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Prior to 1962, several systems were used. A1 was the first number plate, and other systems gave numbers like 1L, E77, DF1951, FAB123, 1802MF and so on.

From 1962 to 1983, the UK vehicle number plate looked like this:

ABC 123D

...where the A was random or sequential, the BC was an area related code, the 123 was random or sequential and the D was the year letter. A was 1963, B was from January 1964 and so on. In 1967 the change was moved to August: E came in at Jan 1967 and F at Aug 1967. (thanks stupot).

The letters I, Q, and Z weren't used in the ABC section, and I, O, Q, U and Z were not used as year letters (although I and Z were valid in Eire). Q denoted a special registration such as a kit car or an imported vehicle of non-provable age.

In 1983, the system had reached Y-registration, and had run out of letters. A new system was introduced, which simply changed the position of the three letters and the year letter:

A123 BCD

This continued in the same vein as the old scheme until 1999, when six-monthly letter changes were introduced. S was August 1998, T was March 1999, and from then on, changes occurred every March and September.

Yesterday (1 March 2001), the Y date letter was issued. That's the end of another system.

As of September 2001, the replacement system will look like this:

AB51 CDE

The AB is the regional code, although a different code to the old system. The two numbers are a date code: March 20XX will get XX, September 20XX will get XX+50, so this system works until 2049. The CDE bit is randomly or sequentially issued. This time around, Z will be a valid letter.

See http://www.wolfbane.com/vreg.htm for more details including regional codes.

Since 1 September, 2001, United Kingdom licence plates have followed the following format:

LLXX RRR
LL is a two letter local identifier
XXIs a two number age identifier
RRR are three random letters

Local Identifier

The first of the two letters in this part of the plate represent the region the vehicle was first registered in. The second part denotes a particular DVLA office. The letters 'Q', 'I' and 'Z' will not be used in this part of the plate. The registration areas are as follows:

A  Anglia                     Peterborough AA-AN
                              Norwich      AO-AU
                              Ipswich      AV-AY
B  Birmingham                 Birmingham   BA-BY
C  Cymru                      Cardiff      CA-CO
                              Swansea      CP-CV
			      Bangor       CW-CY
D  Deeside to Shrewsbury      Chester      DA-DK
                              Shrewsbury   DL-DY
E  Essex                      Chelmsford   EA-EY
F  Forest and Fens            Nottingham   FA-FP
   Fens                       Lincoln      FR-FY
G  Garden of England          Maidstone    GA-GO
                              Brighton     GP-GY
H  Hampshire and Dorset       Bournemouth  HA-HJ
                              Portsmouth   HK-HY
                              Isle of Wight   HW
K                             Luton        KA-KL
                              Northampton  KM-KY
L  London                     Wimbledon    LA-LJ
                              Stanmore     LK-LT
                              Sidcup       LU-LY
M  Manchester and Merseyside  Manchester   MA-MY
                              Isle of Man  MN / MAN
N  North                      Newcastle    NA-NO
                              Stockton     NP-NY
O  Oxford                     Oxford       OA-OY
P  Preston                    Preston      PA-PT
                              Carlisle     PU-PY
R  Reading                    Reading      RA-RY
S  Scotland                   Glasgow      SA-SJ
                              Edinburgh    SK-SO
                              Dundee       SP-ST
			      Aberdeen     SU-SW
                              Inverness    SX, SY
V Severn Valley               Worcester    VA-VY
W West of England             Exeter       WA-WJ
                              Truro        WK, WL
                              Bristol      WM-WY
Y Yorkshire                   Leeds        YA-YK
                              Sheffield    YL-YU
                              Beverley     YV-YY

Age Identifier

Vehicles registered between September and February are marked with the last two digits of the year; for example, a vehicle registered in December 2005 will have the age identifier '05'. If it is registered between March and September, then 50 is added to this number; a car registered in June 2006 will be marked as 56.

Random Letters

Randomly generated letters with some restrictions. The letters 'I' and 'Q' will not be used (although 'Z' will), and combinations that could cause offence (including 'SEX') are also not permitted.

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