So called ‘vanity plates’ – registration plates which are more desirable than your run-of-the-mill dealer-issued humdrum, are like Marmite – they are yellow and black.
I jest of course (they are also white and black): such numbers polarise opinion as much as Jordan (the model, not the Middle Eastern country). Some view them as the ultimate accessory for your automotive pride and joy, others see them as the posturing of either chinless wonders or spivs.
Back in the day, when you were buying your new motor, it was easy enough to get a decent plate. You simply got the secretary at the dealership to hassle the DVLA when they were registering the car. Failing that, you nipped into the local scrappy, spotted car number plates you liked the look of, and nabbed the log book out of the passenger seat of whatever car it was attached to. The plate was yours.
In the 1990s the DVLA, fearing they were being diddled and sniffing a money-making opportunity, moved in for the kill to feed the Government mothership with more hapless punters’ money, and since then the industry has inflated beyond expectations.
These days the private plate is an extremely valuable commodity, with the top tier ones such as ‘IT 1’ on the market for £350,000, as much as a detached house, and the current highest-grossing plate, ‘51 NGH’ going to (I imagine) a Mr Singh for £254,000 in 2006.
There are some number combinations you won’t find for sale anywhere, due to their perceived ‘offensiveness’, such as the Northern Irish registration series ‘KIL’, ‘CIG’ and ‘NAZ ’. I personally have to question the logic of banning ‘CIG 1’ because it resembles a slang term for a cigarette, and yet allowing the plate ‘B18 DCK’ to be launched. What is the government trying to tell us?
Furthermore, the DVLA is now relaxing its guidelines with the result that any plates containing ‘SEX’ will soon be for sale (although whether this will get the plate’s owner any is open to question).
There is some merit, of course, in having a decent personalised number plate.
Firstly, it achieves the desired effect of saying ‘Look at me, I’m great.’
Secondly, they are often easier to remember. When I used to work in an Audi dealership, the number of customers booking their A4s in for service who didn’t know the reg number of the car they’d owned for the last four years was mind-boggling. When the A8 owners arrived, they had no bother:
‘Registration? Ah yes….it’s ‘1 RULE’.’
Not to mention the TT owners…’Sorry, Camilla darling, some oik is asking me the reg of my car, wanted the servants to bring it to the garage for me, but they’re all on holiday….it‘s, er…..’B1 TCH’.’
Thirdly, it makes the car itself look better, like a flat, yellow, rectangular set of blinging alloy wheels.
So, we’d all do it if we had the cash. Or would we? A cursory glance at a few of the DVLA-approved sellers’ websites confirms such greats as Paul Daniels and Vinnie Jones as customers, with the latter saying, and I quote, ‘I think number plates are just brilliant.’