits' in my care, but being only in the US, I do not have a full understanding of the subject of your story.
For the un-informed non-British, what is a "Log Book". Do you have a photo?
The last log book was issued in 1968 so there is no way that I can send you a picture. Any one who has owned a British registered car will know what a log book is. If you can think of a six sided document that folds into two pages with owners information inside and details of the vehicle on the front page That's it, usually made out of strong paper light brown in color. The oldest one that I have seen was issued in 1909.The three MG I have were built for the US and therefore was registered in this country so... No Log Book.
I am guessing then that the log books stay with the car and therefore not available if one no longer has the car?
Correct the log book is/was part of the car like the number plates. It was illegal to keep these documents in case they were used for stolen vehicles. Back in the 1950's there were a group of car thefts who also printed false Log Books. As I recall they went away for a very long time! A movie was made about then with Peter Sellers playing a sinister role as the leader of the gang... I think his first and only time.
The theme of the story is simple, a national registration process that has lasted over 90 years is now dead.
The first of its kind in the world. Owners and potential owners could easily check on the history of the vehicle.. You can't do that today in our modern computer world.
In addition to this source of information, when the vehicle was first registered the new owner received what was known as the vehicle's Log Book. Every time you renewed the tax disc it was recorded in this item. If you sold the vehicle the new owner had a full record of the history of the vehicle I.E all the details of previous owners.
The issue of the vehicle Log Book was phased out a few years ago to be replaced by county computer records that you could obtain but required payment. However, the unique tax disc was still around and issued each time the owner paid the annual road tax. Sad to say all this has now gone into the museum of history as from October 1st 2014 the British government has ceased issuing the famous tax disc that was proudly displayed on the windscreen of every car or truck, while in the case of a motor cycle, it was displayed in a special holder designed for both you and the police to view. In short, the tax disc was an official record that you had paid your road tax for the current year.
Until the 1950's your motor tax was based on the size of the engine so strange details of Cubic Capacity was quoted by the various manufacturers, Example a one liter engine could be registered as 995 cc which reduced the tax rate.
The same applied to various tax groups that measured the amount to be paid... Example: If Group Three was over 2000 cc capacity the engine, by a few adjustments could be registered as 1900 cc capacity engine or even if you pushed your luck, a 1995 cc power unit. The post war government forever short of money replaced the system and based the payments on the type of vehicle, Private, Commercial...etc.
Another useful service provided by the Tax Disc and the Log Book was the ease of researching past owners and or finding out if the car had been stolen. Very few owners carried the Log Book in the car and even if they did the owners name etc., was recorded and officially registered by the local country vehicle office. If this did not match the details of the individual who was selling the car and claimed to be the owner, a red flag was automatically activated. Each county in the UK had its own vehicle registration office and the number plate that was issued when the car was first registered contained a letter code indicating the county of origin.
With the increasing number of vehicles on the British roads, now almost one car per adult according to the latest information, all registrations are now handled by a central office so the days of home spun number plates etc., have gone. The only thing that is informative when you view a now required EEC number plate is the country of origin.
Not very exciting compared with my school days when we used to collect the details on vehicle plates then workout what part of the country they represented. Like the train spotters who I suspect are also a dying breed... Back in the 1950's I purchased a 1927 Motor Cycle for about twenty dollars. Using the log book I decided to try and trace the history of the machine. To my astonishment I found out that this bike had won awards in the 1928 and 1929 TT Races. This information increased my return on the investment tenfold...That's why I commenced this brief article with the words... Death of an Old Friend.