The things they tell us!

December 1, 2011

Afghanistan? Not likely!

cropped Alabama re AFG.jpg

cropped Alabama re AFG 26-12515

A Volkswagen 1600 Fastback parked in Kensington, London, during the early 1970s, carried this very peculiar plate (upper photo), with yellow digits on a black – or blue – ground.     (My photo was in black and white and age has done the rest!)

As seems to have been the way, the more interesting the plate spotted, the worse my photos became.    I have plenty of beautifully-exposed commonplace plate pictures, but for anywhere odd, I was lucky if the image even developed!

Days later, when passing 26-12515, and wondering again, where it may have come from, the driver approached the car, giving me the opportunity to lay the mystery to rest!       However, he became  extremely jittery when asked what must have seemed a sensitive question to him –  and, pressed by this newshound, he  finally uttered the word “Afghanistan” as he drove off with a squeal of rubber.      (If VW1600s had the power to make their rubber squeal.)

Well, of course, I didn’t believe him then and I  still don’t, but as the years have passed, I have wondered whether the (properly stamped-out) plate might have been a form of out-of-state Chinese issue, from province 26 – Ningxia-Hui (Yinchuan) – unlikely though it would have been then – or even now.    Compare a standard PRC plate of the period:

white on blue was for light vehicles 1949-87

My London sighting used a different font and much smaller plates than the Chinese design – not much bigger in fact, than an Italian or early Libyan front plate.     I expect that it would tie up that the authoritarian 1970s Chinese would not permit a car to exit PRC carrying its numberplates, even for a foreigner allowed in temporarily under some scheme, so it is reasonable to imagine the replacement plates could have been made up simply to travel out of the country – and the originals handed in, as in Japan.          

What think Europlate members?

(This theorem was blown out of the water by Johnathan Moore and John Melby in their Comments below!)

14 March 2013 ; A surprising answer came to this quiz, which appears below in Comments.      (Or did.)


23 May 2013;  Now, borrowed from  Google for illustration only, is the un-cropped Alabama 1970 plate design which finally allowed the recognition of the ‘Afghan’ mystery;

A cropped Alabama using a characteristic dask and font, akin to the queried Afghan.

The entire Alabama  tag using a characteristic dash and font, akin to the queried Afghan 26-12515.

(Final question to the US xeno-autonumerologists:

Did Alabama stretch to five numerals after the dash separator?)


More Mystery

October 13, 2011

This BMW2000S coupé was parked in Queens Gate, London for about a year during the 1970s, bearing this unexplained plate.    Next to it was an Austin Mini with similar plates, which I didn’t photograph, it seems!    Once I saw the driver and he claimed that the cars were from Burundi – but I have never believed it….   What do YOU think?

BH-423-H-12-CD      What is it??     Brumby archive

BH-423-H-12-CD What is it??                                  Brumby archive

The BMW was seen and photographed by another Europlate member, Simon Brazel, by coincidence.    Do you still have your photo, Simon?