Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Number Plates

Number Plates Published: 25th Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Number Plates
Number Plates
Number Plates
Number Plates
Number Plates
Number Plates
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

To preserve originality, you might decide to repair, rather than replace, your classic’s original number-plates; Rob Marshall shows you how to do it, while staying on the right side of the law at the same time

It may be a little OCD coming into play but modern numberplates, fitted to classic cars, just look out of place to me. Yet, to assist law-enforcement, a new number-plate has to comply with a host of requirements that are enshrined under BS AU 145d, the most obvious of which is to have the British Standard’s reference printed in its bottom right corner.

Noncompliant plates, including those with strange typefaces, oddlyspaced letters, debatable reflection qualities and spurious graphics (such as football club logos) could result in either an MoT Test failure, or the issue of a road-side fixed penalty notice if you’re unlucky.


Exceptions are made for classic vehicles, registered within the historic VED class, which can bear new number-plates that are in keeping with their age.

These include black and white, or black and silver plates. This stipulation now rolls on by one year every April and is no longer the preserve of cars built before 1973 which is good news for those who like the old style look. However, those plates must still conform with any preceding regulations, the earliest of which is BS AU 145, mainly concerning reflective backgrounds, dating way back from 31st October, 1967.

However, if you own a classic that is not registered with the DVLA as Historic, the law requires that replacement number-plates must comply with the current regulations, regardless of your classic’s age. Some retailers might sell you a new show-plate but they are not roadlegal and you increase the risk of being stopped and fined by a traffic officer, should they be fitted to the car being used on the highway.

However, the regulations make no reference to restored plates having to comply with the latest standards. While the laminated plastic types cannot be repaired at home, pressed aluminium plates can be dismantled and overhauled fairly easily and cheaply.

Obviously, the finished numberplate cannot be customised in a way that would in any way make it non-compliant with any earlier statute (in this pictured plate’s case, BS AU 145a from 1972). Using a pink background and blue letters, for example, would not be acceptable. There are some excellent manufacturers who make period style number plates and they can add the finishing touch to your classic because, like tyres, shoddy ones detract from the look.


Nothing makes a car shabbier than tired looking number plates. They’re cheap enough to renew but if you want to keep your originals, here’s our step-by-step guide to make them look as good as new again

1. The original pressed-steel number-plate (like this 1976 example) consists of plastic letters, fixed to a flat aluminium base, usually by Star Lock washers, sandwiched between a reflective vinyl film

2. You can remove the tired old film, using a paint scraper but be careful here, because the aluminium can distort easily. Applying heat will aid the process. Here, a greenhouse heater is being used

3. Once the reflective film has come off, use a suitable solvent in a well-ventilated area (paint thinners is ideal for this job) to remove all the old glue. Dry the area thoroughly afterwards

4. Front number plates, in particular, are prone to damage and deterioration most and this one bore several nasty dents. The number-plate was placed on a flat surface and most of the damage was tapped out

5. This plate also had several creases that cannot be removed so easily in a domestic environment. A skim of conventional car body filler can be used however, to cover the imperfections

6. Once set and hard, the filler can be flatted with 400-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, mounted on a suitable flat block, to ensure an even surface. Use thinners to degrease the area afterwards

7. Self-adhesive vinyl reflective material for number-plates can be bought from specialists, although you should verify with the vendor that they are road legal. Apply with a spreader, being wary of air bubbles

8. Using a ruler and a scalpel, you may have to trim the edges carefully, so that the reflective vinyl does not overlap the insert that is pressed into the aluminium; looks untidy otherwise

9. Do not forget to cut away any excess material that covers not only the numberplate fixing holes but also the apertures, through which the plastic digit mounts insert. Fiddly but don’t rush this part of the job

10. Wash and fix the letters into position, prior to securing their rear mounts with new Star Lock washers. Some letter types are riveted; you may have to glue them into place

11. Corroded and tarnished edges can be rubbed down with 600-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper (used wet), prior to being polished with a suitable household, or automotive, metal polish

12. As you can see, our restored number plate is a big improvement over its untouched appearance tidying up the car’s look no end and took fewer than three hours to complete

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine