Spotting with Pemberton 1938

January 27, 2016

John Pemberton has kept a record of every registration he has seen from pre-war days, in country order.     The (many) pages are now in the Club archive, as John is moving home and needs the space!      Here is the first page of his Netherlands chapter, which should keep the reader occupied for a while, in determining the registration region or status of the operator………..

More to follow.

Not many of us can claim to have seen such plates as these in our early spotting career!

Have our Dutch members any observations?

January 27, 2016

Fake Pope plate ?

January 22, 2016

This plate is just offered on ebay. In my eyes it is a fake. Be careful.

I enclose a photo of the ebay plate and a photo from his visit from a newspaper. Compare yourself.scv1 - fake Benedikt_XIV

PEMBERTON List complete

January 6, 2016

January 6 2016

Here, at last, is John Pemberton’s spotting list (or the most interesting bits of it) for the 1950s-1980s.    What a fruitful period that was for spotters of the day!

We have rendered it as accurate as we can, but look forward to receiving your corrections and amendments, either by Comment in the Blog, or by email to:

Just click on

..just another fake plate ?

December 26, 2015

noch unbek. Wien 2., 09.12.15

..fixed on a Renault Megane it has been in use in Vienna two weeks ago.

A man from Romania claimed it as a car from Romania, but of course this can´t be correct.


November 3, 2015

Read the Comments below…….


September 18, 2015

Thanks all for the identification of my previous photo from British India.      I have another old photograph in my collection that I can’t identify, N 64545.       Maybe it’s glaringly obvious to the trained eye, as to where it was registered – any ideas?

EU 871





September 5, 2015

Any europlate experts out there able to identify the plate pictured in this image of an old photo I have?.Looks like  p1449c.



November 24, 2013


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!!

Spotting lists from 1950s show a different profile

August 18, 2013

Below we see one of the 40 spotting books employed by EU member John Pemberton between 1955 and today.    He religiously noted everything foreign which came his way, mostly spotting in the East of England, in Suffolk, Norfolk and on occasional visits to London and the near Continent.      He would not take note of Belgians in Germany, or Germans in Holland, as there were too many to record, and he wasn’t interested in noting foreign forces plates in Europe or Britain, unless they bore normal plates from their place or registration.    An exception was made for the many SHAFE/SHAPE plates he noted, from Supreme HQ – Allied Forces/Powers-Europe.    And as with many of us, he may not have known that Spanish plates which bore a zero in the fourth numeric position from the right, were allocated to US Forces, Spain, because he has recorded a great number of them! e.g.

It becomes clear from analysing JP’s spottings, that the earlier the period, the more varied and unusual were the cars to be seen in circulation.    A day out in 1956 could garner a spotter vehicles from Ceylon, Nigeria, Cyprus, India, British Guiana, Formosa, Japan and the Straits Settlements.     To see any one of those in 2012, would be the high spot of a collector’s year!

His recent books (say, from 1980 to current) are still testament to John’s determined notation, but these modern sightings are all European plates, with rare exceptions.

Items which strike the writer, while cataloguing the longhand archive, are the surprisingly high number of vehicles from Algeria and Morocco, both before and after independence from France, the 10(?) cars he saw from Bermuda (though I never saw one in 55 years of spotting (well, one on Grand Turk years ago) and quite a few from Angola and Swaziland – very rare indeed.    He has captured the only known photo of British Somaliland on a car also bearing the SP oval representing the Somaliland Protectorate.     Similarly John has photographed the only known SM oval, the former code for Siam – and on a German HANOMAG car in Copenhagen, bizarrely, in the late 1940s….

I has been amusing for me to recognise some  parallel spotting between John’s notes and my own photo archive.     At least a dozen plates which he noted forty five years ago were captured for posterity in photographs I must have taken in the same period in which he saw them, although we were 200 km. apart and knew nothing of each other!    Here are two of them.

The Bulgarian diplomatic DT 0326 lived in Notting Hill in London for perhaps four years without changing these rare plates, and was also seen and photographed by members Terry Gray and Ivan Thornley.     This was the 1967-85 CD series.

(BG2)(cd)_DT 0326_comp_VB1969


The only Colombian plate ever seen in Britain, I suggest.   On an MGB in Kensington, London in 1968, with a 2-year validity plate (but no CO oval at the rear

A great archive, which I hope will  bring some happy moments to all who inspect the pages of the précis which will now be progressively published in the Blog as a Google spreadsheet document, as I work my way forward through the booklets.


2013-06-15 17-27-52_0108 JP notebook 71-2

Some of John’s script resembles Farsi or Sanskrit – but usually turns out to represent the word  ‘London’  or  ‘July’  or  ‘ blue Peugeot’.     The orthographic decoding only held up the production of the typed form by a few months…….!

Here is the first of John Pemberton’s distilled (redacted?) spottings, from the earliest books he can find, dated 1955 and  ’56:         *********       Feb. 11 2014  addendum    —Technical snags have prevented the insertion of this file, but now it has been converted to a Google.doc, which you can read on-screen, or download to inspect at your leisure.      In a few days, it will be inserted HERE.

                                  (The additional data has been inserted by me, though much remains to be added – and I will be happy to receive your corrections and extra info if you can add to the sum of knowledge….)


Diplomatic fantasies

June 18, 2013

A little story from a man and his car, who obviously would like to be seen as a diplomat…..

He used this Mercedes 200 in Vienna for some weeks in December 2012.
F Diplo unklar (2) 2012-12-17
A French insurance sticker in the windshield to check the license number for verification by police brought to light a genuine current French registration, but a regular series – nothing diplomatic.

He had had his French plates re-made, in the Portuguese diplomatic style.

In 2008 the same car (look at the CD-Sticker, the screws and the small, black, square element) was seen on same place in Vienna with this strange plate:
F + P Diplo Wien 4., Dez. 2008
In 2008 it was also seen in Paris (photo by Francoplaque I think) and we had it in our newsletter.       It was then assumed to be an old Portuguese registration pimped up to resemble French-looking diplomatic plates.     And the car was originally, like the driver, from Portugal as I have found out since.

2013 – And now the current display: after new police investigations (it became a little hotter) the car once again has been sighted in Vienna in April 2013 with the original French normal plates, the owner having removed his oval CD claim to fame!
F echte Kz. 2013-05-19 (2)

It has probably now returned to Paris again.      Perhaps he plays out there his diplomatic illusions…

From PlatePeter