Monday, March 2, 2020

Front Bumper Specialty License Plates

Florida used to require two license plates per vehicle, but that requirement ended all the way back in 1922.

And while the State of Florida does allow vehicle owners to use a vanity or specialty plate in the front of the vehicle, it does not permit anything obscene in nature on the plate. And if you choose to use a license plate from another state, you may do so as long as it is not a valid plate.


As you can imagine, the options are endless. And with such a variety of designs available, I wanted to make the best possible choice in a way that made sense to me.

I was attending high school in Utah back in 1976 and, although I did not have a car, I knew that eventually, I'd own one.

The father of a friend of mine owned a Western Auto parts store in our small town, and we used to hang out at the store sometimes after school. One day I noticed a small cardboard display on the counter with the new U.S.A. Bicentennial commemorative plates. So I bought one.

That tag graced the front bumper of a couple of the cars I eventually owned until it was lost after many moves from place to place over the years.

Here's an old photo of my '78 Oldsmobile Omega with the Bicentennial tag on it.

It also spent some time on the front bumper of my 1971 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400.

I really loved that plate, so when I bought my second 1976 Corvette Stingray, I had to find one, and eBay came to the rescue.

I think I paid around $20 for it for both sentimental and practical reasons.

Well, my definition of "practical" may differ from yours but, since the Bicentennial of the U.S.A. was in 1976, it made perfect sense for a 1976 Corvette.

The life span of a front license plate is much shorter than one attached to the rear bumper of the car, so with that in mind, I like to rotate it from time to time, so other plates have adorned the front of my car in the past.



Year Of Manufacture Plates

As a side note, I purchased a 1975 Florida license plate with a 1976 sticker a few years ago, thinking that it would allow me to apply for a Year-Of-Manufacture (YOM) plate with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

When approved, this allows you to legally use an old tag that matches the year of your car as your license plate.

Unfortunately, my '76 Vette does not qualify. Only vehicles manufactured in 1975 or older can have a YOM tag. Bummer!

Up until 1975 in Florida, you had to get a new plate for your car every year. In 1976 they started issuing decals that were attached to the plates when they were renewed.

Of course, I can legally attach it to the front bumper or use it at car shows, but right now it just serves duty as garage wall artwork.


Other tags that I've considered for the front bumper include the USA-1 tag and a Disney "America on Parade" Bicentennial plate.

The USA-1 plate is available from several Corvette parts vendors as well as on Amazon. The Disney Bicentennial plate can be found on eBay.


I Need My Space! 

However, through my online searching, I was able to find a specialty license plate I didn't know even existed... a Kennedy Space Center Bicentennial plate!

Personally, I think they could've done a better job of spacing the wording, but I know I am being picky. It is a cool plate in spite of that detail and period-correct for my car, especially with that big USA'76 on it!

Besides, with all the "Astronauts and Corvettes" buzz of the era, I think it's kind of cool to have a 1976 KSC plate on my Vette, especially since I live in Florida.



Custom Specialty Plates

You always have the option of having a custom specialty place made and, again, the options are literally endless.

Some will be nothing more than your chosen text printed on a piece of vinyl attached to either a plastic or aluminum plate, while a few vendors may actually offer a true embossed aluminum plate option. In those cases, expect to pay a lot more.


I've seen lots of "Your Text Here" alternatives offered on eBay, so if you desire a specific text or combination of text and numbers, this may be your best option.

Personally, I think an embossed aluminum plate looks more "real," but you'll have to decide what works for you and your Corvette.


The OEM Alternative

If you prefer originality, then a period-correct plate may be appropriate.

1976 Corvettes came from the factory with a very simple black plate with the word "Corvette" embossed in all caps with chrome lettering. Original examples in good condition are somewhat rare and hard to find. Therefore, they are not cheap.

Ecklers Corvette sells a reproduction tag that looks correct for mid-'70s Corvettes, so that's a good alternative.



The Rugged Nineteen

I feel very fortunate that Florida is one of the states that do not require a front license plate on a vehicle. If you happen to live in one of the thirty-one that do, well, you know who you are and a specialty plate would be limited to either garage artwork duty or for car shows.

Having said that, and as liberal as our state front plate policies may be, you can be ticketed for having a frame on your rear bumper tag that covers any portion of the writing or sticker on the tag, even though this statute is rarely enforced.

And speaking of Florida plates, you may remember the statewide Arrive Alive campaign of the 1970s for which there was an official front bumper plate available. The first plates had white lettering over a dark blue background, while the second version had red lettering over a white background.
Of course, if you are 420-friendly, you can always opt for an "Arrive Stoned" plate, which was a parody of the "Arrive Alive" campaign of the era.


Either option will cost you a pretty penny, but they are a great option for a 1970s Florida vehicle.


Anyway, here's my latest specialty KSC USA'76 license plate on my 1976 Corvette.

I think it looks great and very "correct" on the front bumper.



Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!



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Corvette Parent Chevrolet USA-1 License Plate

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