Are Classics Green? - A look at carbon footprint

Category: Article |

Why driving a classic can be greener than you think.

With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned by 2035 and an ever-increasing number of electric cars hitting the roads, it could be all too easy to believe the doomsayers and assume that classic cars are on borrowed time.

But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth – here are five ways in which classic cars already are (or can be) a lot more environmentally friendly than you think.

   1. You are not contributing to manufacturing emissions

Whether your MG was made in the 1930s, 1960s or 1990s or at any point in between, the most polluting part of its life is over. According to the Footman James Insurance Indicator Report, published in 2022, the average classic car – travelling a national UK yearly average of 1,200 miles – generates 563kg of CO2 per annum. By comparison, a modern car such as a Volkswagen Golf emits up to 6.8 tonnes of CO2 before it even departs the factory. The study reports that a modern car is more efficient and uses less fuel on a daily basis, but the environmental cost of manufacturing it immediately negates this.

The Indicator Report also shows that battery vehicles have an even greater manufacturing impact. The fully electric Polestar 2, for example, is said to create 26 tonnes of CO2 during the production process alone - an emissions figure that would take a typical classic car used sparingly 46 years to match. Zero-tailpipe emissions are the future, of course, but classic cars have a minimal impact on the environment comparatively due to their infrequent use.

Managing Director of Footman James, David Bond explained: “The Indicator Report is extremely useful in determining how much of an impact our beloved classics have on the environment. It’s easy for one to assume that classic cars are more damaging simply because of their older and less efficient engines, however, the data in this report disproves that theory. It’s really about how these vehicles are maintained and used. Electric cars might seem better for the planet day-to-day, the problem is how much of an impact their production causes.”

   2. Keeping an old vehicle running is a sustainable practice – you can even offset your emissions

Unless you convert one to an alternative fuel source such as electricity (which is, of course, possible), a classic car will never have brilliant exhaust emissions. They were built at a time when such things were of minimal concern to manufacturers or motorists, but there are things you can do to minimise the impact your classic might make.

Perhaps the biggest of these is to maintain it correctly. Regular maintenance is key to keeping your engine running as efficiently as possible, and the great thing about MGs is that you can get every single service item you need off the shelf – indeed, MGOC Spares supplies service kits for all of the most popular MG models.

In addition, there are a number of carbon offset schemes you can use to reduce your environmental impact. The Historic & Classic Vehicle Alliance (HCVA) has partnered with carbon offset scheme Net-Hero to help classic owners contribute to environmental projects from as little as 2p per every mile they drive.


“Speaking to our audience, we’re glad to discover that a substantial portion is concerned about the effects of climate change and that many would sign up for emissions offsetting schemes,” added Footman James’s David Bond. “The future of classic cars is in our hands, and we must do everything we can to ensure they stay on the road.”

   3. Reusing and remanufacturing parts is greener than using new ones

Many parts for classic cars are manufactured out of old parts – such as re-cored radiators, remanufactured alternators and starter motors, or refinished chrome bumpers. Indeed, MGOC Spares even goes as far as to offer fully warranted reconditioned engines, which are offered on an exchange basis so the old unit can also go off to be rebuilt or repaired.

Ivor Searle Engines
MGOC remanufactured starter.jpeg

Most classic car starter motors and alternators are offered as remanufactured parts, again with the old unit taken in exchange. Remanufacturing means that a part is disassembled into its constituent materials and/or components, inspected against original specifications, cleaned and rebuilt with new or reclaimed components in accordance with agreed standards – so in theory should be as functionally good as a new part but with minimal waste.

A further advantage for classic fans is that remanufactured parts such as this starter motor are completely authentic in appearance to the original – ideal for a concours restoration.


   4. You can run them on sustainable fuels

Synthetic and sustainable fuel sources are growing in popularity and reduce some of the environmental impact caused by internal combustion engines, as instead of relying on fossil-based fuel sources they use blended by=products from agricultural waste, such as straw, mulch and waste from crops that wouldn’t be used for consumption, scraping carbon gases from the atmosphere to generate 100% fossil-free fuel that works in most petrol engines. It’s a clever science.

“There are 36 million existing cars on the UK’s roads, and we need to be tackling those emissions now - sustainable fuel can reduce those, whilst EV technology and infrastructure is given the time it needs to develop,” said David Richardson, Business Development Director for sustainable fuel supplier Coryton, whose Sustain fuel is the market leading synthetic petrol alternative.

“The internal combustion engine (ICE) is often seen as the problem, but in reality it is the fossil fuels consumed that render the ICE most harmful to the environment. It’s our belief that we need a range of solutions working together to help meet our net-zero target and that sustainable fuels will play a significant role.”


A further benefit for older car owners is that synthetic fuels don’t contain ethanol like fuel from a standard forecourt, which removes some of the fears from using modern E10 petrol.

   5. You are not scrapping anything

Vehicles have an environmental impact throughout their lives whether we like it or not – it’s simply fact. But we can mitigate that by using them responsibly. By keeping an old car going rather than scrapping it, you’re reducing waste and you’re preventing it from having to be replaced with a new one, and the environmental impact that goes with the manufacturing process.

MGOC scrap yard pic.jpeg


Is classic motoring therefore green motoring?

It would be wrong to suggest that any form of motoring is entirely environmentally friendly, of course, but there’s a strong argument to suggest that maintaining and using an older car is no worse for the environment than buying a “cleaner” new one. Exhaust emissions are greater, but on the flip side you’re not generating manufacturing emissions and are minimising waste. You can even offset the carbon emissions that you generate by driving a classic so don’t let the negativity drag you down – just go out happy in the fact you’ve preserved and maintained an older vehicle and most of all…enjoy it!

Who are MGOC Spares?

At MGOC Spares, we provide dedicated parts and accessories for classic MG vehicles, including the MGB, Midget, MGC and many more. 

With thousands of products in stock, we are your one-stop shop for all your classic car needs. Our wealth of expertise means that you can trust us to find the right part for your classic MG vehicle – whatever it may be.

Need support finding the right parts for your MG? Contact us today, we're happy to help!