Blog: Why do everyone else’s number plates look cooler than ours?


EVERY time I go abroad, I find myself wondering why it is that everyone else’s number plates look cooler than ours. Okay, so perhaps my obsession with registration font size and style might just be a little peculiar, but I am sure I’m not alone. And that’s why I found myself stood in a small motor factors in rural France last week, nervously asking for a plate to be pressed for the family Citroen.

And now, I’m wondering what the legalities are about it being fitted. Either way, I reckon it looks a little odd seeing French ‘plate characters spaced and configured in UK standard – and yet, I can’t help but think it actually quite suits the car. I have to say that I do have my European favourites; silver-on-black French plates look gorgeous, as do the current German ones. Actually, the German system has always fascinated me, with its neatly crafted letters, the ID marks separating the region mark and the vehicle identifiers.

The Italians have it pretty cool, too – although I miss the micro-plates they used to fit on the front. Despite that, there’s something tasty about the flashes of blue at both ends, and the fact that in this era of EU-conformity, they still manage with a undersized front plate. Knowing the Italians, it’s probably done that way simply because it looks better. I should like the Belgian system – usually three letters followed by three numbers, finished in red, but because each plate belongs to the person, and not the car, they tend to get battered as they’re moved from one vehicle to another. And those insurance and tax plates either side? How lame…

The Dutch ones would be okay, except that orange just looks plain wrong on the front of a car; and as for the Polish ones – I reckon the font used is just too spidery and bland. The pseudo-digital era Irish plates look nice, though – and like all the best countries, there merest glance tells you where the car is from and how old it is. I know the current UK system is flawed, and decipherable with patience, just how many people really understand how it works, and why the annual change-over point happens in April (or is it September)? Having said that, I don’t object to the narrower letters now used – although I know many who do.

But I do have a favourite – and I want to own a car that wears a set. I’m talking, of course, about Finland. Three numbers, three letters, white on black, plain border and blue country flash. Lovely.


Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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