The best stories behind your favorite vanity license plates
Vanity license plates and collector cars go together like LFTTRNS and NASCAR, 57CHVYS and RKNRLL, and RDTRPS and STNWGNS. So, when we recently asked the Hagerty Community to share the stories behind your personalized plates, you CARCRZY peeps did not DSAPPNT.
Some of your stories made us smile, some made us tear up, and some made us think. In fact, we’d still be SCRTCHN our heads on a few if you hadn’t explained things. Below are a handful of our FAVRTES, summarized for clarity and brevity.
NITRO450EXP says his wife suggested he take on an automotive project, so he raised his hand to build a hot rod. She preferred a truck, however, since she had faded childhood memories of her father’s old pickup. Except she didn’t remember what kind of truck it was. Nitro reached out to extended family and was given an old Polaroid from November 1967 which showed his wife’s sister looking out of the window of a truck that he identified as a 1966 Chevy C20 Fleetside. Before long, Nitro had located a 1966 Chevy C10 Stepside for sale and “brought it home.” Of course, the C10 needed a vanity plate. Nitro chose “STANS 66” in honor of his wife’s deceased father, Stanley.
KAFER / RARBIRD / GDYUP / STOGIE
Stogie is not only into cars, he’s into vanity plates. “I’ve had many cars over the years—the first three (pictured) are current, but the T-Bird flew to a new nest a few years back.” Explaining the vanity plate choice for each car, he says KAFER is German for Bug, RARBIRD got its name “because that color was rare in 1957,” and GDYUP “is pretty self-explanatory.” As for STOGIE, “Who doesn’t enjoy a great Cigar? It’s part of the car’s personality to speak to you and give you its name.”
CitationMan tells about his “semi-vanity plate,” in which he chose the same letters (part of his last name) every year and let the state of Illinois select the numbers. This went on every year from 1978–2020. “I also have every Illinois plate from 1945 to 2020, which started when my dad would throw the old ones in a box. When the state used to issue them every year, the yearly color combinations were great. The ’45 plate is a heavy cardboard, due to the war effort.”
“In the late 1980s, I was lucky enough to own a Ferrari 308GTB, and I had the license plate LUV2FLY,” luv2fly2 writes. “I was coming home late one night after visiting friends and wound up over the speed limit—for good reasons that I won’t go into here. Naturally, I was soon pulled over. There were two officers, and after some questioning and searching, one wanted to give me a ticket, the other not. The officer who was inclined to give me a ticket asked, ‘So, what do you fly besides this?’ At which point, I produced my pilot’s license. I was given a stern warning that I would be observed by every police officer between there and home, and then I was sent on my way. He wasn’t kidding.”
GTBradley says, “I’ve always loved the 427 Shelby Cobra, but there is no way my wife would agree to spend that kind of money on a car—especially considering we don’t have that kind of money to spend on a car. Next best thing? Build a replica. I completed my FFR roadster in the vein of 1965. Not wanting to appear that I was trying to fool anyone—you know how persnickety people get over originality—but also wanting to credit the man behind it, I chose OD2SHLB as my homage, while also highlighting that I built it myself.”
JUNE 20 / 20 JUNE / JN20
Ken_L and his wife share the same birth date, June 20, and when they decided to marry, they tied the knot on—you guessed it—June 20, “so no way I could forget her birthday or our anniversary.” The vanity plate on Ken’s wife’s car is JUNE 20, and the vanity on his truck is 20 JUNE. Four days before the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary, Ken’s wife learned that the Corvette they’d sold 23 years earlier was for sale. “She surprised me at our anniversary party when our son arrived in that Corvette. The state we live in has antique plates available, but they are limited to only four characters, so that car wears JN20.”
Nova63 lives in Massachusetts and has owned his 1963 Nova SS convertible since 1978. “Years ago, I had a MA antique plate that was also a year of issue plate with the number 801. I had the plate for years, and then one day I got a call from the MA registry of motor vehicles informing me that I could no longer have the antique plate and the year of issue together. The gentleman at the registry offered me a standard current year MA antique plate with my 801 number and I accepted. After thinking about it for a few hours, I called him back and asked, ‘Can I get a number lower than 801?’ He replied, ‘Don’t be greedy’ and hung up on me. At least I tried!”
Prostreet36 purchased a 1973 Pontiac Grand Ville convertible several years ago “so the whole family could all ride in one car—since we outgrew our street rod. I applied for a Pennsylvania antique plate, not personalized, and received 7ZE3. I couldn’t have asked for a better personalized plate.” (If you don’t get it why it’s so fitting, try saying 7ZE3 with a French accent. It’ll come to you.)
From the short and sweet department: 82Riviera, who lives in Saskatchewan, Canada, owns a 1982 Buick Riviera convertible with the vanity plate TYM4FUN. We’re guessing that’s especially true when the top is down and the summer sun is shining.
SilentBoy741 owns a Canada-built 1975 Bricklin and explains, “There were so few of those built that every time one Brick owner meets another, they always exchange chassis numbers, along with their name … for example, ‘I’m Bill Sykes, #2239.’ So, when I got plates for mine, the choice was obvious: IM 987.”
J7161762gto writes that low-number plates “are a big deal” in Rhode Island, and although he doesn’t have a vanity plate, he has a good story about the plate on his classic (which, judging from his handle, is a GTO). “I have pass plate #1099, because my grandfather was the 1099th person in Rhode Island to register a car. He passed it on to my father, who passed it to me.” J7161762gto has willed the car and plate to his granddaughter. “She is 15 years old and loves the car. I laugh at all the big shots that offer me craze money for the plates—I cannot sell them and don’t want to anyway.”
WELL, THAT WORKED OUT
According to raduoos, “When I bought my ’63 Chevy project, it needed a complete restoration, but the owner had already bought a vintage car plate, not vanity plate.” Oddly enough, he says, “The plate number is 63645. My car is a ’63, and my street address is 645.”
This story is a tearjerker that caught us off guard, so consider yourself warned. DUB6 built a GTO with—and for—his youngest daughter from 2005–08, and he was motivated to get a vanity plate because people kept asking what year the car was. Wanting a clever way to say ’66, he chose DUB6 (as in double sixes), both for the year and because he jokingly called his daughter “Dub”—an iteration of the letter W in her first name. (She hated the nickname, by the way.) DUB6 says his plan “totally backfired,” because “whenever I’m asked the year, I tell folks to look at the plate for the answer, and no one, but NO ONE, has ever gotten it from that. One guy, years ago, looked and noticed the sticker on the plate, and he honestly, straight-faced, asked, ‘So, it’s a 2009?’” (Huh?) “Someone once asked me if my name was Dub, as his grandfather’s was, and he had a GTO too. So much for being cutesy, I guess.”
DUB6’s daughter so disliked that nickname that she told her dad that when he died, “she was going to change the plates on the way to my funeral and chuck the DUB memory into the river.” However, “it’s just become the name of the car with my crowd.”
Although his original intention for the vanity plate never answered people’s question about the year of the car, DUB6 says “the story is mine, and it’s unique, and it makes me smile.” Even more so now. Sadly, DUB6’s daughter passed away in 2021. “So many stories are tied in with that car and those plates. She might have tossed them in the river, but I wouldn’t get rid of them for ANY reason!”
“I like all cars manufactured between 1930 and 1970, and I have been buying, selling, and trading cars about every 3–4 years for the past 40+ years so that I can enjoy driving as many as possible for as long as I am able,” says 66PontiacGTO. “I always have one, and sometimes two, at any given time. I started out with a 1930 model A and got the New Hampshire plate 30FORD. I followed that with RSSS for a ’68 Camaro, then 66GTO, then 58VETTE, and several others before I got tired having to spend time at the DMV to get a new vanity plate approved every time a new classic car showed up in my garage. Now I have New Hampshire antique plate OLDE, which I have easily transferred from a 1966 Corvette to a ’70 Challenger T/A, and now to a ’66 GTO convertible. Don’t know what the next car will be, but I know the plate will be OLDE.”
BDOPREY / BDOPLAY
Robstock “had a 1957 Studebaker Silver Hawk with a built SBC 355 and Tremek five-speed and a 1962 Studebaker Lark with a 289 and a T-10 four-speed. As I was looking at them sitting side by side, one day it hit me! The only logical plates for the cars were BDOPREY (bird of prey) for the Hawk and BDOPLAY (bird of play) for the Lark.”
Tomboy explains that HNGR QN on his Austin Healey stands for Hangar Queen, “which is a term used for an aircraft that spends most of its time in a hangar getting repaired—or never flies. Kinda fits.”
“I used to have the vanity plate P00RSCHE on my 1981 911 SC,” rs6er writes. “It indicated that I’d spent all my money on my dream car and was, therefore, Porsche poor.”
Speaking of Porsches, ChrisL911 owns a 911 that wears the plate TATORT, which is German for “scene of the crime.” He explains, “I lived in Germany for almost 20 years, and Tatort is the name of a detective show that has run there since the ’70s. And if I drove here the way I drove there on the Autobahn, it would definitely be the scene of a crime.”
“My girlfriend is a major Francophile and also loves Porsche,” JEL395 writes. “She has a heavy foot as well. The plate (AU VOIR, an abbreviation of the French word for ‘Goodbye’) speaks for itself.”
Good luck understanding this one without an explanation from 1ferociousb, unless you speak Romanian. “I got a Datsun 280Z two years ago. Racked my brain trying to think of a cool twist on Fairlady Z. Tried Google translate, Latin, Greek, etc. Nothing. Told my wife what I was doing and explained that Fairlady means ‘lady of affection.’ She is Romanian and said, ‘Iubita is an option.’ IUBITA Z? She said if I swap the two, Z IUBITA literally translates to ‘the girlfriend’ in Romanian. So now my Z is my girlfriend.” And his wife encourages their relationship.
“When my youngest daughter, Sue, was 12, we decided to look for a car to restore together,” jbisch17 says. “In the summer of 1998, we found our candidate in a 1967 Malibu, and we immediately began disassembling the vehicle. As life happens, our work began to stretch out, as we wanted to be sure we got everything just right. Finally, in 2007, we decided to hire a company to do the final interior and driveline assembly to expedite the process. During this time, my work introduced me to the recycling world and its benefits. My daughter showed me an ad for a vendor that reproduced license plates. While California would not grant the personalized plate RECYCLED, and I wanted to keep the vehicle’s original 1967 plate registration, I couldn’t resist having a set made for the car. As many states no longer require front plates, I displayed the plate in front. While I’m mindful of the weather, I do drive the car year-round.” We can see that!
DaveB made us laugh, both for the story you’re about to read and the one he included in his original entry but we didn’t share here (this is a family show). “A co-worker of mine bought a Crown Vic police car from an auction. They barely even spray painted over the door logos.” So, his friend chose the vanity plate DONUTS—”and he had two Dunkin’ Donuts boxes in the back where the inside lights would have been. He was often pulled over in that car. Some people must not have a sense of humor.” We do!
Full disclosure, this one comes from one of our own, Greg_I. , but it’s a good one—even if we think this plate should be on a silver car … as in, silver INGOLD. Hit it, snowman Burl Ives! But we digress. Take it away, Greg:
“I don’t have a clever saying for mine, it’s simply my last name, but the reason for having it is pretty neat. My father decided to pick up a plate with our last name in 1978, and he kept it on one vehicle or another throughout my lifetime. When I purchased his 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix a few years back, he and I worked it so that the plate could be passed on to me. I eventually sold the Pontiac and kept the plate, which is now on my daily driver. So, we are going on 44 years with this plate in the family. The cool part is that with Michigan releasing a retro plate this year (which of course I bought immediately), it looks a lot closer in style to the original, which I have as well.”
“Back in the ’70s I had a Saab Sonett III,” MadMac says. “Because of its silhouette and orange color, most people at first thought it to be a Datsun 240Z. Around that same time, 7UP was running an advertising campaign that 7UP was the ‘uncola.’ So my custom plate is THE UNZ. The plate now hangs on a wall of plates collected by a friend. It’s next to a plate with but a single letter, Z.”