I’ve never really understood Britain’s take on the private registration number.

Autocar reg For some people it’s obviously a vital personality extension, with some dodgy character spacing telling the world that they are known as ‘B16 JON’.

Others like to remind us of the sort of car they are driving – it feels like every late E36 BMW M3 in the country is running around with an ‘M3 XXX’ plate on it.

The only justified use I can really think of for a registration plate other than the one the computer randomly issued your car is to hide the age of a fairly timeless clunker.

I once met a bloke who had taken advantage of the Meccano contruction of the original Range Rover to change a 1971 three-door into a 1993-looking five-door, complete with late interior and leather seats, and who disguised his handiwork behind a £65 Northern Irish plate.

But these days, private plates are big business – somebody paid £254,000 for ’51 NGH’ three years ago – and the DVLA is anxiously puffing up its next auction of the things. This will include ‘1 0’, which sounds perfect for a millionaire computer programmer, and ‘1 HRH’, presumably for any wannabe members of the royal family. Both are anticipated to go for over £200,000.

If you’re happy with a more normal combination of letters and numbers its possible to buy yourself a private plate for as little as £250. But let’s face it, there’s only so much that lexical dexterity can do with Britain’s clunky ‘AA59AAA’ combination.

Over in most American states it’s possible to pick out any (non-offensive) combination of letters and numbers to make up a license plate, in exchange for a nominal fee.

Even better – I just checked and ‘IHRH’ is still available in California, for the princely sum of $40 followed by a $30 annual renewal. So instead of forking over a quarter of a million quid to the British exchequer in exchange for rights on a piece of Perspex, why don’t interested millionaires invest the cash in the plate of their dreams, something nice to screw it onto, a deluxe Californian timeshare and a few first-class flights?

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