scan courtesy Stu Harmon

This week on Product Review Tuesdays, we bring you a product that’s been anticipated for about as long as old cars in California have been collected: the “black plate,” yellow plate and blue California license plates.

Up till now, the state of California has been fairly straightforward in its laws on what it calls “YOM” license plates (Year Of Manufacture): as long as you have two identical plates and the DMV runs a check on their current ownership (or lack thereof) and show up clear on its records, a CA resident can use YOM plates on a newly registered vehicle up through 1963 (which is a rolling cutoff year). But, then again, the real world dictates that it all depends on the DMV office you go to and the interpretation of the laws by the drone you’re either lucky or unlucky enough to get facing you after your 4.5 hour wait.

We’ve seen every trick in the book to get around these laws: guys who offer to paint your new plates black and yellow, ordering new personalized plates with identical numbers to the single black plate you found at a swap meet for $5 and then just running that old plate (so that when you get pulled over for racing, at least your one plate comes up as valid by the po-po), ordering a set of restored original YOM plates from that guy on Ebay for a couple hundy, the list goes on.

But the California DMV has finally caught on. Took ‘em long enough. We can just imagine how that conversation went: “Hey, we’re just not making much profit on those personalized plates with the big, stupid whale tale background and we keep hearing about the near fist-fights at DMVs over those old, busted-up license plates those rockabilly kids bring in to register…I gotta idea…”

So, once the DMV gets enough orders for these plates, we’ll be able to run our new vintage-looking plates with modern number/character combinations. Now, the new styles only go back as far as 1956, when the yellow field/black character plate was used with annually updated “year” tabs till 1963 when the well-known “black plate” came into use.

In typical DMV form, if you go to the official site (here), you won’t easily find any information about the new/old plate program, titled AB1658. So, we suggest you call or just go to the DMV in person if you have 5 hours to kill. The law states that 7,500 plates must be ordered on or before January 1, 2014. Hell, we can think of 7,500 people who’d want them right off the top of our head, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

The problem is going to make itself fairly evident when you actually go to the DMV and try to tell that drone behind the counter that you want the new, special plates that look old with new numbers with old paint for your new old car. Right.


  1. Scrub Hansen says:

    super idea!!!!!!!! and it will produce more needed funds for our broke State…

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