Noise Cameras & Your ‘Classic’ Car

There has been mumblings of this ‘new’ type of camera being trialed on the UK’s streets since June 2019 when it was first published by the Department Of Transport’s website. So what is it exactly and how will affect the glorious engine note of a classic v8? First we need to look at the reasons behind the noise cameras.

A note on the information that I have found from many different sources. Depending on where you look and what you read the noise level limits are all over the place. Some say 80db others say 72 to 80, one even says 68db. So the lack of documented consistency is worrying.

Why are they being introduced?

The reason it seems is for anti-social behaviour of the typical stereo typical boy (or girl) racers who enjoy the loud exhaust note or the much sort after pop and bang of revving, and if you’re unlucky a flame to cremate your front bumper if you are behind them.

From what I have found out, the actual legal noise limit for road cars is 74 decibels – the equivalent noise of a vacuum cleaner at full pelt or a chain saw.

For non-compliance, it can lead to a £50 on-the-spot fine or as much as £1000, that’s worrying differences. Persistent offenders in ‘extreme cases’ could have their vehicle seized.

Where are they?

Postcode lottery for the initial trials by the looks of it. The scheme is backed by a £300,000 government investment towards efforts to tackle the “social cost” of noise pollution which is estimated to be £10bn annually. (Where do they get these figures from?) Great Yarmouth was chosen to be included in the scheme as ‘Boy racers’ have congregated at Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile for decades with drivers showing off their souped-up engines into the early hours.

Other locations are Bradford (from October this year), Bristol and Birmingham following along after a competition launched in April. The locations for the new cameras was decided based upon the impact to locals from illegal noisy vehicles, after MPs across the country applied for the cameras to be set up in their area.

I suspect that they will start popping up all over the place soon, maybe portable versions ones for car cruises and car shows?

How do noise cameras work?

The new technology uses a video camera and several microphones which can accurately pinpoint excessively noisy vehicles as they pass by. When the camera hears a vehicle making a noise of 80db, it takes a picture and records the noise level to create a digital package of evidence.

This will then be used to issue a fine — much like a regular traffic camera would for a speeding ticket. An earlier trial in Chelsea in London – a magnet for supercars – saw more than 130 drivers fall foul of the limits in the first 11 days.

What do they look like?

There are varying designs that are getting more sophisticated as time goes on. Some virtually hidden and other more traditional looking. However, unlike the speeding cameras that need to show warning signs and the speed cameras themselves have to be visible usually being marked in yellow, these sound cameras by the looks of it don’t need to follow those rules.

Or you could get something like this that could be slapped on the side of a road in minutes and looks super safe – NOT! Now I’m pretty sure a friendly lorry driver on a narrow road like this one, could cause enough draft to knock it over if they got close to it, and that would be a real shame I’m sure.

I have done a few searches for some ‘official’ signs and there aren’t any I could find, the only pics I did find are these below and I suspect they aren’t official either.

Current UK MOT Rules

In the UK vehicles older than three years must pass an annual MOT test in order to inspect the
roadworthiness of a car or motorcycle. When a vehicle fails an MOT, it is prohibited from being driven on
the public highway, other than to or from the test center if appropriate, until the defect is corrected. The
testing consists of the following:

  • The exhaust system is examined visually for any defects during the MOT test, such as holes in the
    pipes. Although this is an inspection that is undertaken mainly for safety reasons, it does identify
    exhaust systems that may be producing excessive noise due to poor maintenance or simply an old
    exhaust.
  • A subjective assessment is also made as to the effectiveness of the silencer in reducing exhaust
    noise to a level considered to be average for the vehicle.

I personally want to know who decides this ‘average’ limit and what experience do they have to determine that!

Powers

Police Reform Act 2002 and Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 gives the police powers to stop, seize and remove a vehicle if
they have reasonable ground for believing that the motor vehicle is being used on any occasion in a
manner which constitutes careless and inconsiderate driving (as defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988
[18]) or which is causing, or likely to cause, alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
Section 60 allows the relevant Secretary of State to make regulations relating to the removal, retention,
release or disposal of motor vehicles seized in accordance with Section 59.
Following the amendment in Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (powers of community
support officers), Schedule 10 “Powers of Community Support Officers” outlined in Chapter 12 of the
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been modified to provide authorised officers with
additional powers to issue a fixed penalty notice under Section 42 of that Act of contravening or failing to
comply with a construction or use requirement about the use on a road of a motor vehicle in a way that
causes excessive noise.

What are the limits?

There are two parts to this ‘report’ the first being 103 pages from 2019 and part two 70 pages from 2020. A lot of this documentation is technobabble and technicalities. I have better things to do than read all of it thoroughly, so I tried to pick out a couple of relevant parts. But, as the DfT hasn’t updated their pages, all I can do is show what they have. The final report looks to be two years old already with more ‘trials’ taking place from April this year. I haven’t seen any ‘trials’ being removed when it comes to motorists, have you? these are the full documents if you are having trouble sleeping;

Regulation (EU) 540/2014
The noise levels accepted for vehicle type approval are set out in Regulation (EU) 540/2014 [2] for motor
vehicles and Regulation (EU) 168/2013 [3] for motorcycles.
Regulation (EU) 540/2014 which repeals European Directive 70/157/EEC [4], outlines limits on the
sound levels from road vehicle and gives more representative procedures for measuring sound levels
from exhaust systems and silencers. These limits have been tightened through several amendments.
Limit values for eight types of passenger and goods vehicles range from 72 dB(A) to 80 dB(A). These
limits are expected to be again tightened over 10 years. By 2026 the limit for most new passenger cars is
expected to be 68 dB(A) [5].

Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986
The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 [9], also made under the Road Traffic Act
1972 (as amended) [8], aim to ensure that vehicles used in the UK are built to a high standard. These
Regulations are also used to implement EU Directives.
The following regulations address noise emission controls on road vehicles:

  • Regulation 54 requires equipment such as silencers not to be altered in such way that the noise is
    greater than when it was first manufactured. Replacement silencers for mopeds and motorcycles
  • must comply with certain noise requirements which effectively imply there is no increase in noise
  • emissions compared with the original silencer. In addition, no increase in noise must be caused by
  • poor maintenance.
  • Regulation 55 (for cars) and Regulation 57 (for motorcycles) require new vehicles to be controlled by
    type approval limits.
  • Regulation 97 requires avoidance of excessive noise which includes the behaviour of the driver in
    operating the vehicle including the use of audible warning systems.

There are certain tests that can be performed, stationary or accelerating.

Category M vehicles are ‘Passenger vehicles’, category N vehicles are ‘goods vehicles’.

ISO 362-1:2015 – Measurement of noise emitted by accelerating road vehicles – engineering method. Part 1: M and N categories
ISO 362-1:2015 [11] specifies a method for measuring the noise emitted by road vehicles under typical urban traffic conditions. The test aims to approximate real world part throttle vehicle operation with a weighted average of a wide open throttle test at a target acceleration with a constant speed test. To achieve stable and repeatable test conditions, the procedure requires a Wide Open Throttle (WOT) test and a constant speed test. The WOT test specifies that a target acceleration be achieved. The gear selection for this test is determined by the target acceleration. The constant speed test is undertaken at 50 km/h. These tests are then combined in a weighted average which is a function of the actual acceleration achieved in the WOT test and the Power-to-Mass Ratio. The test track construction and road surface are required to meet the requirements of ISO 10844:2014 [17].

ISO 5130:2007+A1:2012 – Acoustics – Measurements of sound pressure level emitted by stationary road vehicles
ISO 5130:2007+A1:2012 [13] specifies a test procedure for measuring the noise level from road vehicles under stationary conditions. The test method essentially involves holding the vehicle at a set engine speed and measuring the noise level when the throttle is released. The microphone is positioned 0.5m from the exhaust outlet. As specifically stated by the Standard, this procedure is not intended as either a method to check the exhaust sound pressure level when the engine is operated at realistic loads nor a method to check the exhaust sound pressure levels against a general noise limit for categories of road vehicles.
ISO 10844.

  • 75% of the rated engine speed, where the rated engine speed is ≤ 5,000 RPM
  • 3,750 RPM for a rated engine speed 5,000 – 7,500 RPM
  • 50% of the rated engine speed, where the rated engine speed is ≥ 7,500 RPM

It all gets very technical, but to break it down; somebody sets up a sound meter to listen to the noise of the exhaust. At some points these guides even go on to mention the use of “mobile phone apps”, I kid you not. Can you imagine some jobs worth police saying “according to my iPhone 11, your car is loud”. Yeah like that’s gonna hold up in court. Even the report goes on to say that the apps are inaccurate!

Simple Answer For Our Classics….

Most vehicles, including imports and classics aged over 10 years, will not need vehicle approval. Therefore, however loud your classic car or motorcycle is when idling or driving sensibly, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern in areas that feature noise cameras. 

A ‘Classic Car’ definition according to Wikipedia;

A classic car is an older car, typically 25 years or older, though definitions vary. The common theme is of an older car of historical interest to be collectible and tend to be restored rather than scrapped.

So from what I can make out, a 10 year old Honda civic worth £2000 with a frying pan sized exhaust bolted on it is not a classic, sorry.

My Opinion (for what it’s worth)

All this as far as I can see is pointless, the types of people (boy or girl racers) who have these types of exhausts are mostly over ten years old. So somebody in a beautiful Skyline R32 with an exhaust you climb into doesn’t have to worry either.

If you have a hotrod with straight pipes – that seems to be OK as well.

The point is where these police “powers” come into play could be subjective. On one hand stop the noise, but a car over ten years old is fine, as it’s a ‘classic’. So if you have a nicely tuned, Charger, Plymouth, Chevy, Mustang, a blown v8, turbo Porsche or some other classic American muscle, is the police going to know what the car should sound like or not? Cars over forty years old don’t even need an MOT, so they wouldn’t be pulled up on it then either. There are very strong chances that the car in question is older than the person trying to gauge how noisy it is. The contradiction of it’s over ten years old verses it’s ‘too loud’ is a joke.

The only people this legislation will effect will be the new Super or Hyper car owners like a Ferrari, Pagani, Lambo, Aston Martin etc. These cars come from the factory with loud ‘performance’ exhausts as standard because that is what the car needs. Perhaps restricting the noise from the factory in that case would be the answer? Good luck with that at the manufacturers. The owners buy the cars like that and then you fine them for buying that car often without any modifications being made. Besides, if they did get pulled over and given a £50 fine, will they be bothered? Of course not, that would just be the tip for the valet to park the car for them outside the casino. If they drive like an idiot, then they should get their just rewards, you need to be sensible.

The worst type of culprits are the cheaper boy racer cars made to sound loud and intentionally make noise as if to prove something. This type of ‘upgrade’ is done for no other reason than noise. Then yes – these are the idiots that need the fines, for being stupid. Just because it has a very big exhaust, it does NOT improve performance. Formula 1 cars rarely have an exhaust bigger than 3″.

This post was intended to be a quick one stating that sound cameras are being introduced and to beware of them. But, the more I looked into it, the deeper the rabbit hole went. After hours of reading and research, I came up with this; at the end of the day, people should be considerate with their cars, revving up at two in the morning is unacceptable.

Any thoughts on the topic? Let me know.

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That’s The Ticket

Last Sunday was another sunny day and I was raring to go, the drinks and lunch were packed in no time and the ticket to get in was printed out the night before. Once in the garage I put all my day’s supplies on the slide top tool cart. I put Hedingham Castle waypoint into the satnav and put the cool bag in the trunk. I got in, placed the satnav on the centre console, put my sun glasses on and reversed out. The satnav journey was adjusted for ‘A’ roads not the country backroads that I knew were tight and were going to be very dusty, that would make the journey around six minutes longer. I didn’t care to be honest as I was already enjoying the drive. I was just cruising along without a care in the world until I saw the signs for the castle, and thought to myself best I get the ticket on the dash in order to get in. Nope, I had left it on the tool cart back home in the garage. This could now turn out to be just under an hour drive there for nothing, then the drive back home. Nobody was directing the traffic in with a few from this side of the road then a few from that side etc. it was a free for all. However – we are civilised drivers in classic cars and some were letting others in. I pulled into the entrance gate and there was the slowly moving queue to get in. I frantically looked through my phone to look for the email confirmation I was sent. I eventually found it with the poor signal slowing things up considerably. At the check point the lovely lady marshal asked where the display ticket was. I had explain what had happened and showed her the email. She was great and pointed me to the area to park up.

Hedingham Castle is just outside Colchester in Essex. The castle was built in the 11th Century, so it’s old!

I managed to get a look around the grounds before the main public was allowed in. I don’t know why, but I really like this picture of the row boat tucked under a tree. The mini castle was for the resident ducks that lived on the two tiered lakes.

I was parked up on the lower field this time as I wasn’t part of a car club and had a little glimpse of the castle through the foliage.

I took a walk around the lower field.

Perhaps my favourite ‘Modern Classic’ the mighty Audi Quattro.

Walking up towards the castle the steep driveway cars were parked on the left and right where I was parked last year when it rained all day.

Near the top is a main house which had this amazing steam car parked outside with a diagram of how it worked.

Parked in a little area under just before the bridge was some military vehicles which grabbed some attention throughout the day.

On the upper fields there were the car clubs around the outside.

Around the back of the castle was a bigger open area where more cars were lined up in no particular order.

This camper had an awesome roof rack, From the movie Gladiator, Maximus Decimus Meridius; “Are you not entertained?”

There was some rather tiny little cars that were proving popular.

The we had some red rockets, from Japan the epic NSX, Europe’s Lancia which became the main rival to the Audi Quattro in rallying and some muscle from the USA.

The other side of the castle had some more military vehicles.

After my return back to the car I started speaking to some lovely couples and we chatted the afternoon away. Wonderful people who owned these vehicles, it made for such a nice day.

Not forgettin’ mine which was parked next to that beautiful Cortina 1600E.

Throughout the day I let a few people sit in my car, and a family from Dearborn spent some time chatting to me. thanks to all those that stopped by, I was on verge of losing my voice I was talking so much. Some would say that’s no bad thing though! 🤦‍♂️

The journey home was awesome, I left about an hour early to avoid the busy leaving time and enjoyed a beautiful ride home. A great day out here when the weather is nice, slightly overcast and warm with some great people too.

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Car Show Call Out

Last weekend we were promised a another bright sunny day at Stonham Barns for another car show. This time is was just for American cars and always surprises me on the numbers that turn up. There was a clash of other shows on the same day, so it would be a choice of shows for most people.

As it was an early start the night before I had already uncovered the car and unplugged the battery’s trickle charger. I placed the cool bag in the trunk which was primarily full of cold drinks, closed it and jumped into the car. Sunglasses on at eight in the morning was a bit of novelty, but a welcome one it has to be said. The drive to Stonham was one of the best yet on the way there; not much traffic and nobody tailgating me as I set my own pace and just enjoyed my drive. There was a newer Mustang that went passed me at a rate of notes with a Pontiac following close behind, we exchanged the obligatory wave and continued on. Stonham also has a car boot sale on most Sunday mornings, so there is always a little bit of a queue to get in. Not this time as I almost drove straight in without stopping.

Once through the entrance I was directed to the hard standing area of the field where the Mustangs would be parked. I turned up and parked next to Racoon Red ’65 Fastback with two older gentlemen setting up their chairs. I gave my car a little wipe down with some quick detailer to remove the road I had accumulated on the way to the show. As I was finishing up and taking the first couple pictures of the day, a much newer style red S197 Mustang parked up the other side of me. Cars were now arriving in thick and fast just half an hour before the public was allowed into the event. It was going to be a good day.

I decided to sit in my new chair, have a cold drink and watch the cars park up and perform the rituals I had just finished. I need to get some pics so I started a wander round as the public were allowed in as pretty much all the cars were now in place.