Many people, myself included buy a car and do not change the interior or exterior at all. It’s a tool, gets me from A to B, is kept serviced and clean, but that’s it. Boring, impersonal, characterless and the same as all the others? Yes all of the above

Other people see their car as an extension of themselves, pretty them up, fill them with gismos and even call them names; ah well each to their own. When I was a boy in the 50’s and 60’s hardly any one that I knew had a car, they were only for the rich or the doctor, not that it bothered us, we were used to biking and bussing everywhere. Those that did have cars also had the luxury of family holidays; just to prove it, they would fill the windows with little triangular stickers of the same size in different colours to prove that they had been to Ingoldmells, Skegness or Ilfracombe, wherever that was!

Later came extra headlights in chrome, mounted on the bumper, nodding dogs on the back shelf, furry dice, seat covers, preferably in leopard or zebra skin. Who can forget the stick on sun visors showing the names of the driver and his girl; Wayne and Tracey or Reg and Doris, depending upon the generation?

Rally style steering wheels, bucket seats, leather driving gloves and a Union Jack roof were the preserve of the mini drivers, but the CND and Ban the Bomb stickers only ever appeared on 2CV’s. Spoked wheels go-faster stripes, whip aerials and so on, you get the gist and now the biggest rage is personalised number plates

Cherished registrations

Personalised number plates, referred by those selling them as cherished number plates are huge business back in the UK. Many of them are made up of the initials of the driver and a random number. Some of them are designed to make up a word. I think that it’s the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck who has COM 1C and for sure the Duke of Edinburgh has HRH 1. Not sure who has FU 2, but he must have an interesting attitude to life. Manipulating the letters and numbers to more accurately describe the word whilst illegal is common practice, such as with P3 TER. All harmless fun, though in many cases very expensive. I guess that if you are going to make your car unique, what better way to do it?

Many of my customers have had personalised plates back home, so a common question is what happens when their car acquires Spanish registration? Well, unless you do something about it, you may lose the plate, well at any rate, title to ownership of it. When a car becomes Spanish, you get to keep the physical UK number plates, so these can be hung in your garage, toilet wall or bedroom ceiling if you wish, but what about the title to the number itself?

Keeping hold of your number

Personalised plates in the UK belong to an individual and can be transferred to another vehicle or kept “on retention” meaning that they are not being used on any vehicle for the present, but are kept on file for your future use. DVLA make an annual charge for this, so unless the plate has significant value or you intend selling the title to another person, it may not be worth keeping. Title to the number can be sold or passed onto a family member or friend. To do this, there is a procedure either via DVLA or one of the many specialist companies. If you are going to re-register your car in Spain, you should do this beforehand.

If you advise DVLA that you have exported your car, you will not be able to sell or transfer title to your cherished plate. DVLA can be advised by Trafico, that the car is in Spain or when you send off the “notification of permanent export”. It is important to do so or you remain liable for UK road tax (the same is true here if you export your Spanish car), so if you have left it a little late, you may still be able to retain your cherished number. Best though to retain title before re-registration

Spanish number plates

I have been asked more than once if a UK personalised plate could be used on a Spanish car. Er, no! Each country has its own system, at least until we become the United States of Europe. Personalised plates do not exist in Spain, which a real surprise is bearing in mind that the financial success of the UK system must be widely known. If they were introduced in Spain, then vowels would have to be introduced to the plates which is not the case at the moment; why? So that words especially naughty ones cannot be spelt. You may have noticed the odd English word though such as CRY or FLY or even the Welsh CWM. A Spanish plate stays with its vehicle for life and cannot be transferred, so if you see a plate that you like, you are stuck with the same old banger for ever.

When I hand the plates over many customers think of a way of remembering their new number, mine is BLS, so “Bloody Lunatic Shelton”, but the happiest customers that I ever had were issued with GYP for Graham Y Paula ( Y being “and” in Spanish in case you had forgotten !)

The best way to personalise a Spanish car is to adorn it with stickers of bulls, donkeys, the national flag etc, but this is only normally done by ex-pats. The most popular way is to have dents on the wings, no paint on the corner of the bumpers, a vertical groove from reversing into a lamp post and a couple of lights not working; a truly Spanish icon