How To Get a Show Plate & Where You Can Use One

Anyone with a bit of smart eye will have noticed clever and unusual number plates being used on vehicles in certain situations.  These are called show plates and are not legal for use on a road vehicle but can be put on cars in other situations.

Where can a show plate be used?

Show plates are commonly used in car showrooms and at motor shows.  They also appear on television programmes where the car is never destined to leave the studio.

Some classic cars that are never used but simply displayed can also have show plates attached.  They might be exhibited at a competition or within a permanent building such as a museum.

What are the benefits of show plates?

The main benefit is that because they are not legal for road use, they don’t have to comply with the tight restrictions surrounding font, lettering size and spacing, margin depth and so on.  A show plate can feature any background, a creative or Italic font can be used and spacing can be altered so the plate can create an actual word.  Logos and colours are also available which is what makes show plates so popular to really personalise a vehicle or to link into a business brand identity.

Show plates are not just for cars

Some businesses will use show plates for signage, admittedly this is popular amongst companies connected with the motor trade but American themed diners will often use show plates.  And show plates have always been popular for the petrolhead teenage boy’s bedroom and probably the man he grows into.

What’s the difference between a show plate, a personalised number plate and a private plate?

A show plate is basically ‘anything goes’ except it can’t go on the road.  Personalised and private plates are all road legal and are really one in the same thing.  Personalised plates are thought of as plates which feature the name or initials of an individual but in fact, these are all private plates, just as much as a plate which spells out a particular word.  Personalised and private plates must comply with current UK legislation and may be used on the road.

What constitutes off-road use?

Show plates may not be used on the road in the UK.  For legal purposes, the highway has been extended to include private roads and other areas such as car parks which are now classified as public roads.  This all changed as anyone who relied on deserted supermarket car parks and old airfield industrial estates to teach their teenage son or daughter to drive will be aware.  Gone are the days when a teenager could get up to speed on the local airfield without insurance cover.  These are now classified as the public highway and require all the appropriate legal compliance for new drivers and so also extend to the governance of number plates.

What are Gel 3D number plates and are they road legal?

Think of these as more of a showy plate than a show plate.  Gel resin 3D number plates are road legal and are considered to be the premier plate make and style within the motor trade.  Gel plates are popular because of their look and finish; for many enthusiasts, the number plate is the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake and they want the best plate they can have rather than standard issue.  The confusing thing is that this technology can also be used on show plates which are not road legal.

An alternative to show plates

If you want or need to use your car on the road then a 3D or 4D plate can be a very good option.  3D Gel resin plates are subtle yet stylish and are perfectly acceptable within current road traffic legislation and MOT requirements.  Then, along comes 4D which is certainly outside the law as the regulations state that only 3D is permitted?  Seemingly not.  4D is just industry jargon and the plates are actually only 3D which are clearly allowed according to the DVLA website. 


What do motor insurers say as they are very hot on modifications?

Insurers need to be told whenever a vehicle has been modified in any way.  Increasing engine capacity or fitting adaptations for a disabled person are obvious trigger points for that phone call but what about your number plate?

If you change your standard plate for a private or personalised plate then your insurer does need to know this although it is a modification that should not affect your premium.  3D or 4D plates are not something the insurer needs to be notified about.

Will my vehicle pass the MOT with show plates on?

Displaying show plates on your car is a definite MOT fail, unfortunately.

When can I use a show plate on my classic car?

Whenever your car is in the backdrop at a family event or celebration, a show plate can be used to enhance the message…21 TODAY or XMAS 19 or BABY1.  The permutations are endless and are only limited by your imagination and the restriction that the car may not go out onto the road.

What is an i-Plate?

An i-Plate has no connection with a show plate.  An e-plate is an American invention devised by a company called Smart Plate which uses RFID  – Radio Frequency Identification – technology to link the vehicle seamlessly to other functions.  The e-Plate allows much more reliable identification of a vehicle – ANPR is all well and good unless a car has false plates.  An e-plate has a memory chip which can record and store information and the idea is to develop usability to benefit drivers as well.  There are however serious privacy concerns over e-plates and they are certainly not likely to be introduced into the UK anytime soon.  For now, the UK motorist must content himself with personalised or private plates, 3D Gel plates and show plates for special occasions so a plate for every day of the week effectively.

Fun Facts About Number Plates

Fun facts about number plates you may not know

The history of number plates is a fascinating one, and there are all sorts of interesting and odd facts about them. Read on to enjoy a host of fun facts about number plates.

The plate ‘T8’ was one of the very first celebrity plates and was owned by the music hall artist Harry Tate. It was apparently later acquired by Johnny Tate of the sugar producers Tate & Lyle.

Robbie Williams once apologised for splashing so much cash on a new Ferrari by adding an S8 RRY plate to the vehicle.

Cherie Blair apparently bought an LEO 10 plate for her son Leo.

Back in 1989, the plate 1 A was bought for £160,000.

It wasn’t legal to transfer motorbike and moped plates to cars until late 2001.

When J registrations were launched back in 1991, the number J1 HAD was immediately banned.

Princess Ann once used a 1 ANN plate on her car before being forced to remove it for security purposes.

France was the first country to introduce registration plates in 1893.

Fans of The Phil Silvers Show bought the plate B1 LKO at auction.

When New York became the first state to make licence plates compulsory, the plates themselves were made by the owners of the vehicles. These plates only required the initials of the owner.

The first licence plates were manufactured from porcelain or ceramic materials. Unfortunately, these plates were easily broken, so redesigns were necessary.

A man in California bought bespoke plates with the message ‘NO PLATE’ in 1979. He went on to receive more than 2,500 notices of citations when he was targeted by the authorities over various other cars which had been described as having ‘no plate’.

Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck is the proud owner of the plate COM 1C. Late magician Paul Daniels once owned the plate MAG 1C.

The Queen Mother used to own the plate NLT 2, with her husband Prince Philip once owning OXR 1.

The first state-issued plates were introduced in Massachusetts in 1903. The first state-issued plate simply read ‘1’ and was owned by a man called Frederick Tudor. Massachusetts issued 3,241 tags between September and December 1903.

The first state to issue personalised plates was Pennsylvania in 1931.

In 1928, an image of a potato was the first graphic to be added to a registration plate, in the state of Idaho.

There are no licence plates on vehicles owned by the US Postal Service.

In nineteen US states, only a rear plate is required.

The DVLA examine the list of registrations up for release twice a year to weed out any offensive messages, though some outrageous plates still slip through the net from time-to-time.

VIP 1 was bought by Roman Abramovich for £285,000 in 2006 and was originally created to mark Pope Jean Paul II’s visit to Ireland.

The plate simply reading ‘1’ was sold for £7.25 million to Adu Dhabi’s Saeed Abdul Gaffer Khouri.

Personalised number plates have a great track record when it comes to rising in value. The plate 1 A we mentioned early would apparently raise over £300,000 in today’s climate, almost three decades after it was originally sold.

At Show Plates Direct, we’re waiting to hear from you right now if you are interested in purchasing your very own bespoke show plates and registration plates. Our plates are produced to the highest standard and created to stand the test of time. We offer a variety of delivery options and are renowned for our swift delivery times. It’s easy to make your way around our website and order your personalised plates, and you’re welcome to drop us a line at any point if you do have any queries about our products and services.

More and more drivers are heading straight to Show Plates Direct when they require plates of the highest quality. Our customer network spans not only the whole of the UK but Europe and even further afield too, with many buyers ordering their plates from the US and Canada. To find out more about our bespoke show plates or to speak to us about any other issue, just send an e-mail to

Car check-up – a step by step guide to checking your car’s health

When you own a car, you need to know a few basics: how to change the oil; how to replace the wipers; what all those dashboard lights mean. But that’s not enough. Every responsible car owner knows the importance of maintaining your car’s good health by giving it a quick once-over every couple of months. Continue reading “Car check-up – a step by step guide to checking your car’s health”

Where Are They Now – Movie Star Cars And What Became Of Them

We all have a favourite fictional vehicle – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Herbie; Optimus Prime – there are dozens of famous movie cars of various shapes and sizes. But what happens to these movie star cars when they reach the end of the road?  We’ve tracked down a few of our favourites to find out where they are now. Continue reading “Where Are They Now – Movie Star Cars And What Became Of Them”

Venetian Gondolas Start Wearing Number Plates

When you think of Venice you probably imagine moonlit canals, floating along in a vintage gondola while a stripy-shirted gondolier sings Italian classics while guiding you under ornate bridges.

Now imagine that gondola with a licence plate attached to it. Doesn’t quite have the same romance, does it? Yet Venetian gondoliers have recently been ordered to fit their vessels with GPS and personalised numberplates, following a series of complaints of bad behaviour.

But don’t worry, we’re not talking about glaring white EU-standard show plates here. In typically Venetian style, the gondola plates take the form of elegant little metallic numbers which are subtly affixed to the side of the craft. And as there is a strict limit on the number of licensed gondoliers in the city (currently 425), the licence plates will never exceed three digits in length. Continue reading “Venetian Gondolas Start Wearing Number Plates”

How to make sure your number plates will never be stolen

Number plate theft may not seem like a big deal, but it can wreak havoc on innocent drivers. Plates are usually stolen in order to be used in criminal activities – anything from ram raiding and drug trafficking, to driving away from petrol forecourts without paying. The onus is on the owner of the original plates to prove that they are innocent, but in the meantime the fines and court summons will just keep on stacking up.

The AA has been warning about the dangers of number-plate theft for years, and there are now a whole host of great products and services out there to help ensure that your normal plates or even your show plates stay attached to your car. Here are five of our top tips to make sure that your number-plates are never stolen in the UK.

Continue reading “How to make sure your number plates will never be stolen”

How to fit number plates with sticky pads

Have you ever wondered how to fit your number plates to your car? Well, fitting numberplate’s with sticky pads couldn’t be easier!

Once your replacement number plates or show plates from Show Plates Direct have arrived in the post, fitting them to your vehicle with sticky pads is simple! Just watch the video below and grab your sticky pads to get fitting! Continue reading “How to fit number plates with sticky pads”

Number plates banned by the DVLA

Number plate

As we all know, a personalised number plate can make your car unique and stand out from the crowd. At the same time, it is a statement of individuality that tells other road users something about yourself or the actual vehicle.

What’s more, if you manage to find and buy a unique or highly sought-after personalised plate, you could end up making a lot of money in the future. For this reason, they are often seen as a long-term investment, which can be worth more than the car itself.

However, there are certain personalised registrations and show plates that are not deemed roadworthy by the DVLA. In fact, when the most recent plate list was released last year, the government’s vehicle licensing agency banned a few personalised plates for being in ‘poor taste’. But what registrations made it onto the list?

The problem with 14

When put together with the number 14, it seems the DVLA had problems with number plates that started with PR, SH and SL. Variations that were considered offensive included:

  • PR14 CCK
  • SH14 TTY
  • SL14 AGS
  • SK14 NKY
  • SP14 STK

You can probably guess why these plates were banned, as it is quite easy to work out a few swearwords and profanities. The biggest issue is that the number 14 can easily look like the letters ‘I’, ‘A’ and ‘H’ and when paired up with a couple of preceding letters, some unsavoury words are created. Other banned plates featuring the number 14 included:

  • J14 HAD
  • TR14 DDS
  • AL14 LAH
  • CR14 PLE
  • BU14 SHT

Additional issues with 63

Along with the number 14, the DVLA also looked back at the 63-plates that went live in September, as some of these registrations could easily be made into cheeky or crass words. The banned plates were:

  • BU63 GER
  • FA63 HAG
  • FA63 GTT
  • HU63 NOBNO63 END
  • OR63 ASM
  • OR63 YYY
  • SO63 OMY
  • PU63 RTY
  • LU63 FER

Again, some of these registrations are quite easy to decipher and you can see why the DVLA took action before they were turned into show plates. With 63-plates, the numbers can be made to look like a ‘G’ or a ‘B’ and this also opens up a realm of rude possibilities.

A variety of combinations that started with VA63 were also outlawed, but perhaps more interestingly, plates that contained common text abbreviations, such as OM63 WTF, received a banning order too.

A DVLA Spokesperson said: “The vast majority of registration numbers are made available but we have a responsibility to ensure that the combinations used do not cause offence.

”We try to identify combinations that may cause offence and having considered the appropriateness of these registration numbers we have withdrawn them as they could cause offence or embarrassment on the grounds of political or racial sensitivities or are in poor taste”.

Even though some of these registrations could make for amusing and entertaining show plates, you can understand why the DVLA decided to take appropriate action.

Google’s Android Auto transforms your dashboard into a mobile device


Even though using a mobile phone while driving is illegal and can lead to hefty fines or even result in an accident, several motorists continue to make calls and send text messages behind the wheel. However, Google has unveiled a new system that would address this issue and also provide drivers with even more in-car functionality.

Android Auto turns your vehicle into giant smartphone and combines the connected nature of mobile devices with physical dashboard controls. Google says “when we’re in the car, we spend a lot of time fidgeting with our phones – getting directions, traffic updates, finding just the right playlist for, say, a summer night, with the windows down. It’s inconvenient, and, frankly, unsafe.”

As a result, it has teamed-up with automotive and technology partners to create a safer and more convenient driving experience.

Android Auto capabilities

Seeing as Android Auto is contextually aware, it will automatically pair up with your vehicle as soon as you get in and continue to perform everyday smartphone functions. From the driver’s seat, you can control Android Auto with dashboard buttons, your car’s touchscreen or voice commands.

As you would expect, Android Auto features Google Maps, providing free voice-guided navigation, live traffic information, and lane guidance. You can also access and stream your favourite songs with Google Play Music, Pandora and Spotify. Additional compatible apps deliver content straight to your car too, such as the latest sports scores or nearby places of interest.

From a safety point of view, text messages will be read out as and when they’re received. To reply, simple dictate your response and Android Auto will send it for you.

Android Auto development

Google has worked with leading brands such as Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, Fiat, Nissan and Renault to develop this system alongside tech supplier Nvidia.

This is all part of its Open Automotive Alliance, which aims to make “technology in the car safer, more seamless and more intuitive for everyone. We believe that a common platform will help drive innovation.” This ingenuity is evident with the new Android L interface, which is meant to reduce driver distraction and present useful information through simple cards that appear when they’re needed.

With Android Auto, Google also hopes to accelerate “auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customisation and scale.” While this statement is open to interpretation, it seems to suggest that there is room for other manufacturers to come on-board and the potential applications of Android Auto could be incredibly far-reaching.

Android Auto competition

Unsurprisingly, both Google and Android Auto face competition from its biggest industry rival. At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Apple also unveiled its own in-car entertainment and dashboard display system. Similar to Android Auto, Apple’s CarPlay supports hands-free access to iPhone features such as messaging, navigation and third-party apps.

Seeing as marques including like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW have promised to support Apple’s CarPlay, you may have to choose your future car based on your preferred phone or vice versa.