California's black license plates are back in production

The original black plates were in use from 1963 to 1969, and are prized among classic car owners

The black license plates used on California cars from 1963 to 1969 are back, thanks to a piece of legislation sponsored by Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto and 7,500 paying customers.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced Monday that it has received 7,500 orders for the classic black plates -- which is the minimum required for the state agency to begin production.

Gatto's AB 1658, introduced in 2012, created the California Legacy License Plate Program. The DMV will begin production now. Motorists who've placed orders for the iconic plates will begin receiving them in two to three weeks, Gatto's office said.

The new plates, which will cost $50, can be ordered by anyone, regardless of their car's age. Black plates can be personalized, like other plates, and plates will also be available for motorcycles.

Gatto's interest in classic plates and classic cars is personal, his representatives said.

"He's a car guy," said Eric Menjivar.

Gatto once restored a Chevrolet Camaro, Menjivar said, and wanted to do something to make it easier for auto enthusiasts to restore their vehicles to a full and complete period look.

So, how good a reproduction are the  modern plates?

They're made from the same molds the original were -- molds the DMV discovered at Folsom Prison, where the classic plates used to be made.

The new ones, Gatto's office said, are still being made in Folsom Prison, where a team of 110 inmates produces a total of 8.5 million license plates a year.

The new plates will still be distinguishable from the old in one way, though: The new ones will feature reflective yellow paint on the letters and numbers, as is now required by law.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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