Ford Model A Pickup Restoration March 2016

This month I will tell you something about early Swiss license plates, especially the ones from canton Zurich. The following information is from but the real expert and 'Plates Doctor' which has followed up all the details and knows best until 1932 is Christian of course (unfortunately without a personal homepage).

I don't go into details, only the most important milestones are listed.

Early Swiss License Plates (1904 - 1932)

On 13th of July 1904 the Swiss Automotive concordance was founded. The target was to establish uniform regulations over all Swiss cantons regarding equipment of motor vehicles.

The exact specifications for license plates were defined on 6th of February 1905. On one hand, the Swiss emblem and the one of the canton was defined and each canton got it's own unique number range. The Canton of Zurich got the numbers 1-1000. The full range for whole Switzerland was only from 1-9999 and therefore smaller cantons got less numbers like Zug which had the range from 3301-3400 and bigger cantons like Bern got over 1,000, namely from 1001 to 2200. The color of the plate was black with white numbers.

Six years later, in 1911 several cantons had reached the end of their number range and they used an additional character as a number suffix. The actual bottleneck was solved for the time being, or at least postponed.

To better read the plates especially at night, the cantons changed step by step to white plates with black numbers. In the canton of Zurich it was in 1925 and the plate with number 101K was the first white one.

In 1932, the cantons decided to cancel the existing concordance and to regulate all car relevant issues in a new Swiss wide law. This was the end of the old number plates with restricted number range and the beginning of today's Swiss license plates with the initials of the canton plus a number (ZH xxxxx).

Mechanical details regarding old number plates from Zurich

Ford Model A Restoration Project March 2016

The number 824L was on my Model A at the early 30s and is now in front of my radiator again. Of course it has no official function anymore and I need an official number plate on the car for driving on the street.

Ford Model A Restoration Project March 2016

These plates were made of sheet metal and not aluminum like today. The Swiss cross was sublime and not recessed like today. This is probably one reason why the plates were painted by hand.

Ford Model A Restoration Project March 2016

On the back are 2 narrow sheet metals riveted to the plate for stabilization.

Plate size per Canton

Ford Model A Restoration Project March 2016

Regarding size, almost every canton had its own dimensions. In this spare parts catalog of 'Henry Bachmann', I have found plate holders with the different sizes for each canton.

Ford Model A Restoration Project March 2016

Here we see that Zurich (480x130 cm) and Basel (490x130 cm) had the largest number plates. In Zurich also the front and rear plate was identical in size.

PS: I'm still looking for a 1931, 1932 or 1933 Swiss 'Automobil Kalender' (license plates directory of the relevant years). If anyone has such a book for sale, please contact me.

That was a historical report this month, but it belongs also to the history of the car. But next month I'll go further with the construction of accessories for my Ford Model A.

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