Special Sub-Topic: British Car Registration Plates
|In which year were the first car registration plates issued in the UK?|
1903. The growing popularity of motor cars led to the Motor Car Act of 1903 in which the British government took various steps to introduce regulation and control. One effect of the Act was to require all vehicles on British roads to be registered and to display registration plates. The first car registrations were issued in 1903, even though the legal requirement for vehicles to display them didn't take effect until 1904.
|The first number plate system included a single letter, or pair of letters, followed by a maximum of four numbers. What did the letters signify?|
The region where the car was first registered.. In England and Wales the area letter codes were assigned alphabetically according to the size of the population in each authority's area, hence London was allocated the 'A' designation.
In Scotland and Ireland (Ireland was part of the UK in 1903), registrations began with the letter 'S' in Scotland and 'I' in Ireland. These national identifiers would be followed by another letter which, like the English and Welsh versions, specified the local registering authority.
|The first major change to British car registration numbers occurred in which year?|
1932. In 1932 the scheme was extended due to the shrinking number of available combinations. The extension consisted of three-letter/three-number combinations. By the 1950s, in more populous areas where the number of combinations were depleted, the format was reversed so that the number component preceded the letter component. In the areas of greatest demand, yet another extension was introduced a few years later, using four numbers followed by two letters.
|What was the suffix system?|
The addition of a letter code to denote the year of registration.. Introduced in 1963, the suffix system retained the principle of the regional identification letters, and the sequential ID number. The innovation was the addition of a letter code at the end of the plate, which indicated the year of issue. January to December 1963 was signified by the letter 'A', and so on.
This had two major benefits: it enabled people to determine the age of a vehicle, and it meant that the number sequence used to identify individual vehicles could be re-used each year, as the year letter would change.
|In the 1960s, there were fewer 'E' registration cars than any others registered. What was the reason for this?|
The start of the registration year changed from January to August.. Cars with an 'E' registration were only sold for the first seven months of 1967 before the new 'F' registrations started in August. My guess is that the change was partly to increase car sales (fewer people would be ordering expensive items like cars over the Christmas period) and to take the pressure off car dealerships and the DVLA staff over the Christmas holiday period!
|Why did car registrations switch to a prefix system in 1983?|
The suffix system had run out of letters.. By 1982 the suffix series had run its course, and in August 1983 another reversal of format took place. The new system had the year indicator now coming at the beginning of the string of characters, followed by the unique ID number and the letter group containing the region code. Unsurprisingly, as the year letter came at the start, this became known as the prefix system.
|From 1999, the year code changed every six months. What was the main reason for this?|
All of these reasons. (To create two main sale periods in the year., To reduce the pressure on car dealers of one major sales period., To sell more cars.). Easier access to credit and higher standards of living had seen an acceleration in car sales throughout the 1990s. A bi-product of the age-registrations meant that August sales were always highest and this single major annual sales point was proving to be an increasingly cumbersome aspect of the car-selling business.
From 1999, two registration periods were introduced to even out the system: March to August and September to February.
|The current car registration system was introduced in 2001. In which year will it end?|
2049. The current number plate format consists of a two-letter regional identifier, a two-digit year code and finally a random three-letter combination which provides the specific identification for each vehicle. Beginning in September 2001 the 'age-identifier' changes every every six months with two sequences operating alternately. For example, '51' back in September 2001 started one sequence that continues every September, while 'O2' in March 2002 started the other sequence that continues every March.
|The regional identifier codes operated in the current system have some indirect associations. Although more obvious ones are 'L' for London or 'B' for Birmingham, where would a car displaying the letter 'F' have been registered new?|
Nottingham or Lincoln. 'F' stands for 'Forest and Fens', hence Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Car registrations from Kent and Sussex start with the letter 'G' (Garden of England). Less indirectly, Hampshire is 'H' and Essex is 'E'.
The DVLA must have run out of imagination when they got to Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. This region was allotted 'K' which stands, apparently, for nothing in particular, except that it was a letter they had not used.
|Which regional identifier code is reserved for the Isle of Wight?|
HW. As the Isle of Wight is part of Hampshire, the first letter is 'H'. Obviously, the 'W' stands for Wight.
Considering that Lancashire and Cumbria are signified with 'P' (Preston), Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester are signified by 'V' (Severn Valley), and Staffordshire and Cheshire have 'D' (Dee Valley), there is at least some obvious logic applied in the case of England's biggest island.
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