California Reissues Classic Black License Plates
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Well, here in California, a classic of a different sort is being celebrated. You may have noticed that we here in the Golden State have a reputation for being crazy about cars new and old. And collectors of vintage cars might covet not just, say, a 1954 Mustang convertible, but the California license plate that originally came with it.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
That would be a stark all-black plate with simple gold letters and numerals. I mean, really, the design might be the very definition of California cool. But it went out of production in 1969. And according to California DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez, it has been prized ever since.
JESSICA GONZALEZ: Many car enthusiasts that have classic vehicles from the '50s and '60s and even '70s - if they were to want a original license plate that went with that same year vehicle, these plates go for a lot of money right now. So they sell at different car shows and on eBay. It can be hundreds of dollars.
MONTAGNE: Well, say hello to the plates because they are back, thanks to a bill introduced by a California assemblyman. More than 20,000 drivers have already ordered the black plates, and they began shipping this week. Like all California license plates, they're manufactured at a prison, made famous by the man in black, Johnny Cash.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES")
JOHNNY CASH: (Singing) I'm stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps dragging on.
GONZALEZ: The license plates are made at Folsom State Prison, and we have been making license plates since the 1930s.
GREENE: That was Johnny Cash and then Michele Kane with the California Prison Industry Authority. And she says the throwback plates will be stamped from the very same molds as the ones from the 1960s.
MONTAGNE: For the discerning license plate enthusiast, watch out for a few modern updates, like the signature gold paint. In keeping with California law, it's now reflective, presumably to make it easier for police to spot if, perhaps, you're laying a little heavy on the gas pedal.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL I DO IS DRIVE")
CASH: (Singing) All I do is drive, drive, drive, try to stay alive. Keep my mind on my load. Keep my eye upon the road. I got nothing in common with any man whose home every day at 5:00. All I do is drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, drive...
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.