John Rowell’s interest in registration plates started when he was about nine years old.
“Us boys would sit on a cushion or blanket against the fence near to the A605,” he remembers. “With lined exercise book in hand and a sharpened pencil each morning of the summer holidays, we would write down just the numbers from the registration plates of passing cars. The next summer, I decided that numbers were boring so decided to write down only the letters, much to the disgust of my mates but they soon followed suit.”
Having been given an Observer’s Book of Cars, John then began to underline the registrations and where they were first registered.
The interest in car registrations lay dormant for a period after that and life went on. John worked in Gibraltar for a time, where he purchased a new car that he brought back to the UK. Then one day, to his great joy, a cheque dropped in the letter box for a purchase tax refund.
“Now I’m going to buy a plate for the car,” he declared. With no clear objection forthcoming, he began his search. “By chance, I found GIB 516,” he says, “which, in my eyes, refers to Gibraltar, where I had worked. We agreed a price and with all the paperwork in place and plates purchased, the car then had everything I had dreamed of all those years before.”
GIB 16 has been on a number of John’s cars since. “Almost everyone in the city [Ely in Cambridgeshire] knows who it belongs to,” he says.
John’s second plate purchase came about when he bought a second hand Ford KA Sublime. “It went like a dream,” he says. “Until it was finally traded in for a low mileage special edition with leather seats. But I kept the GIB 516 plate.”
Not caring for the registration the new car came with, the search was on again for a something suitable.
“ELY was the easy part,” says John, “as we have lived here for almost 40 years and has only three letters.” To his surprise, JR54 ELY was available. With his initials included, it became a simple choice. “When my brother first saw it,” John confides, “he said how envious he was as he has the same initials and, to make matters worse, he was born in 1954. The KA is now known as my ‘toy’ and I’m so happy with Regtransfers for organising every detail.
“I am one happy driver,” says John, “and the proud owner of registration plates I could only dream of when writing down number plates all those years ago.”
John is still trying to find a car with ‘OZ’ plates – the only registration missing from his photographic collection. “One passed me in the street two years ago,” he says, “but having no camera in hand, the wait goes on.”
More recently, John has purchased BR09 JUN from Regtransfers for his wife, Bertha, whose birthday is 9th June.
“A little surprise for her last month,” he says, “and which she is over the moon with.”
John comes from a building background and became a carpenter on completion of his apprenticeship. He subsequently moved into management as building surveyor and clerk of works. “I took early retirement to enjoy life,” he says, “as secretary and treasurer for local charities. I do enjoy my sport especially football, when I travel 26 miles each way for a home game, where I am a season ticket holder for my beloved Peterborough United. My armchair sport is snooker, which my wife follows avidly, forcing me to go to Sheffield Crucible once a year.”