South Australia first Australian state with car registration in 1906; plates become valued
Numeral vehicle registration plates were used in South Australia until the switch to alpha-numeric in 1966.
Displayed at National Motor Museum, Birdwood
South Australia brought in Australia’s first motor vehicle registration and licensing during 1906. In 1904, with the first “mechanically propelled vehicles” on Adelaide streets, the Motor Traffic Regulation Act had been legislated.
By 1910, 1350 cars (and many motor cycles) were registered.
Registration plates were first issued in South Australia in 1906 for three classes of vehicles: motorcycles and motor vehicles and trailers. This led to historic plates, with the same number, on each of these three classes. Thus No.1and so on was issued to a car, motorcycle and trailer, at the same time.
Within the first year of registration plates in 1907, The Tourists Road Guide ran a list of historic plate owners, listing the owners’ name and location, the vehicles’ makes and horsepower. It recorded the current historic plates from 1 to 429, with following editions recording subsequent plate numbers and the owners of the vehicles.
Unlike the United Kingdom, historic plates could be transferred by registered owners from vehicle to new vehicle. Owners could retain their historic number and transfer it to a new car off an old one or they could transfer the historic number to a new owner when a car was sold.
This has led to generations of family members retaining their historic plates, as virtual family historic numbers.
This changed with new rules around the alpha numeric plates in 1966 (starting with RAA-000). The ability to transfer and retain a plate off a car was ended and new cars were issued with new plates.
The 1985 historic plate auction changed the rules again, with plate owners needing to get “proprietary rights” to a number to transfer it from car to car or indeed from owner to owner.
“SA” became mandatory on South Australia’s number plates in 1931 to distinguish them from other states’. Before this, vehicle owners supplied their own plates with no set design or type. Some were painted onto radiators, some numerals were affixed to wood blocks and some cars had elaborate cut and polished plates.
Almost from the time of the first historic plate registration, periodicals in SA published a list of the registered owners of all historic plates.