All the Same?

September 27, 2012

Is it just me, or is the influence of  Herr Utsch* and the computer slowly creating a homogeneous plate system?    Against the wishes of their voters, these countries have removed the regional codes and given new vehicles a soulless computerised tag, some of which are almost identical.

The ex-Soviet  ‘stans have other examples of lookalike plates, so thank goodness they all include the country codes within the new plates.


Here we compare current plates issued  by Italy, France, French Guiana and Albania.   No much difference, is there?



French Guiana

French Guiana





*  The German Utsch company has devised a popularly-received design-and-build licence-plate package for the many countries which are modernising their various national departments and systems, but which  know little about the complexities of modern motor vehicle registration.    The Utsch system donates a country such as Zimbabwe a plate-stamping machine and some rolls of alloy sheet which they ally with various colours of 3M adhesive nylon(?)  tape.    Subsequent shipments of the consumable metal and plastic have to be paid for, of course, and that is how Utsch eventually make some money from the idea.      I suspect that actually, the German government pay for the original machine and material for the first few plates, and give them by way of international aid to the recipient states.    

I hear that the privilege of supplying Zim with the new style replacement plates was given to Robert Mugabe’s sister, as a sure-fire way of her making loads of dough.    Every vehicle in the country had to change plates within six months, or very severe penalties ensued.     When she ran out of the sample sheets, she hadn’t kept enough pocket-money  to pay for the next supply of materials, and so the diktat that everybody must change plates by a certain date, melted away in the confusion which is Africa.       Later she must have borrowed some more money from someone – or came by some more aid from a generous donor – China is courting Zimbabwe for its minerals –  and the system has recommenced.

The thing I don’t understand is that Utsch must have made the system security watertight , so that for example, duplicates could not be made and sold under the counter.    That would not suit many – or most – of the world’s developing nations’  Transport Ministers and senior personnel.    Vehicle licencing has always been a marvellous cash cow for the head of department given the job – but ‘poor’ people are by necessity, exceedingly inventive, and can usually find a way to make a small profit, even from a highly efficient German scheme!

Incidentally, what a waste of the unfortunate citizens’ money, to force re-plating for no good reason……    

Trezzo Specials

April 10, 2012

Among the amazing plates displayed at Trezzo, near Milan, this weekend (Easter 2012) were these, shown for the benefit of those who could not attend – but who have access to the Europlate Blog!


Albania was occupied by Italy during WW2 (1939-43), and dedicated Italian plates were issued to the few vehicles in circulation there.    Probably they had no plates before – or they were made up of goatskin, which hardly lasted the year between those annual emission tests ……

Italy issued some great extra-territorial plates whenever it erected its flag in some fortunate corner of the world.   Rhodes, Cattaro and Eritrea are examples.

Here, from Trezzo, is a plate from the Eritrean Liberation Front fleet of semi-military vehicles, all now abandoned in the shifting sands, but awaiting your visit with a screwdriver.     (Take some bail money with you in case the plan goes wrong.    And some long books.    It may take some time to organise your evacuation – you will certainly miss the 2014 Convention!)

The ELF operated between the 1960s and 1990s, so this plate may be of that period.


Interesting that opponents to the ‘government’ were able to obtain official-style plates.   We know that neighbouring Somalia has long abandoned plating their militia Toyota pickups.

This ‘font’ is characteristic of Ethiopia, which supports the ELF, so probably these plates came by way of aid to their administrative HQ at Tent 14, Dune 32,883, Boiling Desert.    A great place to fight over.



After WW2, several international missions operated in Italy, to assist in the post-war recovery and their personnel were issued a fancy orange plate marked with the initials ‘CITES’, which Roberto Solbiati has kindly decoded for us as:



To make an acronym that they could read, they put ITALIA before TEMPORANEA.
So the sequence of words is :
C – Circolazione – (Circulation (licence))
I – (in ) Italia
T – Temporanea – (temporary, for duration of posting)
E – (di) Enti – (entity, organisation, mission)
S – Stranieri – (strangers, foreigners)

(Temporary Licence for Foreign Organisations in Italy.)

Shortly after WW2, a new symbol was embossed on the (rear only) Italian plates, depicting three swords on a shield; this was the symbol of the National Disabled Veterans’ Association.      This CITES plate shows this emblem well.

The SITES series ran from 1947 to 1952, we understand.

The SITES plates ran alongside the ‘EE‘ plates issued to foreigners who purchased Italian cars there, to export to their home countries. (EE=Escursionisti Esteri=Foreign excursionist/visitor)


I will add more pictures of the  other Trezzo plates which made me gasp, in a later Blog.