The things they tell us!

Afghanistan? Not likely!

cropped Alabama re AFG.jpg

cropped Alabama re AFG 26-12515

A Volkswagen 1600 Fastback parked in Kensington, London, during the early 1970s, carried this very peculiar plate (upper photo), with yellow digits on a black – or blue – ground.     (My photo was in black and white and age has done the rest!)

As seems to have been the way, the more interesting the plate spotted, the worse my photos became.    I have plenty of beautifully-exposed commonplace plate pictures, but for anywhere odd, I was lucky if the image even developed!

Days later, when passing 26-12515, and wondering again, where it may have come from, the driver approached the car, giving me the opportunity to lay the mystery to rest!       However, he became  extremely jittery when asked what must have seemed a sensitive question to him –  and, pressed by this newshound, he  finally uttered the word “Afghanistan” as he drove off with a squeal of rubber.      (If VW1600s had the power to make their rubber squeal.)

Well, of course, I didn’t believe him then and I  still don’t, but as the years have passed, I have wondered whether the (properly stamped-out) plate might have been a form of out-of-state Chinese issue, from province 26 – Ningxia-Hui (Yinchuan) – unlikely though it would have been then – or even now.    Compare a standard PRC plate of the period:

white on blue was for light vehicles 1949-87

My London sighting used a different font and much smaller plates than the Chinese design – not much bigger in fact, than an Italian or early Libyan front plate.     I expect that it would tie up that the authoritarian 1970s Chinese would not permit a car to exit PRC carrying its numberplates, even for a foreigner allowed in temporarily under some scheme, so it is reasonable to imagine the replacement plates could have been made up simply to travel out of the country – and the originals handed in, as in Japan.          

What think Europlate members?

(This theorem was blown out of the water by Johnathan Moore and John Melby in their Comments below!)

14 March 2013 ; A surprising answer came to this quiz, which appears below in Comments.      (Or did.)


23 May 2013;  Now, borrowed from  Google for illustration only, is the un-cropped Alabama 1970 plate design which finally allowed the recognition of the ‘Afghan’ mystery;

A cropped Alabama using a characteristic dask and font, akin to the queried Afghan.

The entire Alabama  tag using a characteristic dash and font, akin to the queried Afghan 26-12515.

(Final question to the US xeno-autonumerologists:

Did Alabama stretch to five numerals after the dash separator?)


5 Responses to The things they tell us!

  1. aista01 says:

    The characters of the plate look Swiss. Is there a chance that this car had some connection with the Tibetan community living at that time in Switzerland? Ningxia has little to do with Tibet, but…

  2. Jonathan Moore says:

    Rather less exotic, but I’m 99% certain it’s the center section of a 1970s Alabama plate from Dale county (26).

  3. John Melby says:

    You probably misheard the man. When you thought he said they were Afghan plates he was actually saying they were trashcan plates 🙂 Jonathan is 100% accurate in identifying these plates as chopped Alabama plates. Just compare the dies:

  4. Well, I’ll be blowed! (Illustration gratefully received via John Melby). You are absolutely right, Jonathan – the plate in question had been cut from an Alabaman as witness the characteristic die and dash-separator style. (I’ll post the two comparative pictures imminently.)
    Why on earth would a person go to such lengths to falsely plate a car for a trip to Britain????
    Thanks for settling a years-long conundrum.

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