Since the MOT system became fully computerised,each station is told it's pass/failure rate on the whole and on individual items,but as far as I know there isn't anywhere the general public can access the information.If it isn't accessible to everyone,then it should be!.I think we all know garages where it's easier to get an MOT than others,but it is difficult to find out where one garage is lax in it's standards and where one is overly strict.Any major differences in standards compared to the national average is now easily picked up on by VOSA and the definately do act!.I am always suspicious of garages offering cut price MOT's.......some are purely done to get people into the garage(how many times have you heard people say that they book their car in for a MOT and service at the same time!),but others will always take advantage of their power as a test station and,um,as you say,be creative.I have to say though,that now the system is worked through a computer it is far more difficult to do so and any strange failures will be picked up on......Big Brother is definately watching us.
As for older cars being tested more harshly,then speaking from personal experience,I don't think it's the case,BUT there is a state of mind that can happen during a test.......The MOT starts with checking inside the car,if one of the first things you check doesn't work,then you do tend to look a little harder at the car.If you go to press the horn and it doesn't work,then the customer obviously doesn't really worry too much about his car,or if you work the washers and you hear the motor working but the reservoir is empty,then thats a pretty big clue as to the state of the rest of the car.I know this shouldn't happen and that MOT standards should be the same no matter what car is tested,human nature tends to take over.The amount of cars I test that are filled with cr4p and that haven't been cleaned for months is pretty startling,and when you turn round and refuse to test the car the owner gets shirty about us wasting their time!.It doesn't take long to make a car look at least half presentable,surely.It all adds to the testers state of mind........
One thing that does change as a car gets older is corrosion assessment,as obviously the older the car the more risk there is of serious corrosion to the structure of the vehicle,and this might give the impression that older cars are treated more harshly.Testers have to be concious that there could be cause to complain about a cars structure regarding corrosion for 3 months after the test is carried out,which is much longer than any other aspect of the test.
So,the moral of tonights lesson is wash and hoover your car out before an MOT,and make sure all the basics work.This will go a long,long way.
If your car is regularly looked at (tyres/pressures,lights,wipers,seatbelts etc) then pretty much half the MOT is dealt with.It really isn't difficult to get a car to pass,and you'd all be surprised at how bad a car could be and still have certificate.