The number plate rant

Dear Classic Car peoples. You’re getting number plates all wrong. Please stop! Signed, me.

You see, the problem is, the law allows vehicles built before 1973 to display black number plates with white/silver lettering. That’s because that’s how it used to be in the olden days. Fair enough. Only, there was no point at all during 1973 at which all number plates suddenly changed from black to white/yellow. In fact, the changeover commenced as early as 1968. Sadly, fashion seems to dictate that anything pre-1973 should have ‘old’ plates, so people remove the lovely, original plates for a nice, shiny set of black ones. Often in the horrible new font that subsequent law changes have forced upon us. YUCK!

Lovely, proper number plate

Lovely, proper number plate

Look at the above. It’s a lovely ‘correct for 1973’ number plate. It would be wrong on many levels (including legal ones) for this to be black. I honestly see no reason for anyone to consider fitting a black plate to such a car, let alone stuff from the 1980s. There’s something delightful about these old, raised digit number plates and I’d like to request that more people retain them.

The problem here is restoration. These plates do age with time, and when you’ve forked out over £10,000 to make your MG less rotten, you don’t want a scabby number plate spoiling the looks. For me though, it doesn’t spoil the looks! It’s perhaps the only aspect of a restored car that can leave you with a flavour of the original.


Rover P6B

My old Rover P6. Black plates would look utterly wrong!

I have seen restored cars with elderly, scabby plates affixed, and I really like it. There should be less emphasis on perfection, especially when that drive for perfection leaves all cars looking exactly the same! I get sick of seeing yet another red MGB with wire wheels, chrome grille, black number plates in the wrong font and a luggage rack on the boot. They came in lots of colours originally, and I personally have a soft spot for the 1969-on MGBs, which had a black grille and Rostyle wheels as standard. Yes, I know they look a bit silly, as the bonnet still has a raised section to match the earlier grille, but it sums up the early 1970s for me, which includes a sometimes awkward mix of old against new. Rostyle wheels were modern for the time, and less chrome was seen as a good thing. I quite this era of B.

My Perfect B?

My Perfect B? Well, apart from the number plates…

But even my ‘perfect’ MGB in the picture above is wearing the ‘wrong’ number plates with some interesting character spacing. It would look even better with a white plate, with delicious raised digits. However, it has the right grille and wheels for my liking, and isn’t sodding red. I shall try not to complain too much.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, as with so much in life, fashion is best avoided. Don’t be scared to paint your car in a colour people might not expect, especially if it’s an original shade. MGBs look great in Aconite (purple) and even the Tobacco Leaf of a Rover P6 is looking nicer with every year that passes. When I owned my Tobacco Leaf Rover, it was a deeply unfashionable shade. I bucked the fashion and absolutely loved the car. If not it’s propensity to empty my pockets every time maintenance was needed…

I know red is an attractive colour, but at times, it gets just as boring as it did during its last heyday – the 1980s, when every single saloon seemed to be that shade. Leave red to the Ferraris. Go hunt a classic in a colour that hasn’t been fashionable since 1975. Beige perhaps. But above all else, take your time to fit the correct number plates! Rant ends.


Well, rant almost ends. Before anyone cares to comment on the ‘incorrect’ plates on my 2CV, I would like to point out that her original plates had become sufficiently damaged to fail an MOT. I bought new ones, but had to get the ‘correct’ new font. This frustrated me very much, so I rebelled and had them made up in 3D font. With ‘You Can in a Tin Can’ written at the bottom. Also technically not allowed. I’m hoping to get some ‘correct for year’ plates made up at some point, but officialdom frowns upon this behaviour, so I shall say no more about it…

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