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Opinion: I won’t rush to remove my classic car’s GB sticker

by John Mayhead
4 October 2021 3 min read
Opinion: I won’t rush to remove my classic car’s GB sticker
Photo: National Motor Museum

I have a photo, found in the Beaulieu National Motor Museum archive, of my 1946 MG TC taken in the year of its first registration. It is parked by the side of the road at the French/Italian border as its first owner finishes the paperwork. You can see the back of the car very clearly; affixed to the spokes of the spare wheel is a white stamped-aluminium oval bearing the ‘GB’ insignia.

This week, as Hagerty reported, these automotive markers of our national identity are no more, replaced instead by ‘UK’. A Government spokesperson said that this ‘symbolises our unity as a nation and is part of a wider move towards using the UK signifier across government.’ GB plates or stickers, the Government guidance states, should now be covered up or removed.

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I’m in the process of restoring my MG back to how it was in 1946. I’ve found the correct Lucas headlamp lenses and fog lamp (the originals destroyed in a shunt in 1969), have some Luvax dampers on order and have even managed to track down the badges on the original owner’s badge bar. The final piece of my jigsaw was a stamped ‘GB’ plate. I wonder whether to bother now.

I know that in the greater scheme of things it is not really that important, but I think we’ve lost part of our motoring heritage this week. I’m mindful of the need to make the people of Northern Ireland feel less ostracised – half my family are from the Province – but I can think of other ways that might be more effective than something that has been in place for over 100 years.

For most of that time, we have considered ourselves a ‘great’ motoring country, at the forefront of technological advancement, racing and manufacturing. This seems like an admission of failure, voluntarily reducing ourselves to the bland, corporate UK ‘signifier’. It feels like we’ve just thrown away the strongest, well-established brand, as if VW suddenly decided to remove the Bentley name, or the Maserati trident was dropped in favour of parent-company Stellantis’s bland logo.

1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon

And it’s not just the beautifully stamped metal plates, many with the crests of the AA and RAC that I am going to miss: there was a rite of passage at turning up at 5am ready for your ferry, only to mutter ‘how much?’ as you grudgingly paid over the odds for your GB sticker.

Then there were the different designs. In the 1990s, I lived for a time in Germany and regularly commuted in my 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider. I fitted a very natty black oval, complete with Union Flag, that became part of the car’s identity. Others are black, silver, even separate chrome letters. On pre-war cars, I’ve even seen it hand-painted on.

One upside for anyone who spent a small fortune on a Stena Line ‘GB’ sticker that remains unused in their boot, is that one day it could become a collector’s item just as hood ornaments, RAC and AA badges have become. Even the stamped plates I’ve been watching on eBay seem to have risen slightly in price overnight.

I think I will still buy a GB plate for the MG. After all, it’s part of the car’s history, and I think it would look great. The government instructions to remove them? Just ‘guidance’ fortunately, so I think I may take my chances, and maybe keep a magnetic UK sticker in the car should I go abroad, just in case.

Read more

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Comments

  • Jem Bowkett says:

    My 1935 Ford V8 has its original aluminium GB plate and it’s staying there. I may even get a set of those chrome jobs for my P6 Rover.

  • Ian Maxwell says:

    My 1931 Frazer Nash carried a GB plate when it took part in the 1932 Alpine Trials. I think it should stay there.

  • Michael Eatough says:

    Crazy idea to remove GB plates from Classic Cars, I will not be removing mine. I just happen to be in France as I write this and leaving Portsmouth just over a week only one car had a U.K. sticker and it looked quite ridiculous. The shop on board our ship was still selling GB stickers and magnetic plates. My GB plates are staying exactly where they are.

  • Frank says:

    I think it is madness to remove GB from all cars, Greater Britain surely has always meant United Kingdom, obviously the people responsible for this change to UK have no interest in British Heritage because it was watered down by our membership of the EU !

  • M Pagett says:

    I have tried several Halford branches and none have UK stickers or badges in stock – and staff are unaware of the change and ALL are still selling GB plates. We need a sticky version of the new UK badge to fit over the GB part of the number plate otherwise new registration plates will be needed. A magnetic badge on my E Type “boot” resulted in a respray job due to the sun effect on the badge. when abroad. And my other cars are aluminium, so how would a magnetic badge work there?

  • Vardon says:

    With totall interconectivity, everything is know about everybody! Shouldn’t all vehicles simply display ‘E’ or ‘W’ for Earth or World? And forgo the international letter symbol!

  • Chris Marsden says:

    Who gave anyone the right to dictate what we call ourselves? I gather you may be fined if your car does not display the UK plate rather than the GB plate/sticker? As far as I am aware it was always “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. I don’t see why this should change. At least if you go abroad with a GB sticker there is absolutely no doubt as to where you hail from, fine or not. What earthly difference does it make?

    Anyone still with a registration plate bearing the EU flag and GB will presumably have to pay for new plates if this nonsense is adhered to.

    I’m old enough to recall that many Scots used to, and in some cases still do, have “Ecosse” on their cars in addition to the GB plate to ensure people knew where they were from. Good on em!

    More useless bureaucracy, cost and a complete waste of time

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