In February 2012, AB 1658, a bill designed to preserve the history of your old car by allowing you to add legal vintage license plates was introduced by Mike Gatto, an Assemblyman from California’s 43rd District. The following September, it was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

AB 1658 is also known as the California Legacy License Plate Program. This all happened because Gatto has a restored ’69 Chevrolet Camaro and it bothered him that enthusiasts were often mandated to display a white license plate. He also thought new musclecars like the Challenger and Charger would look good with a retro plate in a historical color. Gatto wanted to make it easier to get a license plate from that era. AB 1658 was designed for this purpose.

There are three styles available: black with yellow lettering, yellow with black lettering, and blue with yellow lettering. The original stamping plates were recovered from Folsom Prison, so the plates will have the original fonts, but California law states that all plates must have reflective paint.

You may order any plate for any year of vehicle, but the number of digits will correspond to your current registration. For example, if you have a current seven-digit white plate, your new black, yellow, or blue plate will also have seven digits. If your current registration has six digits, you must check a box on the form to keep your original six digit number. If your classic, (or new car) has seven digits, and you want the look of a six digit black, yellow, or early blue plate, you may use the vanity plate option to select a set of six numbers. All random sequential assignments will have seven digits.

For the state of California to issue these plates, 7,500 of each design must be ordered. As of this writing, 6,820 black, 1,705 yellow, and 1,353 blue plates have been ordered from the Department of Motor Vehicles. As soon as the number reaches 7,500, that plate will go into production. Any plates that do not reach the minimum number of orders by Jan 1, 2015 will be refunded and the plate will not go into production so there is no risk in ordering ahead. The plates cost $50 and you cannot order them online. Download the form here and send it to: The Department of Motor Vehicles Legacy License Plates, Customer Service/Operations Support, MS H203, PO Box 825393, Sacramento, California, 94232-5393 with a personal check, money order, or cashier’s check before the deadline.

In general, the seven digit plate appeared in 1980 in blue and it is technically correct to have a black plate with yellow letters as late as the 1970 model year. Both black and blue plates were available in that year. The yellow “50s” plate indicated on the pre-order form is assumed to be after 1955 to 1962. If you want to know more, there is a handy grid of plate dates and numbers at California License Plate Data. If you don’t live in California, ask your local elected official to study AB 1658 and get cool retro plates in your state. We heard it was the easiest law they ever passed.