DMV bringing back California's black and yellow license plates

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You may be seeing California's classic black-and-yellow license plate on the road again soon.

Under the state's new legacy license plate program, the Department of Motor Vehicles is offering motorists a chance to buy one of three classic designs, but only if enough preorders are placed before the end of the year.

The black plate with yellow lettering — used in the 1960s — was the first plate to meet the minimum 7,500 preorders by a Jan. 1 deadline. That means the DMV can move forward on processing orders and manufacturing the plates.

A yellow plate with black lettering from the 1950s and a blue plate with yellow lettering from the 1970s are also being considered, but they haven't met the threshold yet.

"I'm not sure why more people wanted the 1960s plate," said Jessica Gonzalez, a DMV spokesperson. She said the department is still taking preorders for the other two designs, "but I guess there's a lot of people out there that want a 1960s car that want to try to make it look as authentic as possible."

The program was created under Assembly Bill 1658, which was backed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and enacted in 2012. Any design that meets the minimum preorder requirement will be made available for $50 as a special order. The price is the same for sequential — that is, a state-assigned number — or personalized, "vanity" plates.

The special plates can be preordered for any year automobile, commercial vehicle, motorcycle or trailer, Gonzalez said.

Purists should note the plates will be slightly different from the originals. 

"We're trying to keep as authentic as possible, but there are new laws now in place where the plates have to be reflective, and back in the 1960s they didn't have to," Gonzalez said.

Anyone interested can grab a preorder application from the DMV's website. You can't file online, though, and field offices aren't even accepting the applications in person. Instead, you have to download, print and return the form by mail.

As of Friday, there were 1,820 preorders for the 1950s yellow plate and 1,473 for the 1970s blue plate. That leaves a pretty big gap, but there are still months to go.

With contributions from Ashley Bailey and Brian Frank

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