Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Number-plate Fetishism...

It would be fair to say that I have a preternatural obsession with number plates. I recall fondly the implementation of the UK's new number plate system in 2000. From that point on, all newly-issued number plates began with a two letter prefix denoting where the car was from. So if the numberplate started with NY, it was from Stockton, North England. Or if it started with LA, it was from Wimbledon, London. Or at least this was the theory behind it. But because of the UKs small size, and the fluid nature of integration between cities, it is not entirely inconceivable a Londoner could go to Scotland to get a cheaper deal on car. Though the plate identifies the car as coming from Scotland, there is a Londoner driving it, and so there is less fun to be had in the detective work.

The ideogram on the left demarcates this car as originating from 苏州 (Suzhou, A province is South-Eastern China) Note the multiple 8s. Chinese superstition and love of this digit makes this number-plate one of the most expensive in Chinese history.

But China is a whole different ball game. Where many people have never left their provinces, generally speaking the prefix of the province on a car plate truly is where the owner is from. And China has such a massive range of different plates it is wonderful. Sections of the military, government, embassies, public institutions, all have their own prefixes. There is such a diversity it is fascinating and breathtaking. I nostalgically look back on a range of books from when I was younger called 'Michelin I Spy.' They were a wonderful collection of books, encouraging children to keep their eyes open looking out for the objects listed in the books. If someone could produce one related to Chinese number plates even I would buy one...A number plate goes on a car, Michelin tyres go on a car, Michelin produces the books; there must be something in this...
I make no excuses for my youthful love of cars, and the above book was no doubt my favourite one of the series

Because I find my eyes often trailing towards the number-plate area of a car, it means occasionally I find myself noticing strange things. One thing I noticed recently pertains to a certain brand of car called Infiniti. To give their brand that little edge, it seems they have started offering number-plate facades which deviate slightly from the norm.

Here the brand name is emblazoned upon a gold plaque

Here the customer has gone for the bling Swaroski look

And last but not least, the classic two-tone petrol style...

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