France was the first country to introduce the licence plate with the passage of the Paris Police Ordinance on August 14, 1893, followed by Germany in 1896. The Netherlands was the first country to introduce a national licence plate, called a “driving permit”, in 1898. It might seem to be a rather odd and random date but the first number plates were introduced in England on 23rd December 1903 and began with the series A1.
My dad’s first car was an old fashioned white Austin Cambridge A55, registration SWD 774, which was a car with few refinements and even lacking modern day basics such as seat belts, a radio, door mirrors or satellite navigation. There were no carpets and the seats were made of cheap plastic that were freezing cold in winter and if you weren’t especially careful burnt your arse in the summer.
After that he had a white Ford Anglia, 1870 NX, which I always thought was a bit chic and stylish with that raking back window and big chrome front grill and after that he had a couple of blue Ford Cortinas before he moved on to red Escorts before finally downsizing to Fiestas, and back to blue again.
My first car was a flame red Hillman Avenger, registration WRW 366J, in which I did hundreds of pounds worth of damage to other peoples vehicles because it had an inconveniently high back window which made reversing a bit of a challenge for a short person.
I remember car registration numbers because this was something we used to do as children. Car number plate spotting was a curiously boring pastime and on some days it would be possible to sit for a whole morning at the side of the road outside of the house and still only fill one page of an exercise book. These days you would need a laptop and a million gigabytes of memory.