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Anne Diamond: Personalised number plates...

PUBLISHED: 11:28 08 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:28 08 March 2016

Princess Anne by Department for Transport (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/) via flic.kr/p/yppJbt

Princess Anne by Department for Transport (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/) via flic.kr/p/yppJbt

Archant

Our Anne could find herself in a royal squabble if she ever had the money – and desire – to drive around with a treasured car number plate

Do you drive a car with a personalised number plate? What does it say about you - apart from the fact that you clearly have money to burn? Is it a status symbol or a sign that your sense of style is actually a bit naff? According to the DVLA, sales of vanity plates are rising every year and proving a hugely profitable source of revenue for the Treasury.

The fad all started many years ago when personalised plates were regularly used in films and television series to hint that a character is a braggart or an egomaniac or just a bit desperate for attention.

Take the TV series The Persuaders, where international playboy Brett Sinclair, 15th Earl of Marnock, drove an Aston Martin DBS with the number plate BS 1. (Nowadays the BS would suggest another word entirely!) In the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger, the villain had AU 1 on his 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III Sedanca de Ville, (AU being the chemical symbol for gold).

Social commentators, however, reckon personalised number plates are going out of fashion, getting a bit corny - a sort of 1970s pop star sort of thing. But you cannot help being a little impressed with those which are chucklesome displays of wit or humour, or even self-deprecation.

I love the car owners in Chelsea (apparently a wealthy couple known for their support of the theatre) whose cars sport the number plates “2BE” and “NOT 2BE”. What fun they must have every morning, coming downstairs for breakfast, and turning to each other, waving the car keys: “Darling - which car are you taking today? To be, or not to be?” That really is style and can’t surely be seen as naff.

Or how about “WE FEW” which I saw on the motorway just a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help wondering if the driver had recently played Henry V. Alan Sugar has AMS1, Wayne Rooney has WAZ8 and Vinnie Jones has 100VJ. The rarest ever, just “1”, cost its owner, a top international businessman from the Emirates, a cool £7.25m. So perhaps a droll, amusing, well-thought-out number plate adds a little sparkle to the otherwise drab, functional business of commuting.

It comes at a hefty price, however. Just go onto one of those private registration companies and you’ll find searching for a plate that resembles your name absolutely absorbing. My son James was delighted to find a close match for him - J4MES. Perfect. Until you see that its going price is £154,000. I’ve always fancied ANN1E for me, but it has never come onto the market. I’m told Princess Anne has it!

I reckon personalised number plates are about the meaning behind them – the status, if you will. Just like a shiny Rolex watch will tell people how successful you are, personalised plates (especially rare and unique ones) will tell people that you’re successful, you’re waggish (if you have a particularly funny or clever combination of letters and numbers), and that you care about your appearance and that of your car.

Maybe, also in a world where cars all seem to look the same, it’s a way of making your car your own. The other aspect is that it’s often given as a present for a partner or family member and it’s a great way of reminding the recipient every time that they get in their car that someone loves them.

Sadly, without £150K to spare, I’ll have to get my son one of those windscreen stickers emblazoned with “your mum loves you” on it. And I’ll just go on envying Princess Anne. 


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