How to read all this data.
The information is presented in two ways. They should be equal information, only in a different order, but I don' think I quite managed this. For presenting the data in the right shape, some hand work has been done, and that always brings with it the risk of damaging data, so if you find something, please tell me, but no intentional differences are present.
Explanations for the licenses per make
At the top of the page is an alphabetical list of makes from that country. Clicking on the number in front of that line sends your browser to the information for that make.
Each make has a block of data. It is sorted alphabetically (not numerically) per type and per chassis number. Then it is sorted chronologically. After that, it is sorted by the order of the license plates, so first per country, and then chronologically for each group of licenses. Lastly, if there are still several entries with the same data, they are sorted by year, to give the correct order for successive owners/entrants. If a car changes hands more than twice in one year, the order is undecided. I still have to find a way to solve this. I am working on a better way to sort, so maybe in the next version, that will be implemented.
Explanations for the license plates per country
On top of the page is a list of codes that can be identified (if possible) for the several types of licenses in that country. Where no code is used, but it is implied in the order of letters and digits on the plate, like Belgium and the Netherlands, a code is given like < ll-nn-nn >. Next is mentioned the country, the name of the area for which these licenses were issued, the capital of that area, and the period when these licenses were issued. This does not mean that licenses were not valid after that period, just that the issuing was stopped. For national license plates, the capital of the country is given. Clicking on the number in front of the line sends your browser to the detailed information block.
Explanations valid for both.
For each entry a number of data is given. This is largely the same for both, even though the order in which it is presented may be different. License: This is easy, it is the license number as seen on the car, except in some Italian cases where front and rear do not match. The rear plate is used here as the correct order.
Make: Even easier the accepted name of the make of the car.
Type: The accepted name of the type of the car, sometimes simplified, to get cars into a better order. Therefore additions like Cabriolet or coachbuilders names have sometimes been omitted.
Chassis: Where available, this is the chassis number of the car. Sometimes abbreviated to the last part, which uniquely describes the car in question. This information, though usually correct, can never be 100% reliable, because in all cases, I have had to rely on published data, and I have never had the chance to check it myself.
Year: This is preferably the year in which the car was registered under this number. In some cases where that information was not available, the year the car was first seen is used. And in some cases, notably British cars, where the license remains with a car during its lifetime (usually), I have used the date of construction, when there was a good possibility that the car has been licensed like this "from birth".
When a car is listed more often with the same number but different owners, it is the date of sale to the new owner, where available (mostly Italian cars) or the year when it was first seen with its new owner. This last one is dangerous, because a driver may "test-race" a car some time before becoming the actual owner, and these cases are not always well documented.
Seen at: This is certainly not exhaustive. Only appearances that I am aware of at a series of important races are documented. This serves more to help you identify certain cars, than to give a full career overview. For that you could best refer to Martin Krejci's site. The layout of my list is simple : code for the race - year - (Start Number). So MM 55 (722) means Start Number 722 in the Mille Miglia 1955. Single seater races are usually the older ones as the habit of using road licensed cars stopped there long before it stopped in sports car racing. Only the occasional Ferrari kept on using Prova plates until the late sixties.
Races listed are:
ACF: Grand Prix de l'ACF (sports car races)
Ard: Grand Prix d'Ardennes
B: Belgian Grand Prix
CdA: Coupe De L'Auto
CP: Carrera Panamericana (sports car races)
D: German Grand Prix (pre-war: sports car races)
Dayt: Daytona 24 Hours (sports car races)
Don: Donington Grand Prix
E: Spanish Grand Prix
EIR: Irish Grand Prix (sports car races)
F: French Grand Prix
GB: Gordon Bennett Races
GB: also British Grand Prix
GW9: Goodwood 9 Hours (sports car races)
I: Italian Grand Prix
Indy: Indianapolis 500
LM: Les 24 Heures Du Mans (sports car races)
MC: Monaco Grand Prix (1952: sports car race)
MM: Mille Miglia (sports car races)
Mon: Monza 1000 Km (sports car races)
NR/Ring: Nürburgring 1000 Km (sports car races)
Rei: Reims 12 Heures (sports car races)
Sebr: Sebring 12 Hours (sports car races)
Spa: 24 Heures/1000 Km de Spa-Francorchamp (sports car races)
TdF: Tour de France (sports car races)
TF: Targa Florio (post-war:sports car races)
TT: Tourist Trophy (sports car races)
US: United States Grand Prize
Voit: Coupe des Voiturettes
Owner/Entrant: A difficult one, this. The owner of the car where known, or the entrant when that is known from the entry list for the race. Or when neither is known the first driver of the car, hoping it is also the owner, or the main driver for which the car was earmarked by its owner. This also took some creative mixing of data when the same combination of car/driver/entrant used different identifications in successive races. The intention has been to make things as clear as possible about who decided what happened to a certain car, rather than to find an exact listing of all the names used on entry forms. I have also tried to avoid using sponsors names, since this is a rather unpredictable world as well.
Where cars are clearly the property of a private person, it becomes usually easier to follow careers, because they don't always have the possibility to replace cars at will. Factory cars are a lot more difficult here, because nearly always several identical cars are available, and they can be mixed up when thought necessary. Fortunately for me, the current ultra-professional, perfectionalist times are not included in this study. It is now possible to have two cars that look so identical, that even the smallest details won't give away which car is which, even on the very sharp photographs of today.
Remark: Any clarifications that don't fit in another field.
Nat.: Common abbreviation of the nationality and code in the nationality oval which should be fixed to the car.
Country: Country in which the car was registered and licensed.
Placename: Name of the area for which these licenses were issued or central placename, where only that is available.
Capital: Capital of the area where the license plates were issued, or capital of the country for national issues.
Period: The period during which this series of license plates was issued.
Where to find the relevant codes on the license plates?
Great Britain: This includes Ireland and the island of Jersey for the period under consideration. Great Britain is subdivided in areas mostly called counties, and each of these has a number of one or two letter codes. These have been issued in an uncomprehensible order, so you really need either a list or an extremely good memory. Basically an "S" in the code means Scotland, and an "I" or a "Z" means Ireland. During the relevant period here, Ireland has kept this system in use, so any explanations here for Great Britain can also be used for Ireland.
License plates have had the following structure through the years. First the code was followed by up to 4 digits. From the early thirties a serial letter, the code and up to 3 digits was used. When that was exhausted, a short series of up to 4 digits and the code, and then up to three digits, a serial letter and the code have been used. From 1963 on the year letter appeared. A serial letter, the code, 3 digits and the year letter was the norm from then. Ireland has never followed this system.
In 1974 the system was extensively revised, and lots of codes then got a new meaning, either a different county, or a new name for the old one. Finally when this series was exhausted, again the order was reversed, a year letter, up to 3 digits a serial letter and the code. Of this system, only one or two examples are listed. Since 2001 a completely new system is in use, but that doesn't concern us here.
In any case, for finding the code of the licensing area, take the letter group and use the last two letters.
France: This includes Algeria and Morocco for some of the period under consideration. France has three periods. Through to 1928 only large areas were identified, and a single letter identified these. License plates had the form of a serial number of up to four digits, the code letter (sometimes twice) and a serial number of up to two digits.
From 1928 through to 1950 a similar system was used, but the code now consisted of two letters, that signified the Departement. Larger departements got several codes, and they were issued alphabetically. That means that the departements were sorted alphabetically, in the order we still know today, and the first codes went to Departement 01, Ain. For Algeria the code AL was used, for Morocco the code MA and for Tunisia, the code TU.
Since 1950 the current system is in use with up to four digits, two serial letters, and the departemental code, now in number form. Some minor changes have occurred since 1950, but it is no use to explain them all. Algeria used the codes 91 through 94 up to 1958 and then with their own codes consisting of one digit and one letter up to 1964. Morocco continued to use the old style MA registrations until 1982, but the letters MA were dropped. This series has now been superceded, but that is of no importance here.
Germany: Three main periods. From 1906 through to 1945 Regions issued licenses, subdivided in several areas. The Region code was a Roman number, followed by a letter for subdivisions. From 1945 through to 1956, the occupying armies divided the country in several zones, and these were subdivided in smaller regions. One or two letter codes were used, the first one for the occupying army zone, and when two letters were used, these were arranged vertically. Since 1956 Licenses were issued per Kreis, and the license plate contained an abbreviation for the Kreis, a serial letter combination (1 or 2) and a serial number (up to 4 digits).
Italy: Three periods. Until 1927 Provinces were identified by a number, and licenses had the shape of that number plus a serial number. From 1927, the next series started, with the commonly known two letter (except Roma) Provincial codes, behind the serial number until 1932, in front of it afterwards. Some provinces have reissued older numbers, so a chronological order is not always clear. This series has now been superceded, but that is of no importance here.
Portugal: A simple form of two letters four digits, but rather awkward to translate back to a region. Only a few regions are identified and licenses are issued as blocks of two letter combinations.
Other Countries: A lot of countries use the standard of usually two letters to denote the area, either through an abbreviation, or just as a coded list, and then followed by a serial number. It is usually obvious and there is no need to repeat that here.
There are also countries where licenses are issued nationally, and follow a certain chronological order. Examples are Belgium and The Netherlands. You can find out about the details by looking at the way data is presented for this country.
And lastly, countries like the United States of America have different states that each have their own rules for issuing numbers. Since only a few cars from those countries are listed, it is not very relevant to list all details here.