Stephen W Latimer from Loughborough in Leicestershire, purchased an orange MGF sports car that he bought from his next-door neighbour. The following week, his perfect registration SL 1000 just happened to come along thanks to Regtransfers.co.uk’s advertisement in the Daily Telegraph motoring supplement – uncanny timing since he never spotted a number plate so attractive before.
Stephen was very keen to try and trace the history of this original and very old Dundee registered mark and we are pleased to be able to tell him that ‘SL’ prefix numbers were first issued at Clackmannonshire, Scotland in December 1903.
It was a bureaucrats’ paradise in those dark and dismal days of 1973, when car numbers purist StephenWilliam Latimer fancied the letters ‘SWL’ for his Mini. He discovered that the ‘SWL’ sequence was first issued in Oxfordshire so he placed an advert in the local paper and received one reply from someone who was about to scrap a Ford Corsair bearing the registration with 84 SWL.
In those days you could not simply transfer the number, you had to buy the whole car. The Corsair cost him only £20, but getting it home to Leicestershire was a further £50! That wasn’t the end of the story however, as he actually had to register the car in the name of his father’s business because the rules required the vehicle to belong to someone else for 6 months before the number could be transferred. This led to 6 months of complaints from the neighbours about a wrecked Corsair in the driveway.
In 1976, through a newspaper advert, Stephen then managed to snap up9 SWL, complete with an Austin 1100 and transferred the mark – when the transfer fee was still only £5! – to his Mini, which had previously been graced with HAY 212L and 84 SWL. When finally sold, it was given the ‘cover number’ RYD 956L, which meant that no less than 4 different registration numbers were showing in the tattered and fading old-style log book. 9 SWL has since adorned 11 cars since first acquired.
Two years later, Stephen thought ‘his number was up’ when he gave chase to an off-duty policeman. He could not believe his luck when he saw PC Ray Smith driving another Mini bearing the registration SWL 9 – the ‘twin’ of his own pride and joy – through Shepton Mallet in Somerset. The officer did not mind being flagged down and it was just the ticket as he eventually gave in to sheer persuasion and persistence and sold Stephen the rusting car – which he drove regularly for about 3 years until the hydrolastic suspension collapsed – together with the ‘arresting’ number plate.
Stephen assigned the number to his prize possession – a 1962 Morris Minor, which was considered to be one of the family. Stephen’s grandmother had bought it when she decided to learn to drive at the age of 70! The Morris has covered only 39,000 miles, averaging just 1000 miles a year since it was acquired and the back seat has never been used! Stephen has entered it in several Norwich Union RAC Classic Runs. On the day of the transfer inspection of the Mini, the clutch master cylinder failed and with great difficulty he drove the 60 miles to the local vehicle licensing office where the staff were highly amused that he should be transferring a number to and not from a Morris Minor! The 1968 Mini was given the cover number BYC 285B, implying it was 4 years older than it actually was.
Because he has the original old-style log book, Stephen knows the complete history of 9 SWL, but tracing the history of SWL 9 was somewhat more difficult. He wrote to the Senior Archivist at the Oxfordshire County Council who was able to tell him only when the vehicle was first registered and who originally owned it. But, alas, the owner of the 1952 moped in question had since long gone.
A further record was found, however, which showed that the mark must have been the subject of a cherished transfer in 1971. Stephen was advised also to contact the public record office at Kew but to no avail.
In 1982, during another dispute at the DVLC concerning yet another 9 SWL transfer, his V5 registration document became ‘locked in the system’ for nearly 6 months before he was able to proceed with a transfer to another Morris Minor (giving him yet another set of twins). One year later, during the next transfer, he received a fixed penalty ticket by a traffic warden for not displaying a current tax disc.
At that time it was necessary to submit the discs with the transfer application, leaving him with no alternative but to break the law. After writing an explanatory letter to the Chief Constable, the fine was quashed.
Since first becoming a two-car man sporting gloriously legal matching plates. Stephen has amassed 22 awards at a total of 36 Registration Numbers Club (RNC) and Cherished Numbers Dealers’ Association (CNDA) rallies which he has attended -travelling thousands of miles all over the country and collecting virtually every publication on the subject.
Stephen is an ‘old campaigner’ and did it the hard way, fighting tooth and nail to beat the system, but his personal ambition to own a cherished number has been balanced by the sheer pleasure of motoring. After becoming a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists at the age of just 19, he has always considered all the prestige that comes with cherished plate ownership to be just the icing on the cake.