From the Archives: ‘Offensive’ license plate recall

Burt Blum with his personalized plate, UP URZ2
Sep. 13, 1973: Burt Blum with his personalized license plate the Department of Motor Vehicles wants to recall. This photo was published in the Sep. 14, 1973, Los Angeles Times. This image is from the Los Angeles Times Archive at UCLA.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

Sep. 13, 1973: Burt Blum, a 39-year-old Encino builder and accountant, points out his personalized car license plate that the Department of Motor Vehicles wanted to recall as “offensive.”

After Blum received a DMV license plate recall, he hired an attorney and filed an appeal.

Los Angeles Times writer Narda Z. Trout explained in a Sep. 14, 1973, article the next morning:


“A new Department of Motor Vehicles policy which provides for the recall of ‘offensive’ personalized license plates is not yet two weeks old, and it is already being challenged.

“The DMV, which began issuing personalized plates in 1970, now has the legislative authority to recall issued plates ‘if they are considered offensive to good taste and decency.’

“Last week the first recall notices were sent to Californians.”

Blum is quoted in the Times article, “I didn’t mean to be offensive, and I don’t think it is in poor taste.”

Blum added, “It is a restraint of free expression. Who has the right to decide what’s decent or indecent?”

This portrait of Blum by Times staff photographer John Malmin appeared with Trout’s story on The Los Angeles Times’ Metro section front page on Sept. 14, 1973.

There was no follow-up story in the Los Angeles Times.