Got a new motor? It's a numbers game
By Simon Hacker | 2nd March 2023
This week you might spot a fresh number on the roads around Gloucestershire. And if you've just had a new car delivered, it will carry the magic new digits of 23 within its registration.
For many, those digits are a celebration of status and success. But how knowledgeable are you about the current number plate system? Punchline serves up six tasty facts on a plate...
1 Number plates are 120 years old this year, the first being screwed onto a car in 1903. The 1903 Motor Car Act produced the first London plate fitted to a car - marked A1. But Hastings beat this with DY1 just weeks before.
2 In 1985, BTR plc gained the A1 plate after it acquired Dunlop. The company's headquarters in Birmingham placed it on a Ford Granada. By 2000, the plate was owned by Jefri Bolkiah after its sale by Insignia Registrations. Today, it's value is said to be priceless.
3 The 1903 Act also raised the speed limit to 20mph, but no driving test was required - you just paid five shillings for the paperwork. It wasn't until 1932 that 'dateless' private number plates became an option.
4 In 1963, a suffix system was introduced, meaning cars now bore a letter of the alphabet to indicate the year of registration. Not all local authorities joined the scheme until we got to C, when it became statutory. When suffix combinations ran out in 1983, the age-identifying letter was switched to the beginning of the plate.
5 Our current style, with age identifying digits subject to changes every March and September, kicked off in 2001. Area codes are represented by the first two letters - WM, WN, WO, WP, WR, WS, WT, WU, WV, WW, WX and WY being close to home as they denote a Bristol registration.
6 In 2020, green number plates were released, denoting a zero-emissions vehicle. Scoffed at initially, the 'green-flash' plates are said to be increasingly popular. Tasteful or not though, the private number plate industry is now the boom sector, garnering a predicted worth in 2022 of a plate-tastic £1.3billion!
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