The True Story About Number 1

Written by Stuart Light

After reading the online issue of the January 2012 “Newsletter” I emailed Keith to tell him that I enjoyed the interesting article about the license plates. Keith mentioned that the GNYR newsletter readers might also find the story of Number 1 interesting. Why not? It goes back 25 years. Does that make the incident historic?

I joined the GNYR waaay back in October 1984 thanks to a long time member Alan Baer. At that time I met illustrious GNYR “old car guys” such as Hank Fritz, Joe Macaluso, Doc Krieger, and Jim Fitchett. We shared stories about old cars and in my case, at that time, my “other hobby”…younger women. Today they’re not so young any more.

Less than a year later Jim invited me to his house at which time he showed me his extensive license plate collection…needless to say, at first sight of his well-kept license plates, my jaw dropped. I was in awe of what was there in front of me. Soooo, when I mentioned that I has a collection of Sinky Toys, the old metal model cars, Jim said he might be interested in trading a set or two of license plates for a few toy cars. Within a few weeks a swap was agreed upon at which time I took home two sets of license plates, Number 1 and Governor 1 and left several toy cars with Jim.

At first I thought maybe I had made a mistake. After all what was I going to do with the license plates? Could I register them on my current vehicle…the “Plastic Pig” a 1979 Corvette? I made a quick call to New York State DMV in Albany. The clerk on the other end was only interested as to how I obtained the license plates.

Before she could get my name I hung up the phone. The license plates were then placed in their wrapper, under a bunch of car stuff in my attic and forgotten about for the next 20 years. Fast forward to April 2006. It was Press Day at the New York Auto Show. After Press Breakfast I proceeded to look at the more interesting cars on display: Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, etc., you know, “the cheap stuff.” By chance, in the lobby, was a booth set up by the New York State DMV. All of a sudden I had the idea of inquiring about my Number 1 license plate in the wrapper and ask if there was a way to legitimize them. One of the supervisors listened with interest, thought the venue was interesting and suggested that I call her in two weeks. In a few weeks when I called, I was told that first I had to get my 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV-6 Historic Vehicle status and I was provided with a name and phone number of another department head.

It took a while but I finally got through. All I was told at that time was “send us the documents to prove that the car is rare enough to be declared historic earlier than 25 years of age. I started to gather documents….first was a letter from Alfa Romeo stating that my Alfa Romeo’s color code #369 BluPosilippo was a USA ONLY color. Next was a document with the total number of GTV-6s sold on the USA in 1986…660. With help from the Alfa Romeo Owners Club USA I eventually got on official letterhead an accounting of the number of GTVs sold in each color. Since my color code was not even listed, they had to add up all the known colors and subtract that number from 660….the remaining number was 36. I thought that might be a low enough figure. After making several copies I sent the original documents and photos to DMV in Albany. To my surprise in about a month, I was contacted and told indeed my Alpha Romeo GTV-6 was indeed rare enough to be granted “Early Historic Status.” Wow…that was a load off of my mind. However, next was the hard part getting the use of Number 1 license plates approved.

Photos of both plates had been already sent to DMV Albany for certification, but had been rejected by a clerk twice…the rejection comment was that 1986 was when the Statue of Liberty Plates were issued. Even a friend’s neighbor who works locally at DMV said “it can’t be done.” I was determined not to give up. Fortunately one of my many calls was to “old car maven” Alan Blay who left me a voice mail stating that the NY Liberty Plate were NOT issued until July 4th…the official 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty, and ANY license plates issued in 1986 before July 4th were old Blue & Orange. When the message was played back to a DMV Department Head…their call was to the license plate department head…NOT to the clerk. Again persistence paid off…it took 3 more months, but the license plates were approved for my use.

Posted in Car Collecting.