23rd November 2023

Black and Silver Number Plates: The Law, Suppliers & Advice

If you own a classic, it’s understandable that you may want every detail to be authentic and in keeping with its age - and that applies to the number plate too.

Ever wondered how long car registration plates have been around? Well, the very first one was issued soon after the passing of the Motor Car Act 1903 and it contained just two characters: A1.

Not surprisingly, plates from those early days can go for over £1 million.

Since then, it’s been a legal requirement for vehicles to be properly registered and for their number plates to be displayed correctly. But over the years changes have been introduced to increase the character limit, and since 1973 we’ve had yellow rear and white front reflective plates.

But, what happens if you’re the proud owner of a classic and want to retain every aspect of its authenticity?

Can I Put Black and Silver Number Plates On My Classic?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency explained that in 2015 that vehicles manufactured more than 40 years ago were eligible to display the traditional black and silver number plates.

However, coming into effect from the 1st January 2021, there has now been a change and going forward, any vehicle constructed after 1 January 1980 are now ineligible to display the black and silver number plate despite being recorded in the DVLA’s historic tax class. Those vehicles with a construction date prior to 1 January 1980 will continue to be able to legally display black and silver number plates to avoid any undue costs of replacement.

On top of this, from the 1 January 2021 it will no longer be permissible to fix a new number plate displaying a Euro symbol. Number plates already fixed to vehicles are unaffected. The DVLA will also be introducing a new British Standard for number plates produced from 1 September 2021 which will mean all current style number plates that are first fixed to a vehicle from that date must meet the technical requirements contained in that standard.

Before you start your order for a number plate though, your vehicle must also be in the ‘historic vehicles’ tax class. Details can be found on the gov.uk website on how to apply for this.

Exemption From Vehicle Tax

Don’t forget that classics over 40 years old are exempt from vehicle tax (as long as the vehicle has been declared as historic). But you do need to let the authorities know by applying for the tax or making a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). It’s just a little piece of bureaucracy to make sure your paperwork is in order (don't forget, you'll need classic car insurance though!).

Number Plate Suppliers

If you’re eligible for a black and silver number plate, then the next step is to find your nearest registered number plate supplier. They’ll be able to make your number plate to the necessary standard. You can find your nearest official supplier by visiting gov.uk/number-plate-supplier and entering in your postcode.

When you visit your number plate supplier, you will need to take your log book with you to prove that your vehicle is compliant with the rules above, along with some photographic ID.

Authentic Pressed Metal

As a classic owner, you may want an authentic pressed metal number plate with silver extruded letters on a black background. But cheaper plastic options are also available, and hand-painted digits are acceptable too – so long as they appear white.

For more information on the rules and regulations around number plates, take a look at the DVLA's INF104 information booklet.


If you found this content useful, you may be interested in our other regulation blogs

The white and yellow reflective plates were introduced in 1967 and were optional. They became mandatory in 1973.

CB , 11/12/2023

What was the exact date you did not need a motorcycle front number plate. It was around 1970/1 I had a 1969 Honda SS125, and took great delight in legally removing it, for safety reasons of course. Interesting dilemma, to put a front plate back on certain ages of bike, that would have had plates from new, but nearly all would have been removed, more for 'rebel' reasons, than safety! If only I knew what price nostalgia was to become, I would have kept everything, including the £175 MG TF, and 1650 Mk1 2door maroon Cortina etc. Thanks

5star, 25/11/2023

So if you have a vehicle which was registered in the mid 60's but the tax class is disabled, you cannot legally use the correct style of number plate. Doesn't seem very reasonable.

Leo the biker. , 16/08/2023