Historic Plate Manufacture





WARNING: Illegal Use of Non standard Non Government Issue physical Number Plates.



Sorry to be so blunt, but at historicplates.com.au we always act within the relevant legislation and feel it's necessary to advise our clients and plate enthusiasts of all topical SA plate information.

For many years post The Great Plate Auction in 1985, it was permissable to acquire your own plates through a manufacturer such as The Adelaide Number Plate Co, on Gilbert St opposite the old Chateau Moteur site.

However, the legislation has since been amended and your requirements as a registered plate owner and user are clear- non DTEI issue plates are not permitted.

Plastic Plates especially are frowned upon and if you think about it, such plates are highly visible to SAPOL bolted to the rear of your car as they pull up behind you. Although the plastic "Classic Name" plates are legal and correct these are the only exceptions- plastic sign written numeric plates are illegal.

So, buy a correct set at $22 a pair; they are historically correct for SA, look great and will keep you within the law.

There are also some exemption rules regarding cars with vintage style plates that pre-date 1995; but we always suggest you keep your vintage manufactured plates and replace them with a current set. Infact, we also always recommend to clients that the original style enamel plates as issued at 1985's The Great Plate Auction and from 1985-86 are retained and not used and instead a current issue $22 DTEI set is used instead.

Google the legistlation and familiarise yourself with it, or call DTEI on 13 10 84 to enquire.


Plate Manufacture

The first historic plates were of varied manufacture but most likely were either enamel or painted metal, and some early cars had the numerals merely painted onto radiators or protective grills.

I’m starting a section on the site here on plate manufacture, where you can see some types of old historic plates that have been available over the years- I’d be keen to hear from anyone with any plate type stories or vintage historic plate examples that they’d like to contribute to the inventory listed....I’m keen to further our knowledge of the history of the different physical styles SA historic plates over the years.

SA first appears on the historic plates

The early issue of historic plates were without the state specific identifier, the now common stacked “SA”.

My research shows that historic plates first became standardised sometime in the 1920’s, when for the first time it was mandated that “SA” appear on the plate itself on the left hand side of the numerals, or above the numerals.

From sometime in the mid to late 1920’s (if any history guru’s can pinpoint a date I’d love to hear from you) it was decreed that the SA identifying mark should be included on plates to avoid confusion with similar numbers from other states. It is also around this time that the “pressed” aluminium type plates, in use for decades were first put in circulation. Again, if any history buff has more information to add on this I’d be most interested to hear from you.

Vintage Style Historic Plates


Vintage Style Plates

above, top to bottom:

1920's vintage plate, painted alloy individual numerals rivited to metal base

1980s replica vintage plate, The Adelaide Plate Co manufacture, similar numeral style to Victorian Enamel plates

1980's SA"69" in the same style and by same manufacturer as above

vintage plate with same font as plate "20-114" 1920's vintage plate; enamel SA"70" with pressed and raised numerals

Lykke Manufacturer Plates

above, top to bottom:

Lykke were a local manufacturer whose plate are fondly remembered by plate enthusiasts for the quality of their plates, the fact they were a local company and for the great styles of plates that they produced. Active around the 1940s through to the 1960s their plates were distinctive for several reasons, namely the manufacture (pressed and painted alloy folded onto a metal base) and the "Lykke" signature on the bottom right hand side of the plates.

**We seek images & will purchase samples of all styles of vintage Lykke plates please! and, if anyone knows where the original Lykke plate dies are, please let us know!!**

SA "34-607" Intricate style plate with polished alloy outer border to numerals and painted center c.1940-1950s

SA "38-833" standard style plate with painted numerals c.1960s

SA "188" c1960s Lykke with military type font



Above: what to look for.....Lykke pressed logo

1985 The Great Plate Auction Enamel Plates

At the 1985 Government auction winning bidders received three of the enamel plates in a clear plastic folder, two plates were contained in a reflective alloy border and the third plate was "neat", ie without this border. Most plate users preferred the borderless look and simply popped the enamel plate out of the reflective alloy border for a neater look on the car. These original enamel auction plates were available for order up until about 1991 and now are very rare and are unobtainable.

above, top to bottom:

SA "64" Original 1985 Auction plate with original (and now rare) alloy reflective border which enamel plate is simply double sided taped into.

SA "8888" Original Auction enamel four digit plate

SA "21" Post 1985 auction plate, in larger size made to fit a European car front numberplate bracket

SA "168" Plastic 1985 auction enamel plate replica, made from a clear perspex base, vinyl letters adhered to the underside and then acrylic painted over in black to complete the plate. In the early 1990's when the 1985 Auction Enamel plates were no longer made these plates were the only viable way to replicate this 1985 enamel plate look. NOTE: although these plastic plates were never available directly from the Motor Registration Department for many years these were "accepted" by the authorities. Today's regime of policing via speed camera has deemed these illegal and users face fines accordingly.

Above: A full set, as you would have received as a winning bidder at The Great Plate Auction 1985

Plastic folder with three pockets, one for each plate. Two plates with a reflective alloy border and one plate without this border, "Certificate of Right to Display and Trade" and cream/buff coloured "The Schedule" Historic Plate Agreement form with pink stamp duty seal  on reverse, and owner and Registrar of Motor Vehicles signatures and two witness signatures.


Pressed Plates and Department of Transport issued 1985 Auction enamel replica plate

SA"69" in two pressed styles, the standard mid 1990s pressed plate, and in the middle a pressed plate using the vintage 1920's style font. Both Adelaide Numerplate Co manufacture.

The bottom plate SA "69" is the style issued by the Department of Transport in the 1990s - see tenders and auctions link here:


This plate as pictured on the bottom is an alloy backplate, with plastic numerals on a adhesive acrylic black basecoat. Technically these are "legal" as they were issued in the 1990's by the Governement, however as they look like a full perspex plate (see SA "168" above) users may find they are stopped by over zealous policemen. If in doubt, get a new set of standard pressed plates made!

Standard pressed plates

SA "967" above is an example of the current (2010) pressed plate. These are manufactured in WA which as a proud South Ozzy I find abhorrent. Can you believe we all drive around with WA manufactured plates on our cars. Scandalous. The other plates are examples of the Adelaide Plate Co manufactured plates, and show the different sizes of plates that could be ordered in the period up to approx 1998, when this business closed down and the plate manufacture was outsourced to another state.

Note also the larger over square size of the current plate (SA "967") and to my eyes the annoying off centre of the numerals, look at how the 9 6 7 numerals are not centred on the plate correctly compared to the SA "9" examples.