American guest: Awful journey - we couldn't find the freeway, had to use this quaint little backstreet called the M5
Basil Fawlty: Yes, I'm sorry if it wasn't wide enough for you - a lot of the English cars have steering wheels.British Roads are considered some of the best in the world, although, unless you specifically looked, they share a lot of similarities with the roads of any other industrial nation. Probably the biggest difference between British Roads and those in the rest of the world (except for Japan, Indonesia, Ireland and a few Commonwealth nations, such as India, Australia and South Africa) is that we drive on the left almost everywhere - the only exception is the short road outside the Savoy Hotel. This is
Car RegistrationsThe UK has undergone a number of different registration systems in the automobile history. If you know this system, you can understand a lot about a character. The only person who doesn't need a numberplate is HM The Queen. The dashes below are for ease of reading and do not appear on license plates.
1904-1932One or two letter region code- a number from 1 to 9999
1932-1953Three letter region code - number from 1 to 9999 Actually only the second and third letters form the region identifier, the first letter was random. Letters O, I and Z in the identifier indicated a vehicle registered in Ireland (including the Republic of Ireland which continued the same system until 1987 - VIP 1, used for a Popemobile in the 1980s, was a County Kilkenny registration), S indicated a vehicle from Scotland. "Inappropriate" combinations were disallowed, thus EX was from the county of Norfolk, but you couldn't register your car with SEX, similarly GOD. UW (Middlesex, now part of west London) used DUW for about four months in 1936 before someone pointed out that it's the Welsh word for "god".
- Stroke Country still uses this system. Bus and coach companies in Great Britain sometimes register their vehicles in Northern Ireland to make it more difficult for customers to see how old they are.
1953-1963Number from 1 to 9999 - Three letter region code.
1963 to 1983Three letter region code - Number from 1 to 999 - Year code (A= 1963, B= 1964, etc, skipping a few letters). Soon after the year code system was introduced, it became apparent that the desire to show off to the neighbours that you've got a brand new car meant that around half of all the years' new car registrations took place in the first month of the new year code. Since December/January is not the nicest time of year for garages to have to do pre-delivery inspections partially in the open air, the automotive industry lobbied to change the system and in 1967 the E code ran from 1st January to 31st July, with F starting on 1st August, which remained the changeover date until the mid-1990s. It was (and is) illegal to register a car with a number plate which implies that it's newer than it actually is, though if you want you can use an older plate. The letters I, O, Q, and Z were not used as year codes in this system, because of the possibility of confusion with the numbers 0, 1, and 2.
1983-2001Year code - Number from 1 to 999 - Region code From 1998, the year code changed twice a year. As in the previous system, I, O, and Z were not used as year codes; Q was used to identify kit cars and other imported cars whose year of original registration could not be reliably determined.
2001-presentThe current system goes something like this. Two letter region code - Year number (if registered Mar-Sept) or Year Number plus 50 (Sept-Mar) - Three random letters (provided they are not rude). The system started with 51 and is currently on 18. An example of a registration would be LC 58 RFD, indicating a London-registered car from the second half of 2008/9. As of 2010, the numberplates will go 10 and 60 instead of 00 and 50, so a car made in the second half of 2012 will bear the year-number 62. I, J, Q, T, U and Z are not included in the region codes. A car beginning with Q does not have an easily determinable age, as "Q-reg" plates using the 83-01 system are used for kit cars and similar non-mass-produced vehicles.
Private registrations and personalised platesDon't be such a twat. Considered a sign of possessing extreme vanity and too much money, but available for a fee if you really insist. Only plates that have been issued in one of the systems can be used, not any old combination of letters and numbers; for example V3NUS would be possible, but JUP1T3R would not be. New plates are sold by the DVLA, old plates can be privately traded. However, the registration numbers of any car that appeared regularly on television are not for sale, lest someone try to pass another car of similar make off as the (presumably now non-existent) genuine prop. Your mileage may vary on the acceptability of these. Some may simply be a normal looking plate that happens to have the owners initials, which are normally accepted as being a personal thing (after all, only people who know your name will tell anyway). The more obvious and flashy the personalised plate is, the less acceptable it tends to be. Many will even make changes to the font or spacing to make the plate read differently to what it says. This can make figuring out what the actual registration of the car is very difficult, and hence is not only widely looked down on, but also illegal. Buses and coaches may also carry these numbers, usually to hide the age of the vehicle but sometimes for the same reasons above. These plates can also be Northern Irish plates, which don't carry a year identifier and can be transferred without regard for vehicle age.
- One arsehole paid millions for a legal numberplate reading "1". The DVLA probably saw him coming a mile off.
- The Doctor had a yellow car named Bessie with the registration WHO 1; this was registered to someone else and so the vehicle actually was legally registered under MTR 5 - WHO 1 only being used on private land or with police permission.