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Restoring a classic license plate


bepnewt
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I have a couple 1964 Oklahoma License plates. I can't find the link now, but I'm pretty sure the OK DMV allows older plates to be put back in circulation if they are clear, etc, blah blah.

I read some articles on how to restore these old plates. The ones I have aren't too bad, but they would look better if they were refreshed, so to speak. The cheapest service I've seen that restores plates charges $80 per plate. I guess that's not too bad for an Oklahoma tag since Oklahoma doesn't use front tags, but it's still a little steep for me. That $80 would be better spent on AC parts!

I also have a set of 1963 California tags that I pulled off my car when I tagged it. If I am able to make on of the OK tags look good, I'll do the same to the Cali tags.

On to the question...

Have any of you guys restored a tag or tags? I'd like to hear how it went if you have.

-BEPNewt

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Brian,

I bought a KS plate for my '64 from this place but have yet to take it to the DMV to see if they'll let me use. I had it custom made for the same money you're going to pay to have yours restored. I made a sample of a "custom" plate just for you but it won't come through in the attached link. Using the same format as Oklahoma used in 1964, I used BP-1964 for the numbers. If OK is like KS, you just have to make sure that no one else in the state is using that number and it's yours.

Ed

Type in what you want in the space then click on the customize button to see what you'd get.

1964 OKLAHOMA STATE LICENSE PLATE--EMBOSSED WITH YOUR CUSTOM NUMBER

Edited by RivNut (see edit history)
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That's pretty cool, Ed.

The problem is going to be getting a definitive answer on whether or not they are legal to use here. I KNOW I found a link less than 4 months ago about using old plates in Oklahoma and I'm sure it was OK ( nyuk nyuk ). I can't find a link now. I blame the exhaust from the 'Riv in my garage...

BP-1964 is probably the best idea for a tag for me. Too bad I wouldn't be able to fit "Riv" on there somehow. Personalized tags didn't start in Oklahoma until 1967 so I'd be stuck with the AA-NNNN format.

Thanks for the link. There's a woman working at the tag agency near my work that will probably be helpful to me. I think she's worked there for ages.

-BEPNewt

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Brian,

Who's to say that there wasn't an original BP-1964 plate issued in 1964??? If OK does allow antique plates, I'm betting that they'd look at it as a plate that had been issued at one time and the reason you chose to have it "restored" was because of its significance to you.

I played around on Google and found this on the OK DMV's website. I couldn't find anything about registering an antique plate though. look at section (B) Looks like it time for some of your local car clubs to start some action similar to other states. Unless most Oklahomans drive cars over 25 years old for a daily driver. :)

710:60-3-160. Antique or classic vehicles

(a) Qualification; application; fees; renewal. These motor vehicles are at least twenty-five (25)

years old and travel on the highways of the state primarily incidental to historical or exhibition

purposes only. The insurance verification fee is to be included with the remittance and must

accompany the application. Persons registering antique or classic vehicles may elect to register

the vehicle either annually or for a ten (10) year period. The motor license agent registering the

antique or classic vehicle for a ten (10) year period shall receive one hundred percent (100%) of

the compensatory registration fees the motor license agent would have received had the antique

or classic vehicle been registered on an annual basis for the ten (10) year period. Insurance

verification, or a properly completed affidavit of non-use, is required at time of application.

(B) Limited purpose use of vehicle. If a vehicle is being driven for any other purpose besides

historical or exhibition purposes, the antique or classic tag must be removed and a regular tag issued

at the regular rate.

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I have a 1965 tag on mine here in Missouri. Look on your DMV web site or ask at the license bureau about year of manufacture plates. As far as plate restoration. Do it as if it were a car. Good prep and quality paint make for a better result. Paint the color of the numbers/letters first. Then mask them off and paint the other color. If you really lay a thick coat on the numbers. You can put a light coat for the body of the plate. Then wet sand the top color off to expose the numbers and border. I find this to be easier than masking. Use a good stiff sanding block and 1500 or 2000 grit. Just take care not to break though the base color. This method works great with base clear

Edited by bb1970 (see edit history)
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I just looked at the color of a 64 OK. plate. Black digits with a white body (background). The sanding method would work great. Sometimes white numbers will take a little of the background color on. Especially with red over white. It looks little pink sometimes.

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I checked into plate restoration services for my original 66 CA black plates. At first I was excited to know someone offered this service but when I learned the cost I wasn't so excited. I completely understand why the cost is anywhere from $80-120 ea after trying to do one of mine. After doing one I personally wouldn't want to do it for any less. I agree with you that money could be better spent elsewhere.

If you don't have any metal damage, you are much further ahead.

Here was my experience and approach. Pretty much winged it because I couldn't find much to go on.

First I media blasted the plate using plastic abrasive so the metal finish would not be disrupted. I used a more agressive media in a couple spots that were rusted. Then I had to use metal repair methods similar to repairing stainless trim to straighten some damage. Basically a small hammer & anvil. Then any remaining imperfections were filled with body filler. Its a tedius process however that was the easy part.

Finding paint to match exactly can be a problem depending on colors and especially if its a luminescent paint. The black for me of course was easy but I couldn't find a yellow that matched the original paint for the letters. I bought 4 different shades ($$$$ Ouch) but none matched to my liking. My wife had some One-Shot brand striping paint and she messed around and custom mixed the yellow to get it close.

With the surface properly prepared, I applied a light coat of primer then sprayed the background color over numbers and all.

Re-painting the letters is even more tedius. Not practical to mask them off to spray (though it could be done if you have the time) so it requires a steady free hand while minimizing brush strokes. The result was a plate that looked really good from 4 feet plus away. Doing it by hand, there really is no practical way to simulate the factory letter painting process that was used. On the black plates I could see evidence the yellow was applied on top of the black and I'm guessing it was by some sort of roller method that only touched the higher letters.

I've never seen a plate in person that was restored by one of the professional services but would like to just to see how close to original they get them. I'd like to know what process they use to paint the numbers and small letters. If they appear exact, I'd consider paying the price after the rest of the car is done.:confused:

Oddly enough when we were in CA for the Sacramento meet, we visited Folsom Prison which is where the CA black plates were made. They had samples of many different plates made there. Guess I could have asked one of the old timer residents there. LOL

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I dunno..am I the only one who thinks those vintage Cali plates look great as is? I'd leave them. Who knows...if they are sporting a little patina...they might make your Riv look shinier? If you need OK plates to be legal, I'd just buy DMV issued Antique/Classic plates and save yourself the annual registration/inspection fee and call it a day. My guess is that if you try to redo a vintage plate, the drones at the DVM are not going to understand. If it's about legality...I'd go new issue Antique/Classic...if it's about vanity...I'd go vintage Cali. Just my 2 cents. PRL

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Doing it by hand, there really is no practical way to simulate the factory letter painting process that was used. On the black plates I could see evidence the yellow was applied on top of the black and I'm guessing it was by some sort of roller method that only touched the higher letters.

This is exactly how they were done - with rollers. And it's near impossible to duplicate the look of the roller w/o using one. The next best thing I would think would be to use a sponge if you can't make a working roller.

I would love to see the results of a professional restoration up close. This matched set of Cali plates I have are a good example of the roller method. You can see how the paint on the raised parts is thinner on the flat spots and a little thicker on the edges of the raised parts.

My father worked for the NJ Dept. of Corrections for most of my life and was really good friends with the guy who oversaw the whole plate making system. He had his buddy repop a replacement plate for his Goldwing to replace the one he had been running on his bikes for a couple decades. The colors had changed, but they still had some of the old paint lying around. Dad liked to say he had the "Newest Oldest motorcycle plate in New Jersey."

Re-painting the letters is even more tedius. Not practical to mask them off to spray (though it could be done if you have the time) so it requires a steady free hand while minimizing brush strokes.

Bill mentioned the process where you spray the colors for the raised areas first, then spray over that with the background color and remove the background paint from the raised areas. There are several approaches to the removal but from what I read yesterday on different forums, this is a really good way to go about it.

BTW Bill, your car is still one of my top 3 Rivs. I just freakin' love that color.

-BEPNewt

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I dunno..am I the only one who thinks those vintage Cali plates look great as is? I'd leave them. Who knows...if they are sporting a little patina...they might make your Riv look shinier? If you need OK plates to be legal, I'd just buy DMV issued Antique/Classic plates and save yourself the annual registration/inspection fee and call it a day. My guess is that if you try to redo a vintage plate, the drones at the DVM are not going to understand. If it's about legality...I'd go new issue Antique/Classic...if it's about vanity...I'd go vintage Cali. Just my 2 cents. PRL

And this is one of the things I like about this forum - great people with different opinions and ideas and 2 cents and everyone is good with it.

One of the Cali plates I have is in pretty good shape but the other is not so good. I don't have any use for the Cali plates so I kind of have a "plan" for them. If I can do the restore on the OK plate myself and do a pretty decent job, that's really just a practice run for the Cali plates. I definitely won't mess up the Cali plates if I don't feel I have the ability to make them look good. The patina'd classic look is much better than a bad restoration in my book.

My guess is that if you try to redo a vintage plate, the drones at the DVM are not going to understand.

Cool side note - the lady at the DMV near my work is probably in her mid-60s and rather knowledgeable. She's also well-known by the patrons. It's rare that I go in there for something and someone doesn't walk in and call her by name in greeting. When I registered the 'Riv, she came out to check that the VIN matched the Title and when she saw my car she immediately smiled and said "This was the first body style of these, wasn't it? I really loved these when they came out."

-BEPNewt

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Brian,

I bought a KS plate for my '64 from this place but have yet to take it to the DMV to see if they'll let me use. I had it custom made for the same money you're going to pay to have yours restored. I made a sample of a "custom" plate just for you but it won't come through in the attached link. Using the same format as Oklahoma used in 1964, I used BP-1964 for the numbers. If OK is like KS, you just have to make sure that no one else in the state is using that number and it's yours.

Ed

Type in what you want in the space then click on the customize button to see what you'd get.

1964 OKLAHOMA STATE LICENSE PLATE--EMBOSSED WITH YOUR CUSTOM NUMBER

Impressed to see that they actually seem to know about the older sizes that California plates used to come in. And that for the 1930s they seem to have the correct letter forms which are different than modern ones.

Amused to note that they said "** Cannot be shipped to California addresses **" on the bottom of the page for the California plate I was looking.

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Brian,

Who's to say that there wasn't an original BP-1964 plate issued in 1964???

In 1964, Oklahoma did tags by county of registration. DW was Dewey, CN was Canadian, CL was Cleveland, GA was Garfield, etc. Oklahoma County was XA, XB, and so on. Tulsa County was ZA, ZB, etc. So, you are left with Beaver, BV, Beckham, BK, Blaine, BL, or Bryan, BR. No BP-1964 was issued in Oklahoma in 1964. Sorry. :(

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. . . just bite the bullet Jason, and invest the $80 !! :D

Always looking out for me, aye Randy. Easy for you to say, your car is done. :D. I have this big black hole coming up called the body shop bill.:confused:

On the note of keeping the original patina. Good point. I did consider that seriously but since I'm doing a body off resto, old bent, rusted and beat up plates wouldn't look so good.

I do agree though its best to leave them original if it works for the car they go on.

I went through the agony of surgically peeling off 40 plus years of registration stickers and was able to leave the original 1966 and 1967 stickers intact.

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I found out where the Law stands on using the old plates in Oklahoma.

1) The plate must be an official Oklahoma issued plate

2) The plate must "clear"

3) It CAN be repainted, but the colors must match

4) The plate must be at least 21 years old ( I guess so it can legally drink gas or something )

5) Must keep your normal license plate in the car

The form for applying to use one of these plates is Oklahoma Form 750-B

-BEPNewt

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I've never done it but I have an idea that someone is more than welcome to try and, if successful, call it his own. Paint the license the base color, take a scotch brite pad to all of the raised areas to give some tooth to the areas to be painted, then for a roller, use the hard rubber kind that is used in type-setting. Or, probably easier to find, a hard rubber guide roller for a boat trailer. You'd just get paint from the hard rubber surface, none of the nap of a household roller to fret about. :confused:

Ed

PS - Kansas has an Edwards county and used ED for the identifier - lucky me.

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I've never done it but I have an idea that someone is more than welcome to try and, if successful, call it his own. Paint the license the base color, take a scotch brite pad to all of the raised areas to give some tooth to the areas to be painted, then for a roller, use the hard rubber kind that is used in type-setting. Or, probably easier to find, a hard rubber guide roller for a boat trailer. You'd just get paint from the hard rubber surface, none of the nap of a household roller to fret about. :confused:

Ed

PS - Kansas has an Edwards county and used ED for the identifier - lucky me.

Rubber rollers are easy to find at nearly any art supply. You might want to ask for a "brayer" rather than (or in addition to) "rubber roller". I believe they come in different hardnesses as well as different lengths. Not sure which hardness would be best for refinishing a license plate.

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