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British car registrations, what's the deal?

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  • British car registrations, what's the deal?

    Alright, this has been bugging me for a long time, but I can't seem to find the information I'm looking for. What's the deal with UK car reg numbers?

    If you read a UK car mag, people will talk about how their car is a J-reg, X-reg, K-reg, etc. What does this actually mean?

    There's a great Wikipedia page on British License plates, but it doesn't cover it, nor does the UK version of the DMV website.

    Any ideas?

  • #2
    The British system was introduced in 1904 and was used in Great Britain and Ireland (at that time completely part of the United Kingdom) and is still used in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Also in a slightly modified form it was and is used on the Isle of Man. When introduced registrations had a one or two letter code followed by upto four digits. The letter code indicated the place of origin. Originally the single letters and combinations containing I and Z were reserved for Ireland, and this reservation is still maintained. Also originally the letters G, S and V were reserved for Scotland, but that has detoriated. There is a separate table containing the the original issue on 1 January 1904. When combinations were exhausted new two letter combinations were assigned. The Isle of Man used the two letter combination MN, and it was reserved in Great Britain.
    When the series mentioned above neared exhaustion a new scheme was started with a serial letter preceding the two letter combinations followed by upto three digits. The Isle of Man started issuing registrations with the letters MAN rather than AMN, but that was followed by BMN. Some British three letter combinations were reserved for special use, as MAN just mentioned, for others see below. In Ireland the three letters followed by three digits series was never issued, although the reversal was. In Northern Ireland the three letter/three digit scheme was only adopted as part of the three letter/four digit scheme explained later.
    When this was all exhausted the order on the registrations was reversed to first a number followed by a sequence of letters, with the same meaning as above.
    In 1963 some authorities again saw exhaustion coming up, so a new form was started, three letters and upto three digits (as above), followed by a letter (indicating the year of first registration as in the table below). In 1965 this became compulsory in all of Great Britain, although some authorities had not yet exhausted even the number followed by one or two letter series. At about the same time (196 reflective plates became the norm, white at the front, yellow that the rear end.
    In 1983 the order of the symbols was reversed. Starting with a year letter, upto three digits and three letters follow. In the last years of this system the letters were changed half-yearly.
    In september a new system was introduced. It has two letters, two digits and finally three letters. The first two letters indicate the place of origin (see the table), the digits give the year of issue. The last three letters are the actual serial "number" used. The letters I, Q are not used at all and the letter Z is not used in the first two letters. The two digit year code consists of the last two digits of the year for the period from 1 March to 31 August, 50 is added to this for the other half (January and February are in this system assumed to belong to the previous year).
    Northern Ireland did not follow suit with the year letters, it now started with three letters, but now followed by upto four digits.
    Ireland never got to the point of the year letters, before something like that would become necessary it devised its own new scheme. Also when going to reflective plates, Ireland chose not for yellow plates at the rear end, but for red (and they are barely readable when seen in the dark).
    The Isle of Man did it differently again. When the three digit/three letter series was exhausted it started with MAN followed by upto three digits, followed by a letter (which is part of the serial number). After that the order was reversed. Later MAN followed by four digits, and again reversed. And the currently issuing series consists of a prefix letter, the combination MN, upto three digits and a letter which is part of the serial number. The registration shown would be from 1999/2000 when from Great Britain, but actually is from 1982.
    Year letters:
    letter as suffix as prefix
    A 1 Jan 1963-31 Dec 1963 1 Aug 1983-31 Jul 1984
    B 1 Jan 1964-31 Dec 1964 1 Aug 1984-31 Jul 1985
    C 1 Jan 1965-31 Dec 1965 1 Aug 1985-31 Jul 1986
    D 1 Jan 1966-31 Dec 1966 1 Aug 1986-31 Jul 1987
    E 1 Jan 1967-31 Jul 1967 1 Aug 1987-31 Jul 1988
    F 1 Aug 1967-31 Jul 1968 1 Aug 1988-31 Jul 1989
    G 1 Aug 1968-31 Jul 1969 1 Aug 1989-31 Jul 1990
    H 1 Aug 1969-31 Jul 1970 1 Aug 1990-31 Jul 1991
    J 1 Aug 1970-31 Jul 1971 1 Aug 1991-31 Jul 1992
    K 1 Aug 1971-31 Jul 1972 1 Aug 1992-31 Jul 1993
    L 1 Aug 1972-31 Jul 1973 1 Aug 1993-31 Jul 1994
    M 1 Aug 1973-31 Jul 1974 1 Aug 1994-31 Jul 1995
    N 1 Aug 1974-31 Jul 1975 1 Aug 1995-31 Jul 1996
    P 1 Aug 1975-31 Jul 1976 1 Aug 1996-31 Jul 1997
    Q special, see below
    R 1 Aug 1976-31 Jul 1977 1 Aug 1997-31 Jul 1998
    S 1 Aug 1977-31 Jul 1978 1 Aug 1998-28 Feb 1999
    T 1 Aug 1978-31 Jul 1979 1 Mar 1999-31 Aug 1999
    V 1 Aug 1979-31 Jul 1980 1 Sep 1999-29 Feb 2000
    W 1 Aug 1980-31 Jul 1981 1 Mar 2000-31 Aug 2000
    X 1 Aug 1981-31 Jul 1982 1 Sep 2000-28 Feb 2001
    Y 1 Aug 1982-31 Jul 1983 1 Mar 2001-31 Aug 2001
    Registration of old vehicles
    In Great Britain and Northern Ireland the issue of registrations for older cars is special. These registrations arise when an old vehicle is imported, but can also be due to re-registering. When one wants to maintain the old registration for a vehicle on a new vehicle this is allowed (so-called cherished numbers), but the old vehicle must be re-registered according to the following rules:

    * When the vehicle is older than 1931 a one or two letter combination followed by four digits is issued that has not yet been used.
    * When the vehicle dates from 1931 to 1955 one of the letter combinations ASV to YSV or CSU to YSU followed by three digits is issued.
    * When the vehicle dates from 1956 to 1962 a registration with a normal code and year letter A is issued.
    * When the vehicle is newer than 1963 a registration with a normal code and the appropriate year letter is issued.
    * When the age of the vehicle can not be ascertained (and this holds a priory for vehicles built from kits) the year letter Q is used. Until 1983 the year letter Q was used as suffix, since than as prefix.

    I do not know what Northern Ireland does with respect to vehicles dating from 1956 or later, but for older vehicles this scheme is followed although the registrations issued are definitely not Irish.
    Temporarily imported vehicles
    Temporarily imported vehicles have registrations consisting of upto four digits preceded by or followed by a two letter combination. For Ireland the two letter combination is ZZ, for Great Britain and Northern Ireland it is the letter Q followed by another letter. Until 1981 this second letter denoted the issuing authority, since that time it is identical to the year letter (and the combination moved from prefix to suffix when the year letter moved).
    Other special combinations
    GPO General Post Office, not used since 1965.
    RXS Since 1984 used for second and subsequent vehicles of diplomatic personnel, the registration remains with the vehicle after sale.
    USN Not used to avoid confusion with the U.S. Navy.
    SCY Isle of Scilly since 1971 (year letter J).
    Trade plates
    Currently trade plates consist of a three digit number followed by a two letter code for the issuing authority. They are red on white. Before 1970 this combination was for limited use (the vehicle was tax free).
    The combination for general use was white on red before 1970. Also some authorities did not issue standard versions, but those non-standard versions are phased out.
    Other special plates
    Temporarily plates for vehicles purchased tax free for export have a standard London Central registration and a red border.
    Before the age of the reflective plates such plates were black with a yellow border.
    Since 1979 diplomatic vehicles have a registration consisting of a number indicating the embassy or organization, a letter and a serial number. The letter is D for diplomats and X for other staff.
    Military registrations
    Since 1949 military vehicles have a registration consisting of two digits followed by two letters followed by two digits. The colours can be anything, the registration can be painted on the vehicle, or standard plates can be used. Previously the letters gave an indication to the kind of vehicle, since recently this is no longer the case.
    The earliest military registrations did occur during the first world war, the were black on yellow, a letter or a letter combination denoting the service, followed by a number.
    In 1939 specific registrations emerged (at all other times standard registrations were used). The Royal Air Force used the letters RAF followed by a serial number.
    The navy used the letters RN preceded by a serial number, sometimes it was the other way around.
    And the army used a registration consisting of a letter (denoting the service) followed by a number which could be a ridicuously seven digits.
    British forces in Germany have special plates since 1946. Originally the letters BZ followed by a three digit number, later this was prefixed by a serial letter. Again later came a four (three for welfare organizations) digit number followed by the letters BZ, later again a three digit number, a serial letter and the letters BZ and finally a serial letter followed by a three (four for Belgian forces) digit number followed by the letters BZ. The serial letter as A, B, F, V or Y for Belgian forces. It is clear that the plate shown is actually for Belgian forces.
    In 1963 the layout changed, first two serial letters followed by a two digit number followed by the letter B, later the two digit number was increased to three digits. Finally the registration was changed to three letters, a two digit number and the letter B. This series has been discontinued around 1990 because these kind of vehicles were susceptible for attacks by terrorists.
    The Trigger - Midwest Festiva Inc., Illinois Chapter
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    • #3

      93 GL modyfied!!!


      • #4
        Originally posted by 25Horseplay
        Yeah really! Hope you didn't know all that right off the top of yer head


        • #5
          Thats what I was going to say.
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          Link to my festiva pictures below

          Celebrating 25 years of festiva(s) ownership.


          • #6
            Hey he asked what it all meant

            I take it you all liked that .
            The Trigger - Midwest Festiva Inc., Illinois Chapter
            Smart Passion white with H-D interior
            HD2500 Duramax Chevy
            Harley Davidson Ultra classic ..I am in love !!
            Pro Street S-10
            Diamond white Deville 27,000 mile cream puff
            Z28 LS1 power 500 +
            90 Festy L daily driver wants to be modded, OK
            It is being modded , a little at a time

            Join me on Facebook !! ;


            • #7
              Oh well! Mr. Wikipedia is in da house! ;P The part I can't still figure out is that it appears sometimes that 2 cars will be of the same year, and registered in the same district, but have different reg codes.

              I'm going to have to move the the UK, register a car, and live there for 10 years to truly get to the bottom of this. While I'm at it, I'll visit a lot of curry shops, get really fat, and develop an obsession with soccer that will eventually turn into fanaticism. This fanaticism will have me jumping up and down on the furniture during games, and spewing aforementioned curry all over myself in the process.

              Mix in a little warm, dark beer, and I'll truly be living up to the expectations of my fat, gap toothed, beer swilling, working class, soccer loving, hoodlum predecessors.

              Come to think of it, the mix of cheap curries, and warm beer are just the kind of thing that would drive a nation to create such a cryptic registration system as this.