Changes of the evidence system
The evidence system from 1953 distinguished, by the first letter from the left, passenger cars (O, P, R), utility vehicles (N, B), motorcycles (K, L, M), tractors (T, J) and trailers (V, H); at the end of the decade, the remaining letters of the alphabet were added. Second letter may have or may have not denoted the regional origin of the vehicles. The creators of this system did not suspect that at the end of 1950s, the numbers of passenger cars will match and surpass those of motorcycles. Thus, the system which was only about 7 years old fell into crisis, and a new solution had to be found. The regional coding from before 1953 thus returned, however, this time, without the one-letter land code. At first sight, the SPZs were same as after 1953 (PP-99-99), however, they had different meaning. On top of this, duplicity was introduced, the last drop to induce perfect chaos. The same alphanumerical code could be assigned to five categories of vehicles at the same time. This unbelievable practice survived up until 1994! For example, this could lead to a situation where in 1963, six vehicles with the same license plate KT-12-34 could appear at the same parking lot. First would be registered as a motorcycle in 1956, no matter where, second as a motorcycle in Klatovy region in 1963, and the remaining would be a passenger car, a utility vehicle, a tractor and a trailer, all from the Klatovy region. The license plates were not replaced en masse, instead, regional authorities tried to solve the greatest discrepancies locally Besides, the steady increase in newly registered vehicles and common turnover caused by reregistering from one region to another meant that a third number had to be added to the regional code. Thus, the PZA, ABA, OVA, BMA and other codes were born. Series once exhausted were not recycled. This meant that when the full series for the city of Ostrava coded OV-99-99 ran out, it did not start again with OV-00-01 and instead, new series OVA-00-01 started. The colours of license plates remained unchanged, only in 1970s, plates for rental cars in red and white were added. At the same time, license plates for small trailers coded 99-PP-99 or 99-PPP-99 appeared, and also the infamous “prominent” series AA-99-99 were launched. Vehicles with this license plate were exempt from the normal evidence system and they were used by the top officials of the communist regime, in the untouchable hierarchy superior even to those of diplomats. To bother a driver of such limousine for wrong parking, or trying to stop these vehicles could be rather unfortunate for such a reckless traffic warden. The Warsaw pact invasion to Czechoslovakia after August 21, 1968, deserves a mention here. The license plate registration system was among the rare areas which were not directly influenced by the invasion. The only exception was the fact that the appropriate departments at the Interior Ministry were staffed by comrades cross-checked for their political reliability. The “visiting” armies kept their military registration plates and this was so until the last Soviet troops left the country on June 30, 1991. Numbers of cars still increased and the material of which license plates were made, a special aluminium alloy, was not exactly cheap. This is why, as an economic measure, the plates were cut down in size in 1986 to 485 × 95 mm, lettering 64 × 33 mm, stroke width 8 mm, while their colours and codes remained unchanged. Shortly before that, the colours of diplomatic and foreign plates changed from red and yellow to yellow and blue. The black and yellow double-line plates with bevel upper corners were only made for tractors, and in 1994, they disappeared altogether. The dash between the letter and number section also disapeared, because from 1979, space was needed for the STK sticker (Vehicle Safety Inspection), and later for the emission check sticker. The STK sticker had funny evolution. Because the first vehicle safety inspection facilities were imported from the imperialist West Germany, the first Czechoslovak STK sticker was in fact a not very well made copy of its German counterpart, the HU sticker (Hauptuntersuchungsplakette). Then, it was remade over and over again, until our own, functional model was released, as we know it today: its validity date is marked with a pair of tweezers.

Author: Petr Marinov, Translate: Olga Neumanová
Published by TYPO (typography · graphic design · visual communication)
TYPO.28 - August 2007