Was the VW Beetle the most ubiquitous World Car?      This brief selection appears to support the idea.     Have Bloggers any un-represented counties they could add?

It would be quite something to display one from each jurisdiction on the planet………………….

The shots below are from Victor Brumby’s archive, except where noted.

 Nov 25 2013 –  By request, some clues have now been added, to aid identification – without making it too easy, we hope!

10 Dec 2013 – A few new pics have been sent in and added, and the donors acknowledged.

Dec. 29 2013 –   9 new additions, not yet annotated, so send in your identifications via ‘COMMENTS’ below!      From Terry Gray’s archive.

26 March 2014Stephan Feuk adds his Beetle collection……

(E)MA-1925-norm-SH 565.v-BL

SH 565 ..      The amazingly rare 1925-75  Spanish Sahara.   (possibly taken when BL was plotting the route for the first Paris-Dakar rally??)                   (Bernt Larsen archive)


P11-1808 ..  These Paraguayan plates seen in 1971 London,  are still believed to exist with a collector somewhere – where?    Fernando de la Mora is a small city within metropolitan Asuncion, the capital.   (Brumby archive)


ELEUTHERA CRISES / 3936 / EI-TELoneio PEIREIUS   =                                    (FREE USE/(tax-free use?) /3936/ CUSTOMS. PIRAEUS).                                     The date of issue is usually shown on these Greek customs-issued temporary plates, but not in this case.    The small one-piece rear window was fitted to VW Beetles produced between March 1953 and August 1957, so this was already an old Beetle  by the time early Europlate member Stephan Feuk  photographed 3936 at the Monte Antenne campsite in Rome in 1971 or 1972.


Paul Lommerse gives us this Roy Carson shot of yet another variant of the Greek customs-issue temporary plate from 1964

Pieter Lommerse gives us this Roy Carson shot of yet another variant of the old Greek customs-issue temporary plates, with 36 from 1964, reading ‘E.X.Thessaloniki’ Possibly issued to a U.S. Serviceman’s car after transfer from the US Zone of Germany (identified by the unique U.S. Forces in Germany oval) and now posted to the U.S. Forces base in Greece, where it would later be issued the dedicated USfGR special plates (illustrated elsewhere).


A-9862Another mighty rare on-car picture of the 1952-55 Greek plates, from Athens, from Paul  Lommerse.    These had yellow plates, akin to the American style/size.

A-9862  ..    Another mighty rare on-car picture of the 1954-56 Greek plates, this one from Athens (A), from Pieter Lommerse.       These had black on white and yellow plates, akin to the American style/size.        (Although they read 1953-54, they covered the years 1954 to 1956 – WHY, anyone?)

Comments from ‘BillyEurope’ on 15/6/2014 (below) add this important info:  

Yellow plates with 53-54 mark, were used from early 1954 to 1956 and not from 1952. Yellow plate “Π-250″ (below) stands for the city of Patras and not Piraeus. 

For more detail, we see Jim Fox' plate of the series.

P-250  —  For more detail of the Greek 1952-55 series shown above, we see Jim Fox’ s actual  PATRAS (not Piraeus!) 250 plate of the short-lived normal  series.


Greece, in common with a few other countries, marked the cars which belonged to foreigners coming to live in Greece for more than just a short holiday.     The Greek letter 'X' abbreviated 'Xenos' (alien/ foreigner/outsider/qafir) and the A was the regional identifier for Athens.   This black-on-white series was issued between 1963 and 69.    XA/5158, and no dating shown on this series.

XA / 5158  —  Greece, in common with a few other countries, marked the cars which belonged to foreigners coming to live in Greece for more than just a short holiday.      The Greek letter ‘X‘ abbreviated ‘Xenos’ (alien/ foreigner/outsider/qafir) and the XA series was used by personnel of Foreign Missions.  This black-on-white series was issued between 1963 and ’69.  ,        (no dating shown on this series)     Lommerse archive

As for the “ΞΑ” (XA) plates, this stands for Foreign Mission (Ξένη Αποστολή)(Xenos ???) so the A letter is not about Athens, after all.



XA 1325 — Greece Foreign Missions (Ξένη Αποστολή) 1956>.     Brumby archive 


GR private 1963-72 Volos 191353 archive Roy Carson PL

1963-72 Greece normal. B=Volos. I X=IDIOTIKES ChRESIS=Private Use.              Pieter Lommerse archive


GR private 1956-59 Thessaloniki 156709 archive Roy Carson PL

Th 56 IC / 156-709  —  A 1956-59 Greek series for Private Use, reading Thessaloniki (19)56 IDIOTIKES ChRISES.    Lommerse archive


(SUD1)( )_2438Kh_cu_VB_resize

2438 KH, seen in Khartoum during the 1970s.    Brumby archive


B.7178K  —  B=Batavia, seen in Jakarta during the 1980s.   A Normal registration with consular supplementary tag in red on white.    Brumby archive 


Netherlands Antilles C 16908  —  Red on white = 1969-71.      Brumby archive


JO = American civilian staff of N.A.T.O. forces established at Keflavík air base between 1951-88.    The J and O are mis-spaced.   JO 215      Brumby archive


11000 —   IRAN OOS – Out-Of-State.     A Foreign Travel plate mounted over an original, domestic plate, (which was in the Farsi form of arabic script  – thus not legal for international circulation).   All the various Iranian export/out-of-state travel issues have been in dark green on white since at least the 1940s.     Beetle in 1960s London.                Brumby archive


C=Civilian attached to US Forces in Italy 1956-68.    Brumby archive


First thought to be a Hungarian temporary importation issue for 1970 (70). VAM in red.    Taken in Hungary on 1970.      (What does VAM abbreviate?)        Feb 2014: Dietrich replies: VAM is the name of the Hungarian Customs agency.       So – IS it a duty-free import?    A Customs-owned vehicle?    A cross-border plate?                            Brumby archive


GOBERNADOR PROVINCIA of Macao, seen there in 1977.    Brumby archive


3804 TT 0W  —  Border Zone Franche between France and Switzerland.      Zero W is for Gex, one of two registration district of the ‘Zones Franche’.   (Where franche (like France) means free).                        Brumby archive


Thierry de Francoplaque  recognises London-photographed 72 4901 as a French forces in Germany plate, though in a non-standard font and background colour (it should be blue).   The second numeral (2) registers this VW in Freiburg up to 1999.         Brumby archive, 1971


1-M-0081  —  From July 1963, a new Spanish duty-free series commenced and this seems to be Madrid’s 81st. issue, set to expire in month IV (April) 1964.


KFN 146  —  KFA-KFZ hailed from Nairobi from 1950 to the mid-70s, when regional identification second-letters (as ‘F’ here) were dropped.    This Dung-Beetle is pictured in London about 1959, shot by Vic Brumby


From 1952-99, F was the code for Kampala.     The small rear window dates this early insect to 1953-57.   UFJ 760 was noted by member  John Pemberton on 30th. July 1965 and photographed separately by Vic Brumby in London in September that year, 52 years before the  two members first met.


Two Americans in Paris when it was safe to show their country of origin.     The red on white USfD 1962-1966 series, in which T 4001-5900 was for Banberg and D 2801-7300 was allocated to Hanau.       Brumby archive


818 Z-9349  –  New cars bought in Europe for export often displayed the international oval of the country to which they were eventually bound.     Hamburg-Ericus issued German Customs codes 418, 518, 818 and 918 from 1951 until 1967.      This unusual oval plate series continued until 1988.     Brumby archive


1949-51 saw the third format of plates for the British zone of Germany, nnnn BZ.    Unusually, this example 9132 BZ  has GB-manufactured plates rather than the characteristic German fonts of the British, Dutch and Belgian Zones (and other military entities) for the ensuing many years.   Brumby archive



CVB 2600  —  B = Ilhas Barlavento (Windward Islands) of Cape Verde.       This series is now obsolete, but was still in use in Mindelo on Sao Vicente in 2011.

(CL3)(58-9)_2 1176_r_VB2008_resize

2 1176  —  The SRI symbol was added to plates in Sri Lanka in December 1956.        It comes from the Sanskrit for  ‘holy/resplendent/prosperous/jolly good’.      Which Ceylon probably was, in 1956.   (Lanka is a transliteration of the Sanskrit for Island.)      Code 2 was issued for cars and m/cs in 1958 as an early example of the new series which ran from 1956-99.    (Brumby archive 2008)

(SYR 60s)(un2)_ONU 297_VB1968_resize

In the 1960s, the U.N. went to various places round the world, to bring light where there was darkness.     Where would we be today, if they had not brought civilisation to such places?     Note the Visitor To Britain window-sticker, then very common on visiting vehicles, perhaps in the futile hope of keeping the newly-introduced parking wardens etc. away from our visitors.    O.N.U.297  —  The whole plate is written/abbreviated in French, although issued by the UN.     Wonderful, T-shaped plates….       We don’t know the duration of this series.           (PAK)(cd)_CD2230.VB_resize

CD-22-30  —  Although this Beetle’s oval claims German provenance, its plates are seen in 1966 outside the newly-built Pan-Am office in Islamabad (Peacetown). (Who said they don’t have a sense of humour?)      22 IS indeed  for the German legation.       The Pan-Am shop is now a kebab stall with a plan to rebuild the roof when the Taliban allow.     Brumby archive


This owner has fought to overcome his identity crisis with a few clues …


130157 — An export/temporary import series issued for a spell in the 1960s, then dropped.     They all began with 130.     London 1966, V Brumby


T 63.108 — An Austrian 1947-90 series plate on a Tirol Beetle, seen there in recent years.      Area code 63 is not given in the Tirol list – so where is this VW from??                        Brumby archive.          Apr.2014 – Platepeter writes;  Numbers T 63.000 – 63.999 were formerly for the district of Imst in Tirol.     From 1990 the new code is ´IM´.          Thank you Plate Peter.


MJH 880 GP — Gauteng Province (formerly Transvaal) seen in Johannesburg.


BGJ 228 N  —  South Africa’s new Northern Province used these interim yellow plates from 1995-97, then white to 2003, while awaiting the colourful new background series now in use.     During this time, the province re-named itself Limpopo and the suffix letter ‘N’ on the plates changed to ‘L’.             Brumby Cape Town 1997


Singapore replaced its long-standing S* 1234 plates with this format in 1972.   (It started with EA – why not AA??)       ED was reached by March 1974; this VW was seen in SGP during 2001.                Brumby archive

(ZA)(Mp) VB20131025 0038_resize

If you can pronounce Mpumalanga, you can pass as a real African in theatrical auditions. ZA 2013.

(S)_I9021_comp_VB_resize (RA)_135919_comp_VB_resize (PR)_958164comp_resize


The Dream Hitch-hike. On a remote track in 1966 Queensland, the only vehicle to come by in 2 hours, was this Beetle, on which I made my country-catch of Papua-New Guinea!    The sea-captain driver took me a long way south, regaling me with tales of his Papuan houseboy, who kept chickens in the ice-box. TP & NG 17-125 from the 1951-73 series.


E indicates Exempt from Philippine Tax/Import Duty, for an Italian diplomat in 1977 Manila. 8G 479 — Green on white.

(P3)(37-92)_LC5589_VB2010_resize (NZ)_AM8741_comp_VB_resize (NL)(gfi)_PA71Dcomp_resize (MS3)_X749_VB_resize (MAL1a)_PF5171_VB_resize (MAL1a)_KB6656_VB_resize (MAL) 100314 Penang Beetle_resize


1916-79 could be one of the world’s longest-running plate series for private vehicles.     Malta used this simple format throughout, including 15 years after 1964 independence fro GB.       From 1924-66 Malta used GBY as the international oval, and in 1967 changed to ‘M‘.       This London shot of 26932 is from 1960.

(I)_TR27494_comp_resize (H)_CE8466_VB_resize (FL1)(0tax)_FL9043Z_VB_resize (F)(SB)_971SB806_VB_resize (F)(GUA3)_87LY971_cu_VB_resize (EC)_P43142comp_resize (EAZ)_JR9comp_resize (E)(GC)_GC12571_resize (D)(CDNfD)_BV88_comp_VB_resize (BS)_NPH961_comp_VB_resize (AUS)(ACT)_YBM73R_comp_VB_resize


MT-892Temporary Matriculation (one-year-valid, duty-free-use plate, for a foreigner in Andorra), from the 1958-63 export series.    London 1964.    The 64 gives the date of expiry, so the plate would have been issued in 1963, and be among the last of this type.


TD R.P.SH. 137  —  TD=Tirana Diplomat , Popular Republic of SHQIPËRIA – in London,1965.  (What a diplomatic posting!!)



T 4047 – KBL taxi-hire in Afghanistan 1965.

An RSM new entrant kindly sent in by AISTA member MT

(RSM 63-76)_RSM 4350_MT2

RSM 4350 — 1963-76 San Marino series from…… Marcello Taverna archive

Below:  Here are a few more culled from the Terry Gray collection.   Can you identify them all?

(D)(mil)_98839_wee.TG (TR)(USfinTR)_A.0291_TG (SF 62-72)_KTL-47_TG (S)_BA 90025_TG (LAR 69-)_14913_TG (OM3)(70s-86)_12814_TG

(P -76)(Timor)_TP-14-60_TG

Here is one of the rarest-ever plates – on a Beetle from Portuguese Timor. Captured in Portugal by Terry Gray at night during the 1960s.

(PL 56-76)(cd-AFG)(cd-AFG)_WZ-17-31_TGvb

Poland issued a ‘Z’ for many years, to show that the vehicles belonged to a foreigner in Poland. Foreign diplomats were included in the code, but their registration was painted in lemon yellow, rather than the normal white (on black). Here is WZ-17-31 shot by Terry Gray in the 1970s, place unknown. 17 was for the Afghan embassy in Warsaw. Thought to be from the 1964-76 series


Now – send YOUR Beetle photos in to this growing collection – we want a Beetle  picture from every country!

March 2014 – Stephan Feuk contributes a new selection below;   

(A 47-89)_W 621.675_SF (A)(of 67~)(pol)_BP 60.046_SF (A)(of 67-05)(gend)_BG 6.220_SF (B 58-75)(cd)_CD.90.S_SF (B 71-73)_S.772.U_SF


? Can you identify the series dates etc. of this CDN forces in Europe plate?? (Having no letters)  Apr.14 – Mike Montgomery fills us in:    5245 is the first of the 1970 series, which initially has all-numeric serials.   Subsequently issues had a single letter followed by numbers. The general design is still in used today; the maple leaves have been dropped, and there is an expiration sticker in the middle of the serial, which consists of two letters and two numbers. This plate is still in use today in Ramstein Airbase and Geilenkirchen Airbase, both in Germany. It was also in use in Heidelberg (Joint Command Center – NATO HQ, Campbell Barracks) until last summer, when the NATO HQ deactivated



(CH 32-73)_ZH 73021_SF1974 (CH 73~)_ZH 178 177_SF1973 (D 56-95)_ME VW-866_SF1993 (D)(GBfD 63-81)_DF 363 B_SF (D)(GBfD 82-8)_ADN 93 B_SF (DK 19-58)_#U 812_SF2003 (DK 50-58)_E 8851_SF (DK 50-58)_T 6277_SF2003 (DK 58-66)_AS 72 190_SF (DK 58-66)_T 12.344_SF2003 (DK 58-66)_XA 26 663_SF1993 (DK 76-09)_DN 75 636_SF1996 (GR 60s-70s)(timp)_3936_SF1971 (GR 60s-70s)(timp)_4193_SF (H 90-04)_DUJ 353_SF1995

There are some more to come from Stephan, when time allows……

Come on, photographers – DO send in your Beetle pictures, for all to enjoy!!

27 Responses to Beetlefest

  1. richardpd says:

    A nice selection.

    I had also noticed a lot of photos taken by Europlate members from the 1950s to the 1970s almost anywhere in the world were attached to VW Beetles.

  2. Bruno VERNHES says:

    Very nice pictures Vic, thanks

  3. Bart Wijnberg says:

    Please identify the individual plates! Would be most helpful.

  4. Jake says:

    What a collection!

    How about listing those countries for which there is currently no VW shot, to help members search their archives?

  5. richardpd says:

    72 4901 with an F oval is interesting.

    I thought it might be a French armed forces series missing the insignia, but it doesn’t seem to fit the code system.

    7 would be for the Air Force, but a car would have had a 1 or 5 for the 2nd or 3rd digit.

  6. Great collection, Vic! I have gone through my archive and put all my Beetle pictures up on this page on my website:

    • Great fun, Olav! And good photography, too – I can learn from you…… I wonder if there was ANYWHERE VWs did NOT register? (China?). And may I put your site on here as a link?

      • I didn’t see any Beetles on Tristan da Cunha when I was there for six days in 2006 (and old wrecks don’t leave the island). Back in the golden age of Beetles there weren’t many cars on the island. But quite a few Land Rovers, another world car, I would say. Yes, of course you may put my site on here as a a link. If it wasn’t for all the work involved I’d make my site searchable for car makes and models.

  7. aista01 says:

    72 4901, might it be a replacement for a lost French forces in Germany plate?
    8G 479 above E ITALY 77 puzzles me. Looks like a forces plate, but in 1977 AFI plates were in use in Italy.

  8. aista01 says:

    A Beetle with San Marino plate (1963-76 series) for your collection cheers Marcello Taverna EU #237, Aista #01

  9. VÁM on the Hungarian beetle is not an abbreviation. It is the name of the Hungarian Customs agency. So, probably this is even not a temporary plate as Vám has special plates today as well.

  10. platepeter says:

    The red beetle T 63.108 was (perhaps is until now) quite safe registered in Tirol / Austria.
    I have an old list of the former Austrian registration areas that seems to be complete. According to this list the numbers T 63.000 – 63.999 have been for the district of Imst. Since 1990 the code is ´IM´.
    I can send you this old code list, if needed, respectively i´ll send it to Neil for insert in rpwo.

  11. IS-GUP says:

    “JO = American civilian staff of N.A.T.O. … The J and O are mis-spaced. JO 215”

    Actually this plate is correctly made. For some reason the plate format was J-0215 but the actual registration was JO-215.

    This possibly had something to do with the use of punch-cards, which may have required that all registrations were entered with the same number of digits. Using a leading zero would then have resulted in confusion with “J” prefix plates.

    For example:
    Number on plate / Entry on punch-card:
    J-215 / J-00215
    J-0215 / JO-0215.

    • Thanks for this note, IS GUP. You must have experience of the old punch card systems used in manufacturing.

      I must check other photos of the US forces’ JO plates, to see if the whole series was made with a gap between the J and the O. Needless to say, there are very few surviving images, or plates.

      It always surprises me that the numeral zero and the letter O are not written with a defining mark, to avoid misunderstanding. New Zealand numberplates do that, using a full-length strike across the zero.

      Vic Brumby

      • IS-GUP says:

        Actually I was referring to the punch-card system used to keep the centralized register of motor vehicles before computerization (as opposed to the regional records that were kept on filing cards or in registration books.) Sadly I have no experience of the actual system as I was not even born at the time, but I have been doing some research into it out of curiosity.

        All photos that I have ever seen of actual JO plates have this gap. The only one I know of that doesn’t is a reproduction made recently for a display in a museum. My guess is that originally it was meant as a J and a leading zero, but soon came to be regarded as JO out of convenience.

        It is interesting that you should mention NZ plates. On these old Icelandic license plates Ø was a letter (which in another anomaly was represented on computerized registration documents as Ö), so the zeroes on New Zealand plates look a bit weird to me. Icelandic plates of that era never used the letter O (JO aside) so it was not necessary to have a special dye for it. (The letter Ó was used however.)

  12. Yes, of course, we recall the Ø in the earlier IS system. Iceland was ahead of the game!

  13. Bill says:

    About Greek licence plates. Yellow plates with 53-54 mark, used from early 1954 to 1956 and not from 1952. Yellow plate “Π-250” stands for the city of Patras and not Piraeus. As for the “ΞΑ” plates stands for Foreing Mission (Ξένη Αποστολή) so A letter is not about Athens.

  14. Bill says:

    Why 53-54 plates were used from 1954 to 1956? Greek state made a new record listing for all vehicles in 1953. Every vehicle would change its plates for one year, while there was the intention for a new record listing to take place next year (i don’t know why!).But a problem came up and plates issued later than expected. So vehicles changed plates in early 1954. Finally new record listing did’t took place until almost 2 years later. Then new 1956 plates issued, used until 1971.

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