The posession of trade number-plates must be the dream of most motoring enthusiasts who own more than one car. I thought that they were confined to the motor trade until I enquired at the local tax office whether or not a motor museum was also entitled to them. That was in the days before one had to increase Post Office queues when buying a road fund licence. To my total surprise when next I went there to tax my vintage Calthom the gentleman behind the counter said, “Oh, and your trade Plates have arrived”. I duly paid for them and bore them home to show Jenks, who was doubly delighted that a motorcycle set was included.
At the time it seemed that, at a stroke, real motoring freedom had been given to us. However, like a very large box of chocolates, a too sunny swimming pool, or a too heavy overcoat, after not a great deal of time such objects can pall. In due course we began to find that we seldom used our glistening new possessions, and it happened that the regulations were altered to stop our little game by Stipulating that only customers’ vehicles were covered, and not personally owned cars, we found that there was no reason for renewal.
But these unexpected presents were not entirely useless, for they did once save the day. I had discovered a 16hp Amistrong-Siddeley in a shed in Rhayader, which had lain there unused since the Suez crisis-induced fuel shortage. As it was a pre-war car I decided to buy it to save it, and after no more than a change of plugs and points it was ready to take away.
We fixed to it the seldom-used plates and set off, the dust and cobwebs of the ages flying off the unkempt saloon. And, lo on a country road on which in years I had never seen a policeman, much less a Panda car, one overtook us. The driver got out and asked to see our Trade plate chit. “I don’t have that,” I told him these are general plates”. He was not convinced and bent out of sight to read the front plate — a rather risky move had we been desperate criminals on the run! In the end he was satisfied and we proceeded, to the site of a Welsh motor museum which might have been, but never was.