In recent times owners of unregistered older vehicles who did not comply with the DVLC’s imperious command that they obtain V5 forms by a certain date lost the use of the original Reg Nos. They might be allocated two-letter plates, but not the original ones. Now this is to some extent being corrected, at all events in the case of those who can prove to Swansea that they possess vehicles of particular historical merit, backed up by the recommendations of motor clubs on a rather curiously drawn-up list.
Originally the Motor Car Act of 1903 allocated Reg Nos to the owner rather than to the car and if the owner, for sentimental reasons, wished to transfer the number to a subsequent car he or she could do so, on payment of a fee of £1. The best known example is that of the number A1, first issued to Earl Russell’s Napier and subsequently seen on Alfa Romeo, MG, Morris Isis, Daimler, Singer, Jaguar, Sunbeam-Talbot 90, Austin A90, Humber Hawk and Jaguar XJ6, according to Noel Woodall, the famous “autonumberologist.” However, in 1921 the new Roads Act, under Sir Eric Geddes, altered all that. It stipulated that a Reg No applied to the vehicle (or more particularly its chassis) to which it had been issued and was to remain on that vehicle until it was broken-up or otherwise destroyed, or exported. A fee of £4 was charged for issuing a number to a newly registered car. This immediately gave rise to considerable dissatisfaction, especially among pioneer drivers. For instance, the person who had had A12 issued to his Panhard and had transferred this to successive cars, covering over 100,000 miles with it, was against having to forfeit it, as was an 1898 motorist who originally had R47 and in January 1920 had this transferred to a Morris Oxford, but on changing to a new Morris Oxford coupé in March, was told he had to have R 6331. Equally disgruntled motorists included Admiral George Neville who had had Y3 on his 15/20hp Mercedes since 1905, and naturally was loathe to part with it, Lt Col H HurIbutt, who had used DM 1 on car after car and would be very aggrieved not to be able to have it on his next car bought to replace his 15.9 Humber saloon, and the user of P 161, which he had had on four different cars. Another car owner with similar views had had BJ 54 on a belt-drive two-cylinder Pick, which was laid up for ten years and the number then put on a 1920 Riley and BJ 956 which he had had on his 12/18hp Riley since 1906.
Now, in these greedy times, we have the undignified selling by the Government of “cherished number plates” from cars which may or may not have been broken-up, aided and abetted by private number plate vendors who publish long lists of letter/number combinations most of which do not seem to me to have much sense or any sentimental value. They can somehow be obtained from existing vehicles, and traded for very high prices. In comparison, how nice and simple the old system was, between 1903 and 1920; or for that matter, in 1962, when it was decreed that old numbers would not be re-issued!
The Home Office has decided to promote Crime. During the week commencing April 15th, it is likely that you will be hearing quite a bit about the Government inspired Crime Prevention Week, the latest initiative to highlight the 13 per cent rise in recorded crime in the 12 months ending June 1990.
One of the days naturally highlights car thefts, since this aspect has shown a remarkable growth rate in the last few years. Even Motor Sport has been hit with the theft of an editorial Ford Escort RS Turbo from right under the nose of the user, the thieves overcoming every obstacle put in their path by using a low-loader and sneaking off with the car in the middle of the night.
Police reaction: “Another day, another car. . . . We’re sorry, but that’s all we can do.” It was reported, filed. . . . and forgotten. It would seem to us that the Government needs less to educate the public and more to educate the police on crime prevention. We are reaching the stage where some cars are hardly worth owning as they have become such targets. It was the fourth time that the Escort had been attacked in as many months, the thieves each time foiled for one reason or another, but of the three Cosworths on the fleet, two have been subjected to break-ins and attempted thefts while we have heard of horror stories of desirable cars being stolen by the score on the RAC Rally. “Crime — Together we’ll crack it” goes the logo. Who’s kidding whom? — WPK