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The deal with personalised plates

2007-03-16 10:14

Wilhelm Lutjeharms

Number plates are a waste. Yes, we need to be able to identify cars and register them for the same reasons we have IDs, but for some, cars are more than just a means for getting from point A to point B.

Often, especially for the hundreds of people who have slaved to get the car from a sketch to a production reality, an automobile is nothing short of a work of art. A work of art that then needs to have a plastic rectangular piece fitted to its front and rear ends.

Imagine if all the great works of art were forced to display registration numbers as well? What would remain of Leonardo's Mona Lisa if it was fitted with a small plate in the right hand corner?

Now, whether you like it or not, number plates, and its evil spawn, those pesky personalised number plates, are everywhere. During the late nineties, the government introduced this scheme allowing the car's owner (to a certain extent) to choose his/her number plate and almost ten years down the line, this trend has caught on like a wild fire.

Personality disorders

Previously, all you could tell by a vehicle's registration plates was where it came from, but now you can also catch a glimpse of the owner's personality.

Unfortunately, as with many things in life, some people have more money than taste. Take for example the number plate JOE or GORDON. Do Joe and Gordon also wear t-shirts with their names on them, or maybe even on their underwear? Why one earth would you want to put your name on your car? That makes as much sense as trying to extract sunlight from a cucumber...

You also get the drivers who are excessively self-absorbed and feel the need to drive cars big enough to accommodate their huge attitudes - like SUVs. In one case, I spotted a Mercedes driver in an SUV (it was an ML, to be precise) boasting with plates that read MY BENZ. I mean, hello, for a second I thought the car might belong to your daughter! Usually the driver of a car is its owner! I felt like pulling in next to this guy, asking him to open his window and asking him, "Are you really the owner of this car?"

Or the car commanding loads of RESPEC. How sad - the real "respect" was probably taken and the owner elected to drive around with a number plate that is actually spelt incorrectly.

Numbers and stuff

There are a couple of witty and clever ones though. Take the BMW 3-Series with "1X2X3" on its plates. It made me think, though I didn't quite get it. It's a lot like wearing a pair of neon green Crocs (those rubber shoes?). Unconventional but questionable, it could also just be an expensive way of teaching your kids maths.

Some number plates are more in keeping with a signature series. A vehicle bearing the plate MELK4 could cruise past you one day, followed by MELK7 a few days later. It clearly belongs to the same dairy company, who've registered their entire fleet in chronological order.

Other owners will try to make a statement, instead. I recently saw a Citroen C2 driver with the words LUCKY ME on his plates and my head went straight into the tumble dryer. I just couldn't get why one would be "lucky" to drive a C2. Then again, the car was from Gauteng, which may explain a couple of things.

There was also the driver of what looked like a 330i BMW with the word AWESOME splashed across his plates in big black letters. Okay, a 330i is not a bad car, but I'd leave "awesome" to more serious performance cars.

Personalised number plates were rather expensive when they were first introduced, but prices now range from R600 to R10 000, depending on the amount of characters you want. A taxi, bearing the plates STEVE10 passed me the other day. Now imagine STEVE1, the owner of his million rand Mercedes S500, cruising about flashing the plates he purchased years ago. I would give my one kidney to see that Mercedes driver's face when STEVE10 cuts him off at the lights!

What were they thinking?

They are hard to spot, but there are cute plates doing the rounds too. LIEFDE is, I would hope, a set of plates given to a wife from her husband on their 20th wedding anniversary. OUMA is another loveable idea, possibly given to the old bird by her grandchildren on her 70th birthday. Some of the best I've spotted was VONKIE 1 on a Chevrolet Spark or BEETON on a Toyota Yaris.

Boring and irrelevant is also part of the game. A lot like POKEMON on a BMW 3-Series. Pokemon is an animated character! It's like putting Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse on a plate! Maybe he wanted to, but obviously both are too long so he opted for Pokemon instead. One thing is certain; he will be a hit with his children.

Early number plates which echo the car's model name are now starting to wear off. A Mercedes SL with MERC SL (or was it SL MERC?) on the rear, for instance, alongside a badge already stating the car as being an SL 500. Does the driver really think people are going to doubt for a moment what car it is?

If there is one thing worse than a car with a ridiculous number plate, it has to be a car with a terrible number plate and nothing in common with the driver. Like the Mini Cooper cabriolet with SINDI for a number plate piloted by a guy with spiky gelled hair. Call me in insensitive, but rather him than me.


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