Car Number Classics

The long-awaited Car Number Classics is ready at last. After some four years of research, this definitive volume will be available in time for Christmas.

The book is full of information and illustrations on the subject of number plates in the United Kingdom. Starting at A 1, Part I contains detailed biographies of the original owners of the first eleven numbers (and sometimes beyond) issued by every authority in the United Kingdom as of 1st January 1904* and for which records have survived. Wherever possible, photographs include a then and now element with the same number shown on its present car and on its original vehicle. 



This section of the book is indexed by owners’ names and readers may well be surprised to find one of their ancestors among them. Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar man, Thief - they are almost all here. So, too, are the violent deaths; the suicides; attempted murders; infidelities, bankruptcies and mysterious disappearances. The book is designed to be informative but entertaining throughout; and some of the scandals and tragedies that befell our Edwardian ancestors are fascinating to read. Here’s an edited extract from the story of one of the more eccentric of them:

Alan Hickman had a fascination for electrics and mechanical transport. By the age of seventeen, he was working as an electrical engineer for a motor car company, and it is hardly surprising that he would have his own car at the time of compulsory registration. He does not seem to have been superstitious and was happy to have it registered DU 13. To say Alan was eccentric is an understatement. DU13He became obsessed with trains and railways, and fell in love with France. He changed the name of the house to La France and on the 1911 census form, he described himself as British by Parentage but “French at Heart”. As far as his occupation went, he described himself as “Railway observer and automobile expert”. He secured a season ticket from Wolverhampton to Penzance via Paddington, and travelled all over the country on a daily basis wearing a peaked cap and mackintosh, and carrying a railwayman’s basket. He made a point of logging every journey. Alan finally ran out of steam in January 1931. The funeral arrangements were carried out by the Divisional Superintendent of the Great Western Railway, and the station master at Wolverhampton. The coffin was carried by two railway guards, two firemen and two ticket collectors. After the service, Alan’s body was taken by his favourite locomotive The Cornishman to the Key Hill Cemetery in Birmingham; the end of the line at last. His executor was William Sherbrooke who was well qualified for the job; he was (of course) a railway guard.

Part II of the same book brings us up to date and includes photographs of the unusual zero issues; diplomatic plates; many of the existing single and two-letter issues; some DVLA issues; as well as photographs from the Veteran Car Club’s London to Brighton Runs. It also includes a brief history of the various registration systems used in the United Kingdom over the years, and the number of vehicles registered by each authority as at June 1904.


Where available, full details of the Original vehicle are given in each case as in this example

      D I    
Full Name of Owner, and Postal Address of his usual Residence:
Edward Ground B.A., M.D. 1, Ashford Road, Maidstone.  Registered 30th November  1903 to a 7 H.P. New Orleans.  Phaeton body with seat behind. Painted dark green colour. Weight unladen: 11 cwt.   Intended use: private and business. 

      D I    

Present vehicle:  2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost in white. 6.592 cc. Owned by London Chauffeuring car hire.

The book comprises over 1300 pages with full colour illustrations throughout (except the early 20th century images for obvious reasons!).  But even if you have no particular interest in number plates, anyone with an interest in cars or social history will find this book difficult to put down. Dip in, as and when you have a few minutes to spare, or read it from cover to cover - either way, this could be the most entertaining book you have read this year.


The book will be available from early November 2018 at £50 plus p&p £8.50.

To order a copy, contact the publisher or call 020 8998 0007

It will also available on eBay after 7th November 2018 – just search “Car Number Classics“  (in quotation marks)

Cheques for £58.50 per copy should be made payable to Crawfords and posted to Crawfords, PO Box 56662 London W13 3BH. Please ensure you provide your name, address and contact telephone number in clear block capitals. Credit card orders can be taken by telephone by calling 020 8998 0007 as from 1st November.

* Where no records survive, information has been gleaned from other sources. The book includes details of all those two-letter marks allotted in England and Wales (which, as of 1st January 1904, stopped at FP) plus all single letters to Y. For practical reasons (sheer size of the book!) we have stopped the Irish and Scottish series at the same point  (i.e. FI and ES – FS being a much later issue anyway), but we have included the single-letter Scottish issues G; S; and V). The remaining Irish and Scottish marks will be covered in CAR NUMBER CLASSICS VOLUME II