Custom plates : what’s the deal ?
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re clearly into cars, and you’d like to learn a bit more on certain things you’ve always wondered about, things you don’t necessarily find elsewhere. Cars aren’t just machines that take you from point A to point B. For some of us, they’re part of our lives and they convey so much more: emotion, status, passion, ideas, personality. Car plates are without a doubt a determining part of a car’s soul. When mentioning car plates, most people tend to think of them as a the government’s method to identify people via their car(s). Most people start thinking about parking fines, speeding tickets, law enforcement and insurance. And I can’t blame them, after all, that is the primal function of a car plate. But that’s the thing, for many people, a car plate isn’t just that. A car plate can help build the identity of the car as well as its owner’s.
And here we are: customized plates. Some countries in the world have completely original plate systems parallel to the « normal system » (sadly, France isn’t one of them): among those « lucky countries » who « got it », we can find the UK, the USA, GCC countries, Australia etc (and that’s just a few). In this regard, some governments allow citizens to be able to chose what their plate says (wether it’s letters, numbers, or a combination of both), in exchange of a certain amount of money. Obviously, this freedom of choice is not unlimited: there are certain necessary and understandable verifications and controls before chosing a custom plate. No government will ever allow a plate to be derogatory, racist, sexist etc. But believe me, there’s still a LOT of ways to have fun and be creative about it as you’ll read below. The way I see it, custom plates are basically free money in the government’s pocket, all the while keeping a certain degree of fun & fantasy. I am an advocate of custom plates. They have various other names, but they all mean the same thing: custom plates, customized plates, vanity plates.
How does it work?
Depending on the country who delivers it, you can sort of chose what your plate will say. There are countless examples of custom plates throughout the world it’s just silly. With a bit of imagination and trickery, you can come up with funny and unexpected results. One of those « tricks » is using « leet speech » (that’s how I’ve always called it), where some letters have a number equivalent (ex: 0=O, 1=I or L, 2=Z, 3=E, 4=A, 5=S, 6=G, 7=T, 8,=B etc etc). Probably the most famous example of this is « 80085 », which spells « BOOBS ». Another « trick » is only saying it out loud makes sense (H8 = hate).
What’s the motivation behind custom plates?
What motivates a person to pick « his » (or « her ») plate instead of the usual random one the government usually provides? Well, there are many reasons, really. First of all, a plate conveys a message to the world and to everyone who sees it on the road (or even when it’s parked). Having the option to convey a message with your plate is a way to show who you are, what you believe in, your tastes & opinions. Second of all, and this is without a doubt my favorite part of custom plates: it allows your creativity & wittyness to express itself.
The possibilities are endless: a custom plate to support your football team, a reference to a movie or anything cultural, to a company, a joke, a statement. For us car enthusiasts and supercar lovers, custom plates are even more awesome and make a car change dimensions entirely: when the plate is a reference to the car (for example: « V8 A5TON » or « V12 SV » or « 488 GTB » or « 5999 » or « ENZ0″… you get the idea). I think real examples of real plates are, by far, the best way to understand this.
Some « car-related plates »:
Some « funny plates »:
Plates as a social status
Custom plates can also be used as an element of social status. Just like a nice watch, nice clothes or a nice car can be a symbol of social status, a plate is often seen as an element that constitutes social status. This trend is more relevant in the middle-eastern countries (GCC countries), but it still makes perfect sense in places such as the UK or Switzerland. The reasoning behind the « social status plate » is the following: the shorter your plate is, the more expensive it is. For example, we often hear of single-digit or two-digit plates being worth way more than the cars they’re on, sometimes even reaching multi-million prices. We’ve all heard about the famous UK plate « F1 », belonging to Afzal Khan, which is rumored to be the « most expensive plate in the UK ». Most of the time, two-digits / triple-digits plates don’t have any particular sense (I did say « most of the time », sometimes they do), but they just seem and look…… cool. There is a whole market built around custom plates that boosts the country’s economy: citizens bid on plates, sell, buy and exchange plates. It is a never-ending story, especially with new models coming in every year or so.
Some car collectors are lucky enough to own a bunch of nice cars. And, if they want to, they can use custom plates to make a statement about all the cars being theirs. For example using very similar plates that almost look identical (ex: « L1L1N AU » and « L11LN AU ») or simply by using « numbers » or a « common pattern » among all plates. A perfect example of this would be mrjww‘s cars: « F12 JWW », « 2 JWW » or V10JWW » are only some of his plates. Totally awesome if you ask me.
In the Middle-East, it’s all about the numbers. As long as your plate has a cool combination of numbers that can’t possibly be the result of random, you’re set! Therefore plate numbers such as 111111, 117711, 5555, 66766, 22212… You get the idea. I don’t know about you, but when I see such numbers, I instantly « understand » there is some sort of importance behind them. Call me crazy? Most of the time (although it’s not an absolute rule), special plates come with special cars. Therefore, when you see such a plate on a car, you can’t help but think about the owner. Most of the time, you’re also probably thinking that he or she must be an important person. It’s all about social status.