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How to navigate the rules of car restoration

I'm considering restoring a 1971 Karmann Ghia. The local ministry of transportation office says that I have to upgrade the car beyond the original condition to meet safety standards but it doesn't know what those standards are. How can I find out about seat belts, etc.? – Bill S., Ontario.

I believe that the confusion lies within Ontario's recent overhaul of the light duty vehicle-safety standards. Schedule 5 of the outgoing document dealt with classic cars, however, that section was omitted as of Jan. 1, 2015.

I contacted my local MTO enforcement office for clarification on the new standards, specifically sections that might relate to classic cars owners. Section 8-15-a of the new document deals with seat belts, and states, "missing or not equipped at each seating position as originally required to meet applicable CMVSS (Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards)." A further definition of the word "missing" is given as "an item is absent that is ordinarily present on the vehicle, was present on the vehicle when manufactured."

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Translation: As long as the belts are present, not frayed and the anchors are solid, this car does not need modifications. Similar wording can be found in Section 6 regarding lamps and lighting.

If you purchase an older vehicle that was not manufactured with belts, Ontario regulations state that they are not technically missing so they would be exempt, but certainly a worthy upgrade.

A word of caution dealing with federal requirements as complications arise for all imported vehicles, including those manufactured prior to 1971: This is when the CMVSS came into affect. Don't assume anything – if it has not gone through the Register of Imported Vehicles Program (RIV.ca) it may not be admissible due to lack of safety restraints.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing "Lou's Garage" in the subject area.

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