1906 (or 1932) -48 Malaya had seen some single-letter and some double-letter area codes, of which the double-letter ones were changed in 1948. (JB to J, KN to D, PK to A, NS to N and SL to B.)
It is sometimes thought that Pahang may have used ‘P’ in this period, but that would have duplicated the Penang code; at any rate, Pahang was allocated ‘C’ in the 1948 rationalisation. Photographs of this period are unknown, save for this copy photo passed to Europlate by enthusiast Douglas Fox of Penang, for which, most grateful thanks, Douglas…
Double-tap the picture to enlarge.
This amazing 1936 shot of FOUR PK-registered sports cars in Perak State illustrates the 1932-48 series as used in then-unfederated Perak (and Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Trengganu). Each was allocated its own International oval, too! The Federation of Malaya revised these States’ codes to single-letter forms, in common with the Straits Settlements P-Penang, S-Singapore, M-Malacca and L-Labuan, and standardised the International Identification Code to FM.
Today we are unlikely to see a Malaysian plate from the former series, which used single letters to code the areas of Malaya from 1948. Some collectors’ cars exist such as A 845 below, which have somehow held on to their original registrations and a handful may be in museums, such as C 4848 on a swb Land Rover fire tender in the palace museum of the sultan of Pahang. The construction/design of these plates was as determined by the Construction & Use Regulations of the United Kingdom, in common with most of the British overseas territories. Here are examples of all the original single-letter plates, in photos taken from 1920 (P 1019) to the last seen in 2010 (B 2565).
A – Perak state, on a 1935 Morris Eight tourer.
B – Selangor state, on a 1930’s Austin Seven at the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur. This 1935 car would have originally borne the SL prefix for Selangor state, and would have had to change to the new ‘B’ plate in 1948.
C – Pahang state, on a 1950s Peugeot 403.
D – Kelantan, on a restored motor-cycle.
E was never issued as a Malayan code, nor F, G, H, or I. H played a part in the plate scene however, as it has been used as a suffix and a prefix to the area codes, to denote Hire – both local and long-distance taxis. For additional ease of identification, theses plates have always been black on white.
J – Johore state, on a 1947 Austin A 40 Devon
K – Kedah state, on a Morris Minor.
L -Labuan island, on an Austin A40 Farina, preserved (?) in the state museum in Kota Kinabulu, Sabah. L was issued to the island in 1906 when it was one of the five Straits Settlements (with Singapore, Penang, Province Wellesley and Malacca) until 1946 when it was made a part of British North Borneo with no change to its plates. L was evenyually supplanted by EL in 1963 when the island became part of Greater Malaya – or Malaysia. Because North Borneo (now named Sabah) and Sarawak had already been using many regional codes which were common to some regions of mainland Malaya, the additions of ‘E‘ indicating East Malaysia and of ‘Q‘ for Sarawak were designed to prevent duplication of registrations when/if vehicles moved between Borneo and the mainland. Over the years, Labuan’s international oval has changed from SS to CNB to PTM to MAL!
M – Malacca state, formerly one of the Straits Settlements (continuously using the same M code), seen in Penang in 2009
Negri Sembilan N 3138, seen by member Pemberton in England about 1949. The Straits Settlements international oval SS is not appropriate to this state and should have read FM (Federation of Malaya)
P 1019 – Penang island, in the 1920s, when administered as a Straits Settlement and using the same registration system as mainland Malaya.
P 1134 – Penang island, 1920s, when administered as a Straits Settlement and using the same registration system as mainland Malaya. Seen here in 2009 Butterworth on a Ford Model A awaiting restoration. (PLEASE keep those original plates!)
P 3338 – Ford Eight from Penang, Straits Settlements, seen in London in the 1940s, A rare shot with the SS oval displayed.
O was never issued, nor Q, U,V, X or Y.
Z is reserved for staff cars for senior military officers.
R is the state code for Perlis but we have no on-car photo yet.
Too good a shot not to include Singapore’s eighth car in our single-letter article! Thought to be 1911.
S was the code for Singapore when it was a part of Malaya. At 1965 secession, S plated vehicles living over the causeway in Malaya had to change to local Malaysian registration, and lose their ‘S’ plates.
T was for the state of Trengganu, for which we have no on-car plate picture – unless YOU know of one!
W – was allocated originally the code for Province Wellesley, the mainland component of Penang and discontinued in 1957, to use the P code instead. 17 years later, in 1974, W (only with serial suffix letters A and on) was re-issued to Kuala Lumpur autonomous zone, (the Wilaya). Some new vanity plates are appearing with the single-letter W code, which seem dubious in their authorisation. Anon.
…It’s who you know…
Z is a post-independence letter allocated to senior officers of the armed forces in Malaysia. VB archive.
We will inspect the trade plates and the two taxi types in later Pages on Malaysia.