By on September 25, 2020

Image: Keith Bell/

If you’re of a certain age, you likely remember the all-blue Michigan license plates with white lettering.

I know I do, despite not being a Michigander. That’s in part because the Great Lakes State wasn’t too far from my suburban Chicago abode – day trips to New Buffalo remain a treasured memory – and in part because enough tourists from the Wolverine State found their way to my fair city.

Now, those plates may be coming back. State senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) has introduced a bill (Senate Bill 1146) that would bring back the white-on-blue plates, as well as the white-on-black, as an option for an additional fee of $100. The money would go towards the state’s transportation fund, presumably to fix Michigan’s broken infrastructure.

As someone who lived briefly in the state years ago, and has spent many a minute in the Mitten, especially the DTW area, due to this career, let me just say, the state’s roads need a fixin’.

And before you @ me about how it’s not much better here in northeast Illinois, which is true, keep in mind that if Michigan roads weren’t so bad, Fiat Chrysler wouldn’t try to replicate them at its proving grounds as a way of testing suspensions. But they are and it does.

Michigan does already allow vintage plates that display a classic car’s model year, but those plates come with restrictions. If this bill passes, Michigan would be allowing any driver to get these plates as standard.

California brought back its yellow-on-black classic design in 2015 and attempted to also bring back the yellow-on-blue, before the yellow/black combo won out in terms of popularity among car owners. Oregon and Nevada also offer vintage designs.

As an Illinois resident, I’d love to see the plates made famous by John Hughes’ flicks return. Still, these are cool plates and the idea seems a tidy way to generate much-needed revenue without raising taxes elsewhere. Unless no one orders them, that is.

There’s also a minor connection to our little blog world here, as McMorrow is married to ex-Jalop EIC Ray Wert. Full disclosure: She also appears to follow TTAC on the Tweet machine.

Retro all the plates.

[Image: Keith Bell/]


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

22 Comments on “Will the Mitten Get the Blues? Michigan Looks Anew at Old License Plates...”

  • avatar

    I mean, I liked my white on blue plates. I didn’t like that I had to turn them in and get the new style plate (nor did I like that I had to get perfectly good plates replaced at ten years), but I don’t $100/car miss them.

    • 0 avatar

      When did they start requiring you to turn in the old plates in Michigan? My folks wouldn’t have been able to save the Bicentennial set off my Mom’s’71 Cutlass if that were so! I know they’ve still got several old PL8 sets floating around someplace, and I have my Grandmother’s last set before she moved to Ohio and stopped driving, the ones with the Mackinac Bridge across the top.

    • 0 avatar

      If only we could keep our plates for 10 years in Minnesota. We currently have to replace them every 7 years and pay $12.50 for the privilege.

      Unless you have one of a few alternate, cost-added designs, the numbering scheme goes 123-ABC to ABC-123 and vice versa every 7 years.

      • 0 avatar

        Fellow Minnesotan here. To our credit, Minnesota has had a very nice license plate design since the 80s. I can’t say that any of our older plates were cool, like California. Maybe I just remember being bumper high and seeing the old blue or green on white, surrounded by rust.

        • 0 avatar

          The Minnesota design has actually been around since 1978, with little changes over the years. Replacement is required every 7 years because over time they rust/corrode. I have had many vehicles where the MN plate was rusting/corroding and I had to cut it off the car because the bolts rusted on. The transportation commissioner once said, every time we switch from “ABC123” to “123ABC” we have literally millions of different configurations.

          If you look at Wisconsin vehicles, the plates are sometimes impossible to read. I am not sure how often they replace theirs.

          Also until recently, North Dakota had the same design from 1993. Sometimes you’d see cars with plates from 1993 with literally 20 tabs piled on. The plate was so faded you couldn’t read it.

        • 0 avatar

          As a car obsessed child, I kept all of my parents retired plates. My son was able to register my green on white MN plate (stamped 68 with 1969 and 1970 tabs) on his 69 Torino.

  • avatar

    I left Michigan permanently about 6 months before I was going to be required to get the awful new plates (2007). I wouldn’t say those plates were the motivation for my departure, but I’m glad I never had to get them.

  • avatar

    I dated a gal in New Buffalo a while back, very nice area!

  • avatar

    Do it! One of the all-time classic license plates. I’m biased as I spent many years as a child when everyone had these.

    The funny thing is as an Idahoan for 26 years….the license plates are still the exact same as the day I moved there. Only change is leading letter went full size maybe 15 years ago and they switched to printing instead of pressing. Design is exactly the same.

    Its funny then when you go to, say Indiana and they seem to change every few years. I think maybe Alabama is another I remember always changing.

  • avatar

    The plate design choice award has to go to Florida. They have many of great plates.

  • avatar

    I know another state that brought back the past but in a very unsuccessful way, NY!
    Back in 2010, the yellow plate came in and as usual, you would be required to get it with registration renewal but as New Yorkers protest against it, saying it’s super ugly, a decision was made to let people stay with the old white plates as long as they are not damaged.
    About one year ago, NY state came up with an idea of letting people vote for the new plate for 2020, they came up with 5 or 6 different ones, all look almost the same and one was chosen but again, people protest and again the state of NY decided you can stay with the old one.
    So, now, we have 3 different ones, all of them perfectly legal !

  • avatar

    Blue plate special harkens back to the 80’s…back in that pre internet era, certain areas of NYC, by word of mouth, one could find the Weed, or other.

    Now, New Jersey had blue and beige, and CT had blue with white. The Blue Plate special were all those out of state folks, usually in nice cars, who dropped in for a buy and were gone.

  • avatar

    As nice as those plain ones from Michigan are (as well as the classic California retro designs they brought back), I like the past two designs from Ohio for their simplicity, but wouldn’t like to see a comeback of the white-background, red/blue/green characters from Ohio in the ’70s and ’80s.

  • avatar

    I’ve never been willing to pay actual money for a special plate of any kind. My state used to issue “antique” never expire plates for anything over 25 years as long as you also had a second vehicle registered. I’d be up for it this year, but some boomer legislator with a “real classic car” collection – IE a half dozen or so 50’s Chevys, saw something from the 80’s driving around with an antique plate and got all incensed and put forth a bill. It passed nearly unanimously because, you know, it wasn’t “controversial” like anything solving a real problem would be.

    Now it’s 45 years. My parents are boomers, I love them dearly, but it’s time for the boomers to step off as it were. I get why the kids are annoyed by them.

  • avatar

    Florida has over 100 specialty plates, each benefiting a cause or organization. My wife chose a manatee plate for her car. I got stopped for speeding while driving her car and the cop also pointed out that the plate frame obscured the lettering for the state. The plate had a giant manatee on it. Perhaps he confused it with the similar plate from New Jersey.

  • avatar

    As a Michigan resident, while I have nothing against the blue and white plate, PLEASE DO NOT BRING IT BACK !! Give it a rest! We had that plate from what the 1980’s or so. We had it so long we ran out of combinations and had to flip the characters and numbers. How about something different? Personally, I pay the extra $5-$10 for the Mackinac Bridge Plate or the Spectacular Peninsulas Plate. Much nicer.

  • avatar

    Back in the 60s, the plates were issued every year and the slogan used to alternate between Winter Wonderland and Water Wonderland. We used to say they needed a third one “Welfare Wonderland”.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • EBFlex: Oh thank god. Now that this liberal mouth breather has fox all of NYCs problems, he can focus on the real...
  • namesakeone: Can you extend the life of the car by installing a replacement fuel cell?
  • Lightspeed: SUVs are not my thing, but the last time I drove a Tahoe was a 2018 rental with the 5.3L and I loved the...
  • Lou_BC: These bikes are unlicensed and unregistered, it might be possible to trace the owner once you had the bike...
  • Lightspeed: I don’t think anyone makes attractive cars anymore, but I give KIA/Hyundai credit for making cars...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber