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BRITISH NUMBER PLATES – EXPLAINED
Number plate regulations have altered a number of times since they were first introduced way back at the start of the twentieth century. The most significant recent change to UK number plates was in 2001 when the layout of numbers and fonts was altered.
Yellow and White plates were first introduced in 1973 when they replaced the old black and silver plates which many of us will recognise on a classic or vintage car. The yellow and white plates remained unchanged but what altered in 2001 was the font, the only regulated font recognised by the DVLA became the Charles Wright 2001….. This meant no other style of letters would be permitted on UK license plates.
The size of the Charles Wright font was set at 79mm high and 50mm wide. The width of the digit is regulated as is the width between all letters and numbers.
There exists a list of side badges and National Emblems that are allowed by the DVLA and nothing more. Accepted badges revolve around the flags of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, England, Scotland and Wales. Until Brexit the EU flag is also allowed. Interestingly considering the 2016 vote to leave the EU it is presently the most common badge on United Kingdom license plates.
UK number plates are either yellow or white and are manufactured to British standard regulations. This BS number is written in very small fine text on the very bottom right of the plate. The plates must also have the identity of the number plate maker and their production location postcode at the bottom centre of the plate.
It is a offence to interfere with the look of a number plate and can result in your car failing to pass its MOT or a possible pulling over by the police. Show Plates are designed for show and non road use and some people like to personalise plates, common alterations include using a non standard font, changing the spacing of the letters so they ‘spell’ a name or word. Other changes are achieved by the careful use of a screw into the plate to ‘change’ the letter. These are the kind of alterations people make to their replacement plates.
A number plate may be illegal if it is cracked or broken. In fact it can even be illegal due to being illegible, being covered in dirt or Winter road salt. With these things in mind its always good discipline to check the condition of ones number plates before venturing onto the roads.
Any vehicle older than 40 years is allowed to display the old fashioned black and silver plates. The 40 years designation is on a rolling year basis so any car from 1970s and older is eligible to be fitted with black and silver license plates for that authentic classic car look. Any car of this age and older can also be registered with the DVLA as a historical vehicle and therefore it becomes exempt from the usual requirement for an MOT. It also means there is no road tax to pay.
Over the last couple of decades there has been a boom in personalised registrations. It is often not realised that these interesting licence numbers and spellings also have to comply with DVLA number plate regulations of font, layout, size etc. So always make sure you follow the above guidance for any plates that you plan to put on a car and take onto public roads.