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You, Your Euro License Plate Aren't Cool: My Automotive Pet Peeves, Part 2

Automobile logo Automobile 2015-02-26 The Manufacturer, Marc Noordeloos, Joseph Capparella

2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States© Provided by Automobile 2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States

Last month, I wrote about some of my automotive pet peeves. This month, it’s time to get personal -- as in “personalized” cars. Some owners’ tweaks are tasteful, but many of them are cheesy. Since I consider myself astute at separating the good from the bad and the ugly, I humbly present you with these warnings:

Decals and Stickers

porsche-918-spyder-prototype-martini-racing-front-three-quarters-view-at-speed© Provided by Automobile porsche-918-spyder-prototype-martini-racing-front-three-quarters-view-at-speed

Martini livery on a vintage Porsche 917 looks fabulous, but it’s not at all cool on a new Porsche 918 Spyder. And such logos don’t always travel well. I learned this the hard way from my first trip to Europe, in 1999, when I sorted the logistics and ran a support vehicle for an American with a 1954 Ferrari 250 GT Europa in the Mille Miglia Storica. I fell in love with the event gear -- all the wonderful logos and exotic sponsors. The clothing looked amazing in Italy, and I bought a boatload of it. Then one evening back in America, I threw on a Mille Miglia jacket for a night out on the town. A quick check in the mirror revealed the fact that I looked like a moron -- well, more of a moron than usual. The lesson here is that certain designs only work in certain environments. Keep the Martini logo at the racetrack and in your liquor cabinet. 

Personalized License Plates

  2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States© Provided by Automobile 2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States

Hey, you in the 911 Turbo, I know your Porsche is wicked fast and expensive, but must you announce your 0-60 mph time on your license plate? And it’s not just rich guys in all-wheel-drive performance cars with automatic gearboxes and leather-covered gauge clusters who are guilty of this. Mini drivers seem to lead the pack with the most vanity plates per capita. MNI ME, ACTUL SZ, PNT SIZE, MOTORON, BULLDOG, OPENJCW (above) -- it’s all just a bit too cheeky for me. The car should be about the driving experience, without a plate that shouts its image to other motorists. Better to run under the radar and not call attention to myself. I owned a first-BMW-generation supercharged Mini Cooper S because it was brilliant to drive, not because I could join a club and use the car as a canvas for stroking my ego.

Aftermarket LED Running Lights

  2015 Acura TLX LED Headlight Closeup© Provided by Automobile 2015 Acura TLX LED Headlight Closeup

Stock LED daytime running lights on new cars aren’t my issue. I find some of the designs a bit too over the top, but I understand why the lights exist: European Union safety laws. Plus, these lights allow automakers to give their cars identity through a unique fascia profile. It’s the aftermarket additional LED lights that boil my blood. I recently spotted a 2001 or so (B6) Audi A4 with some choice additions. The middle section of the front bumper was blacked-out, a poor attempt to replicate the trapezoidal grille fitted to newer versions of the German sedan. A pair of Pep Boys-style LED lights were drywall-screwed into the bumper. Classy. I know many people can’t afford the latest models -- me included -- but why ruin the looks of an older car by tacking on crap? It’s a question nearly as old as the automobile itself.

European Front License Plates … When Not in Europe

  2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States© Provided by Automobile 2014 Mini Cooper Mini Takes the States

Michigan, thankfully, is one of the 20 states that don’t require a front license plate, so we can enjoy a car’s clean, uncluttered front profile. So why do some car guys and girls insist on tainting their vehicles with thin, long European front license plates? I know the owner of a Saab 9-3 who runs a Swedish license plate in the front. He’s a super nice guy, but he’s naive when it comes to car modification. My friend had a “Born From Jets” front plate on the 9-3 before this latest ghastly addition. He’s not Swedish and I don’t think he’s ever been to Scandinavia, but he sure wants you to know his car is from the land of IKEA and ABBA. It falls on deaf ears when I remind him that his 9-3 is a rebodied Opel. I wish European-style license plates on cars in the U.S. were as rare as the Saab 9-4X crossover.


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