Al of a Kind
F• ollowing the recent media hype over the sale of unique and unusual number plates, MOTOR SPORT reader George Marshall sent us this interesting little tale about registration number Al.
First issued in 1903, Al eventually ended up in the hands of Trevor Laker, a director of the John Bull Rubber Co Ltd. He was bequeathed the number plate (along with the Sunbeam Talbot it was attached to) in the will of his friend George Pettyt, who left instructions that Mr Laker should retain the plate until his demise, when it should be sold and the proceeds given to a dog welfare organisation. Both Mr Pettyt and Mr Laker were great dog lovers. Whilst holidaying on the South Coast, Mr Laker and his wife met Bill Dinning, an organiser for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. By this time Mr Laker was getting on in years, and so, after much consideration, he decided to sell Al and donate the proceeds to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Not only would this
help both dogs and the disabled, but he himself could gain personal pleasure from this generous act. Eventually Mr Laker found a buyer who agreed to pay £2,500 for the plate, whilst allowing him to continue to use the plate on his own car until he died. Mysteriously, the anonymous buyer appears to have never actually claimed the plate, for reasons unknown, so the plate was transferred to other cars within the John Bull Rubber Co Ltd, until its eventual takeover by Dunlop Rubber Company. It became a useful publicity tool, being used on cars for promotional purposes, and could regularly be seen on the sales director’s car. When asked how he felt about driving around in a car with such a famous and envied number plate, sales director Frank Langley replied, surprisingly, that he
hated it, as the driver had to be on his best behaviour at all times; Al would be easily remembered and traced, and could therefore bring bad publicity to the company. “I now have a rough idea what it must be like to be a member of the Royal Family,” he quipped. “Everyone watches your slightest move, and you rarely get any privacy. At times I’d rather be driving an old banger!”
Dunlop was eventually taken over by BTR plc, and part and parcel of the deal was number plate Al. It can now be seen on company chairman Sir Owen Green’s car, and has a current estimated value of around £1 million pounds. Many thanks to George Marshall for his research for this story. Anyone wishing to donate to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association should send their cheques, made payable to the Association and crossed “A/c payee only”, to Mr Marshall at 136 Valley Road, Clacton on Sea, Essex C015 6LX