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Hello all,


Just wondering if someone can shed any light on these?


I stumbled across two TR photographs on the Portobello Road recently. Not sure if either car still exists, but perhaps one of our American friends recognises them?


(Registrations: 7438-BL and NBS 430).









Cheers, Deggers

Edited by Deggers
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Nice period photos. Thanks for posting them


The way number plates work here in the US makes this a serious needle-in-a-haystack project. License plates are issued by the state, and each state will have a slightly different design. Although I can't read state names in your scans it's likely the original photo has enough resolution to see what they are. Good enough so far.


The registration in most states is officially to the owner, not the vehicle. When vehicles change ownership (in almost all states) the registration number changes. Although these days we keep the same number for multiple years in most states, adding a validation sticker each year or so, and changing the plates to a new design every five or eight years, back in the fifties and sixties it wasn't uncommon for many states to issue new license plates every year, even if the ownership was completely unchanged. Not so good. It makes it virtually impossible to trace vehicles by number plate.


That's one of the reasons we over here refer to TRs by their commission numbers. My car has always been commission number TSF202L. When I bought it in 1981 the guy took off his plates and I bought thirty-day paper tags for the car. When I took the official paperwork to the Department of Motor Vechicles Registrar it was given the year-long registration Ohio PMM728. It now has Ohio historical registration 761YJR assigned to it for as long as I own it, although that historical vehicle plate number is associated to the 1962 year-of-manufacture Ohio plates it displays, 90MC. I found those 1962 plates on eBay for about $15 and liked the combination of letters/numbers.


And because I still own property in Ohio I've kept the registration there. One could technically say I should transfer it to Missouri where my primary residence is located and run Missouri license plates. Missouri is similar to Ohio in offering regular (unlimited use), historical (limited use, one-time charge), or historical (displaying YOM plates) for a vehicle over twenty five years old.


That's probably kind of confusing, I realize -- but hopefully it shows how an old number plate in the US is a near-impossible way to track a car.


Even if one wanted to dig deep into vehicle registration records state-by-state, privacy laws make getting to that data almost impossible for someone not on official business.

Edited by Don H.
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Don's point is made well and I'd like to add that the states, all 50 of them, had complete control of the automobile registration process and still do. Any common procedures between states are coincidental. At the time, my state, New Hampshire, issued new plates every year with ramdom numbers, not the numbers you had the year before. If you wanted to keep your existing tag number, you had to apply in advance.



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Many thanks chaps! I wasn't entirely sure how the car registration system worked in the US, especially with the older cars, so thanks for your insight and detailed explanation.


I've had a chance to take a closer look at the original photographs again, and it's pretty tricky to see the state names on the plates, as the original pictures are only about three inches square. But nevertheless, as you say Don, they're a nice pair of period photos, and for £1 a piece, I couldn't resist 'em!


Cheers again,



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Sometimes the system in the US works in our favor. I picked up a pair of brand new plates from 1960 at a flea market for $25 that were sent to an MA resident as an annual renewal package in 1960. The envelope was unopened so had all of the paperwork as well as two new 1960's MA plates. Since the licence plate number was unallocated I was able to get the plates assigned to my TR3A. An added bonus is that in MA if you only have one of the pair of plates you only have to mount it on the rear of the car and you are not required to have a front plate. As with vanity plates we pay a bit more to have the historic plates but they look good on the older cars.



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Year-of-manufacture plates are handled almost exactly the same in Ohio and Missouri, Stan. Ohio has a one-time charge of around $25 for historic plates, and around $5 to associate an owner-supplied YOM plate to it. My car is legal in Ohio to something like 2054 with mo further charges or inspections of any kind. It is a pretty flexible system -- a lot more so than you guys in the UK!


The ability to run only a single rear plate (in states like NH, OH, and MO, where that is normally NOT allowed) is a plus for the YOM option.

Edited by Don H.
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