Number Plates Then & Now

By Dash Dynamics

25 June 2020

Number plates have been around for many years, yet we seem to lack the knowledge of how they actually came about and of course who invented them. 

Number plates can be personalised and this very common among this generation. However, when buying a car number plates automatically come with it. So why is this? Who invented number plates? 

The Motor Car Act of 1903

The Motor Car Act 1903 was introduced in the United Kingdom to identify cars to their owners. This was done through a number plate scheme. In London, the first ever number plate was used which read “A1”. During this time period number plates consisted of 1 or 2 letter codes along with a number between 1 and 9999. The idea behind the specific characters on the number plates was to act as an area code of some sort. This meant  numbers indicated which area a car was registered. For example, the letter “A” was assigned to the areas in London. Eventually, letters started to run out and there wasn’t any space for the other up and coming cities so therefore two letters were used together. AA was used to indicate that a car was registered in Hampshire and other combinations of letters were used for additional towns and cities. 

Number plates running out

In 1932 number plates were running low due to more and more people purchasing cars. This led to a rather big problem as with more cars being introduced there wouldn’t be enough number plates to cover them all. This was resolved by introducing a whole new number plating system which consisted of up to 3 numbers and 3 letters instead of 2 letters and up to 4 letters after.

In July 1932, the new number plate was issued in Staffordshire which stated “ARF 1”. This was the new number plate era however it was not  to last very long! In the 1950’s the motor industry and the government were faced with the same issue as of 1932; he shortage of number plates. So again, there was a change in how plates were styled and used. The government swapped the order of plates creating reversed registrations. One of the first of its type was “1000E”. Certain combinations were eventually banned due to some 3 letter words creating inappropriate terms. These were strictly unauthorised by the government. 

All about the letter Q

In 1983 the letter Q was occurring much more often on number plates. Before this time the letter Q was merely used for temporary car imports. However due to the population of cars growing rapidly in the UK, changes needed to be made yet again in the system. By the late 90’s personalised number plates began to become increasingly popular. Different words and names could be formed as almost a fashion accessory. For example “S1 MON” and similar combinations. 

The up to date number plate system 

The new number plating system was introduced in 2001 applying to all cars  purchased under the new Government scheme. Different digits/letters within the new plating system specified various elements. For example a number plate would contain an area code combination; a number combination showing the date it was registered and finally some random letters which could be anything. An example of a number plate combination from the up to date scheme could be “AA02 AAA”. “AA” being the area code for Peterbrough, “02” being the date it was registered (2002) and finally “AAA” being the randomly picked digits. 

If standard number plates aren’t what you’re looking to provide your clients, contact us for 3D number plate letters