It is always sad when someone passes away, but if they managed to lead a good and productive life and left a mark, then the news isn’t all bad.
One man who made a business out of registration marks was Noel Woodall. He was 82 years old and is credited with inventing the personalised number-plate business.
Whatever your views on private plates, and I have yet to be convinced, it is at least harmless and in a free country if you want people to see you coming, or going, then why not?
I love the fact that he coined the term ‘autonumerology’ and published his first book ‘Celebrities’ in 1962. He certainly knew the way the world was going and the book is packed with anecdotes about Arthur Askey (AA10), Norman Wisdom (NW4) and George Formby (GF1 and GF2). Incidentally, younger readers, these were the film stars, stand-ups and acclaimed banjolele players of their day.
He formed the Personalised Number Dealers Association and although I never met him I did interview several members of the Cherished Numbers Dealers Association as it became known, for a feature in the late ‘80s. That was more interesting than it actually sounds.
The other sad passing is Lewis Collins at just 67 years old. In case you don’t know, he was an actor who appeared in the TV show ‘The Professionals’. Sort of Starsky and Hutch, but funnier, grittier and with better cars and clothes. If you are going to be remembered for just one thing in life, then it really ought to be handbrake turning a Ford Capri, repeatedly.
The opposite lockery in The Professionals also included Martin Shaw’s Ford Escort RS2000. Now I was already a fully formed idiot by the time The Professionals arrived, but for British males of a certain age, this was clearly the way to behave. Shoot first and ask questions later, opposite lock your dad’s Cortina and always have a wry smile and cheery quip for the ladies.
Oh how the modern-day pressure groups would object to all that, in the strongest possible terms.
I never met Mr Collins but I did share a restaurant with him in 1984. Langan’s Brasseire if I remember rightly. One of our number embarrassed us hugely (and we were car salesmen) by asking for an autograph. Like the true gentleman he was, Collins signed a napkin with a flourish and a big smile.
Thank you Noel and Lewis for changing the way our automotive universe operates. I hope you agree that their efforts made a difference to our lives and possibly number plates.