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New Zealand Classic Car - - Nationwide Events -

Iwas hav­ing an in­ter­est­ing chat with my WOF tester the other day, as he was com­ment­ing on my per­son­al­ized Hawai­ianstyle num­ber plate on the Mus­tang. In his work­shop, there was a late-1920s Amer­i­can Dodge sedan with its orig­i­nal old plate, which, if I can re­mem­ber cor­rectly, was green with white num­bers, sep­a­rated by a comma. It had been per­son­al­ized. If you know any­thing at all about old New Zealand num­ber plates, they were all num­bers, usu­ally white on a coloured back­ground, and the num­bers were sep­a­rated by some sort of mark, such as an up­turned tri­an­gle, a square, a dash, a dot, or some­thing sim­i­lar. Gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles and some others were iden­ti­fied with ab­bre­vi­a­tions, in the form of let­ters pre­ced­ing the numerals. In the work­shop, there was also an in­ter­est­ing as­sort­ment of re­cent Amer­i­can im­ports, in­clud­ing an Ed­sel, a Sky­liner, a cou­ple of Cadil­lacs, and a Corvette, which still had their Amer­i­can num­ber plates af­fixed to them. They had yet to ac­quire a VIN and be cer­ti­fied, and some were un­der­go­ing the re­me­dial work re­quired.

Un­for­tu­nately, once th­ese cars get their VIN, they will be fit­ted with New Zealand num­ber plates, which will have the al­phanu­meric com­bi­na­tion that will not fit prop­erly into the orig­i­nal-equip­ment space on the bumpers, un­less you hap­pen to get one that is only five char­ac­ters! (Seem­ingly, ‘FAQ2’ was never is­sued, for some rea­son.)

Hav­ing put nu­mer­ous old mo­tor­cy­cles back on the road, and only re­cently be­ing able to re­use the orig­i­nal black and sil­ver plates for orig­i­nal­ity pur­poses, I am only too acutely aware of the cur­rent non­sense sur­round­ing the types of num­ber plates al­lowed.

Once for­eign im­port­ing got into full swing, the im­porters lob­bied the au­thor­i­ties to al­low Euro­pean-style plates to be man­u­fac­tured here and fit­ted. Such plates were much longer than our nor­mal ones, and of­ten had a New Zealand logo/flag on one end and the type of model/ dealer at the other end. In all hon­esty, they do look good, and well done the deal­ers who lob­bied for this. Other un­suc­cess­ful lob­by­ing tried to get ad­he­sive num­ber plates ap­proved for E-type Jaguars, Mazda MX-5S, Porsche, and all those other cars that have pointy noses.

Ac­cord­ing to the NZTA, it is “in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing th­ese avail­able in the fu­ture”. Well, don’t hold your breath, as there aren’t enough E-type own­ers out there to make a strong enough case for them.

The rules

So, what are the rules around li­cence plates? You can look them up on­line, but here are the ba­sics for you. Or­di­nary plates must have a white retrore­flec­tive back­ground with black em­bossed char­ac­ters. Per­son­al­ized plates must also have the white retrore­flec­tive back­ground, but the let­ters can be black, red, or blue. Only plates is­sued by the NZTA and its agents are le­gal; plates pur­chased any­where else are un­ac­cept­able. The most re­cent New Zealand plates have a se­cu­rity fea­ture con­tain­ing a sil­ver fern in the sheet­ing — so, while you are ly­ing on the road hav­ing just been run over, if your eyes are still open, you will catch a glimpse of that sil­ver fern on the num­ber plate, and can be sat­is­fied that at least the li­cence plate was law­ful, even if the driver’s ac­tions were not.

OK, them’s the rules, and here are the prob­lems with them. Amer­i­can clas­sics were made to ac­com­mo­date the Us-style plates, but there are 19 states that do not re­quire a front plate to be dis­played. New Zealand’s prim­i­tive style of or­di­nary plate looks stupid on an Amer­i­can car, es­pe­cially when one must bend the edges to fit it to the nar­row aper­ture. So, why not al­low six-digit Amer­i­can plates to be per­son­al­ized and be used — legally, I mean? I know that there are a num­ber of Amer­i­can cars sport­ing per­son­al­ized Amer­i­can li­cence plates on our roads at present. The pur­pose of a num­ber plate is to en­able the owner/driver to be iden­ti­fied eas­ily. So, if an Amer­i­can plate with (say) ‘OVA2U2’ is per­son­al­ized by owner Joe Bloggs, as long as his de­tails come up on the data­base, what’s the prob­lem? Plate not made in New Zealand? So what? As long as the plate is eas­ily read­able, I fail to see the prob­lem.

And let us not for­get our cousins in the UK. How many of you have older Mor­ris Ox­fords, Austin Cam­bridges, Jaguars, and the like that used to have large, square, yel­low re­flec­tor­ized plates on the rear, and those long re­flec­tor­ized plates on the front, or the black and sil­ver/white pre­de­ces­sors? (You will no­tice that I did not men­tion the Mor­ris Isis for what should be very ob­vi­ous rea­sons — I don’t want my com­puter be­ing the tar­get of a drone strike!)

Daft idea

On the sub­ject of li­cence plates, with re­gard to mo­tor­cy­cles, we don’t want to en­ter­tain the daft Aus­tralian idea of retrofitting li­cence plates to the fronts of mo­tor­cy­cles, thank you very much! There are enough sharp things on mo­tor­cy­cles to cause may­hem to both rider and any­one said mo­tor­cy­clist might hit in a crash with­out hav­ing a rigid metal plate to add to the car­nage.

Seem­ingly, Aussie mo­tor­cy­clists can dodge speed cam­eras when rac­ing past at naughty paces, as the cam­era takes a nice ac­tion photo of the front, which, of course, is mi­nus any iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. I un­der­stand there is a sim­i­lar prob­lem here (but not me, of­fi­cer!), and, if stickon plates are even­tu­ally ap­proved for E-types or sim­i­lar, it’s a no-brainer that some desk-bound noddy will de­cide that such sticky plates can be af­fixed to mo­tor­cy­cle fair­ings. That’s as­sum­ing, of course, that all mo­tor­cy­cles have fair­ings. No doubt the same noddy will de­cide that all mo­tor­cy­cles will need to retro­fit fair­ings.

Be­fore go­ing too far down that road, do you re­mem­ber, in the early 1980s, that poor un­for­tu­nate Min­istry of Trans­port (MOT) of­fi­cer who canned off his Honda CB650P just north of the Sun­set Road over­bridge on Auck­land’s North­ern Mo­tor­way, while pur­su­ing an er­rant mo­tor­cy­clist? Ap­par­ently, the of­fi­cer got the speed wob­bles and lost con­trol. Sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that it was the fair­ing that had caused the prob­lem. Honda Mo­tors in Ja­pan had warned the MOT against fit­ting any type of fair­ing to the CB650P, but, as you will know by now, our New Zealand–noddy ex­perts de­cided that the man­u­fac­turer didn’t know did­dly-squat, and fit­ted them any­way. Not sur­pris­ing then that in 1983/’84 the MOT of­fi­cers flatly re­fused to ride them any more, and they were sold off. (Guess who has one, com­plete right down to the breathal­yser and ticket books?!) They were mostly re­placed with Yamaha XJ750S. I’m not sug­gest­ing that an E-type or Mazda MX-5 might lose con­trol be­cause of wind re­sis­tance caused by a rigid num­ber plate, but, surely, if the man­u­fac­tur­ers of th­ese cars thought that a rigid num­ber plate was go­ing to be use­ful, they would have in­cor­po­rated one into the de­sign?

I think it’s time for an over­haul of our num­ber-plate rules, and, if noth­ing else, the NZTA should ap­ply the Euro­pean-style rule across the board, and al­low cars to have num­ber plates of a size and shape sim­i­lar to those in the coun­try of ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­ture — for aes­thetic rea­sons, if noth­ing else. In any event, when we re­quire seven dig­its on our plates, that is only go­ing to ex­ac­er­bate the sit­u­a­tion. Best to act now, I reckon. Per­haps the Fed­er­a­tion of Mo­tor­ing Clubs or some of the Amer­i­can clas­sic car clubs could take this up?

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