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More Than Just Letters & Numbers


More Than Just Letters & Numbers

Just Another Plate

Car enthusiasts sure are a creative bunch. Regardless of rules and regulations, we always seem to find a way to create and express ourselves clearly. Even on license plates.

When the world throws us a set of parameters to work within, we do our best to break, bend or remould them into something useful. This holds true from the smallest, most seemingly trivial details, right the way up to negotiating with the physics that bind our universe, all as part of the never-ending quest to go faster.

I could try to talk this up to be more than it is, but the truth is, I just feel like having a little bit of fun. I made a little game with myself during the recent Rotary Revival event, the aim being to snap as many personalised (AKA vanity) license plates that said a little something about the cars they were attached to.


You’ve got to admit, it’s amusing just how much about a car or owner can be conveyed through the very limited characters available on license plates. While plates don’t add horsepower (contrary to what some people believe), they can potentially add a lot of character to a build.


Occasionally, the right plates on the right car will even finish a build; they’re the icing on the cake, so to speak. In fact, some cars are better known by their plates than their owners.


I guess to fully appreciate what we’re looking at here, we should cover the rules that govern most of the examples on display. In the Australian state of New South Wales we’re limited to six characters to express ourselves. Most of us try to work within a set formula of letter and numbers to avoid paying the hefty annual fee of full custom set.


I’m talking close to A$500 (US$375) on top of the A$1000 (US$750) for registration. While some of us are happy to pay the higher fee, the vast majority opt to get creative stick to a set combination, e.g. XXX-12X though. Other states have different laws and layouts to follow, but you’ll see pretty much the same system applied where ever you are in Australia, including the heavy ‘full custom’ annual prices.


Keeping to the spirit of the event, I was focusing on plates that alluded to the rotary power plant lurking within a car’s engine bay. So how many ways can you express an engine model? Plenty it seems.


Most of these ported rotary engines can be heard buzzing long before the car is close enough for you to read a plate properly, but most rotary fans have decided not to chance it. There’s still a risk that some uneducated sorts out there may mistake their pride and joy for something with pistons.


The plates are fun fail safe; in the unlikely event that the cacophony of ‘brap’, the polished badges and exclusive rotary-themed decals are missed, passers by will still be able to fall back on the fun and informative license plates. Pedestrians will be able to sleep better at night knowing that little blue Mazda was indeed powered by a Mazda 13B rotary engine, and that whooshing sound created by its turbocharger.


In all seriousness though, plates are an often overlooked way to bring a little more character to a build. Sure, they’re one of the least important components on a car, but with some creativity they have the potential to complete a build.

My current Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX is the first car in a long time that I’ve left standard plates on, so perhaps it’s time I go plate shopping myself and give my project a better title than simply ‘The Nine.’

Now let’s hear from you guys – if you’ve previously run, or currently run a personalised/vanity plate on your car, what did it read?

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham

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