Tiger License Plates

By Don Whitely and Bill Martin

Tiger license plates fall well below other topics in order of importance and interest, but it is none the less a subject that cannot be overlooked. In California the quest for period correct, original or replacement black-orange plates is popular conversation as is options for mounting the rear license plate. Less discussed is the usually non-existent front license plate. Front license plates are rare as is the original hardware to mount them. Yet, in California, a front license plate is a requirement. 

The following is excerpted from a discussion about Tiger license plate mounting at Rootes Group Depot with Bill Martin, Bruce McGuire and Don Whitely. The full 8 minute recording of the conversation is available below.

Tiger Front License Brackets Riff by Bill Martin

In England in the 60s all British cars ran a front license plate. They did not run a rear license plate. So, if you bought an Alpine in ‘59, ’60, ’61, ’62, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 it came with a front license plate bracket. There was no provision for a rear license plate because England did not go to a rear license plate until much later. I don’t know the exact date.

In the photograph, the top bracket is a Series 1 license plate bracket. These were a bit cumbersome so they came up with the rubber mounted design which is the first red one you see in the photograph and that was on Series IIs and Series IIIs.

Figure 1 - Alpine and Tiger Front License Plate Mounting Brackets Through the Years

Third form the top there are rubber mounts which mounted to the same spot on the valance. They started with rigid mount, switched to rubber and then back to steel mounting but changed the design of the angle bracket.

They pretty much stayed with the same design, though each country would have different requirements. The bottom one is probably a diplomatic license plate bracket.

If you look at the front valance on any Alpine or Tiger there’s two dimples and quarter-28 weld nuts in the front of the valance for the mounting of the front license plate. It was rubber mounted but it wasn’t very strong and they drooped once you hung a plate on them. So they ended up changing that to angular metal brackets. When you look at the long slots, English license plates are long and thin, so they had these long slots and that’s what the license plate went onto. But in America we have the little rectangular plate and the rectangular plate required these angular brackets to mount the license plate to their bracket.  And the weird thing was is the slots are barely narrow enough.


Figure 2 - Front License Mounting Bracket on Valence


It’s a Ridiculous Design

Are the brackets that hold the long bar welded or bolted on? They could have just spot welded the damn thing together, but they didn’t. They had to use little Philips screws that were ten-thirty-two with a flat washer, a lock washer and a nut on the backside.  On the front – the two holes are dimpled because the Philips are counter sunk – you have this weird dimple thing and you put this bracket on the back side of it and then they had to put a washer on it to make up the distance for the dimple. It’s just a ridiculous design. They did that because the British license plate is a long, flat plate and it sat flush on that thing.

Figure 3 - Front License Plate Bracket with License Rear View


The Front of Doolittle’s Car

Behind that (front) license plate there’s an oil thermostat for the oil cooler that switches by itself - its automatic - it’s made by Mocal. The oil comes into it and there is a bypass area where oil can bypass and go through everything and still flow. Then once the oil gets warm enough it opens full blast and then blows it through the oil cooler full blast.


Figure 4 - Bill Doolittle's Front License


“The horror! The horror!”

To the horror of several new Tiger owners in the ‘60s, being that it was a British car and only had provision for a front license plate, when they bought their car at the local Rootes dealership or Chrysler dealership the technician basically grabbed the license plate, drilled two holes in your deck lid and put a some sheet metal screws in there to hold your license plate on.

Norm Miller’s MK II – the holes are still in the deck lid because Norm said, “No it’s going on the way they did it.”  And the way they did it – that’s original paint on that deck lid – the way they did it is they drilled right into the deck lid. Norm said when he bought his MKI Tiger in December ’65 in Berkley, to his horror, the technician walked up with the plate and went vurrrt vurrrt into the deck lid – drilled two holes, ran the sheet metal screws into there and Norm stood there going “You’ve got to be kidding me! There’s no provision for a rear license plate?” They just screwed it into the paint, the beautiful paint on his brand new Tiger.


CA License Plate Regulation

The relevant sections of the California Vehicle Code concerning license plates is reproduced below; however, the key ideas are 

  • You “shall” have both front and rear license plates attached since two plates were issued by the DMV back in the day. If you are missing a front license Ray Ray can help you out.
  • The rear license plate, if mounted below the rear bumper, has to be more that 12 inches from the ground. Folks who mount their license below the rear bumper may be in violation.
  • You can have a cover on your license plate as long as it doesn’t obstruct.


5200.  (a) When two license plates are issued by the department for use upon a vehicle, they shall be attached to the vehicle for which they were issued, one in the front and the other in the rear.   


5201.  (a) License plates shall at all times be securely fastened to the vehicle for which they are issued so as to prevent the plates from swinging, shall be mounted in a position so as to be clearly visible, and so that the characters are upright and display from left to right, and shall be maintained in a condition so as to be clearly legible. The rear license plate shall be mounted not less than 12 inches nor more than 60 inches from the ground, and the front license plate shall be mounted not more than 60 inches from the ground 


5201. (b) A covering shall not be used on license plates except as follows:      

(2) The installation of a license plate security cover is not a violation of this subdivision if the device does not obstruct or impair the recognition of the license plate information, including, but not limited to, the issuing state, license plate number, and registration tabs, and the cover is limited to the area directly over the top of the registration tabs. No portion of a license plate security cover shall rest over the license plate number.   

     (c) A casing, shield, frame, border, product, or other device that obstructs or impairs the reading or recognition of a license plate by an electronic device operated by state or local law enforcement, an electronic device operated in connection with a toll road, high-occupancy toll lane, toll bridge, or other toll facility, or a remote emission sensing device, as specified in Sections 44081 and 44081.6 of the Health and Safety Code, shall not be installed on, or affixed to, a vehicle.  


5201.1.  (a) A person shall not sell a product or device that obscures, or is intended to obscure, the reading or recognition of a license plate by visual means, or by an electronic device as prohibited by subdivision (c) of Section 5201.   

         (b) A person shall not operate a vehicle with a product or device that violates subdivision (a).   

         (c) A person shall not erase the reflective coating of, paint over the reflective coating of, or alter a license plate to avoid visual or electronic capture of the license plate or its characters by state or local law enforcement.   

         (d) A conviction for a violation of this section is punishable by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per item sold or per violation.  


Rear License Mounting Examples

If you aren’t rocking the vintage ventilated trunk lid mounting LAT option and short of drilling a new set of holes after a body and paint re-do, there are two basic mounting choices for the rear plate: above the bumper or below. The above the bumper mounting typically utilized the trunk lid lift handle such as Sunbeam Specialties bracket, Dale’s bracke and other custom brackets. Sunbeam Specialties' license plate mounting bracket with four mounting holes attaches under the trunk lift handle (TT62 for $17.50 ++).  A two mounting hole mounting bracket is another above the bumper option I have seen, especially popular in Southern California. Below the bumper mounts are popular for the clean look, but may be in violation of California Vehicle Code requiring the distance between the license plate and asphalt to be no less that 12".


Figure 5 - Sunbeam Specialties Bracket


Figure 6 - Close Mount


Figure 7 - Example Under Bumper Mount


Figure 8 - Another Under Bumper Mount


Figure 9 - Tom McDaniel's Very Custom Mount

Figure 10 - Norm's MKII with original holes

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