When the Portuguese took the first motor vehicles to their massive West African colony of Angola is not recorded, but we might expect it to have been in the 1910s or 1920s. They established their capital on the Atlantic coast at Luanda and for the first many years, the few vehicles there were, were registered there, using an L prefix, followed by up to five numerals. Oddly, for a Portuguese territory, those numerals were not split in to pairs by the characteristic dash – though evidence shows that the Luanda letter L was so separated from the serial number (below). Mozambique, Madeira and the Azores also dodged the numbers’ dash separator in those early years, finally adopting it . One of only two pictures Europlate has of that Luanda series is supplied by John Pemberton, who saw this Nash in London in the 1940s. (and RPWO shows late issue L-11006)
In about 1955 the system changed to AAA 12-34. A letter from the motoring association there in 1960 advised us that there were no regional codes – everything was licenced from the capital.
And so, between 1958 and 1978, we saw AAD (1976), AAK (’90), AAV (’64), ABA (’78), ACR (’64), ALA (’69), ALV (’58), ATE (’58), ANR (’64), AVM (’69).
From 1961, Angolan rebels fought the Portuguese colonial military for independence, until, in 1974, a military coup détat in Portugal itself resulted shortly after (1975) in that former dictatorship surrendering all their African ‘overseas provinces’ to home rule. The end of that war after the Carnation Revolution military coup of April 1974 in Lisbon resulted in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens – plus military personnel of European, African and mixed ethnicity from the former Portuguese territories and other newly independent African nations. From May 1974 to the end of the 1970s, over 1 million citizens left these former colonies, and would restart their lives predominantly in Portugal, South Africa, North America, the rest of Western Europe and Brazil (Wikipedia)
It is no surprise, then, that plate spotters of the 60’s and 70’s were able to see a few Angolan plates circulating in other countries, as many people who were able, left that unhappy land – probably with their cars laden with whatever possessions they could pack, and escaping by crossing land borders between Angola and Zaire, Zambia, and (now) Namibia. Doubtless a windfall for customs and immigration opportunists at those border ‘offices’……
AVM and ATE: There are no city or county names in Angola which begin with T or V – so what might they be?
ACR could possibly be from Cabinda, the Angolan exclave within DRCongo and bordered by Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinda_Province
ATE – Cabinda has the local name of Tchiowa. Unlikely the Portuguese would have referred to that in a code.
Eventually, peace reigned and motor registrations resumed, but now, the three-letter prefix was altered to use the two first letters to code new regional licencing offices, and one serial letter to follow. Many specialist vehicles were brought in from overseas to rebuild the ruined infrastructure, including the mine-clearance trucks built in South Africa, pictured below. The green background shows that the lorry has been imported free of import duties, and if it is not re-exported, but sold locally when withdrawn from service, it would have to re-register with normal white on black plates.
sees the current series introduced, using the new two-letter area codes from the 1996 series – and now with a two-letter series suffix. Here a duty-free and a duty-paid examples, both from the capital.
So little is known about this benighted country and so few records are likely to have survived the decades of war that any slight information or images which readers might be able to add, would be a most valuable contribution.
END OF ANGOLA – FOR NOW.