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Three Times GM Did Good Things With License Plates

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There’s something about license plates that feels like the most reluctant consideration of automotive design. Other necessary requirements of car design seem to be treated with much more enthusiasm: Lights are an opportunity for expression, grilles and heat-extraction vents offer so many ways to convey concepts and emotions visually, side mirrors and bumpers and door handles often feel like real excitement and creativity was poured into them. But not license plates. Far too often, they way plates are designed on a car feels like a chore, something your parents are making you do that you really, really don’t want to. Especially front plates. Every now and then, a carmaker decides to give a shit about license plates, and I want to note the rare times this happens. This time, let’s focus on GM, who gave some manner of shit about license plates at least three times.

Yes, three times. Three separate times some designer at GM considered the problem of license plates and didn’t roll their eyes and do the absolute minimum they had to do. Oh, and in this little roundup (which, I’ll admit, focuses mostly on American license plate standards) I’m not including flip-down license plates that hide the fuel filler, because regulations have made those effectively impossible for quite some time now, (I think the 1996 Chevy Impala was the last car to do it?) cool as they are.

One thing I’ve never fully understood is how many American-market cars seem so unprepared for the installation of a front license plate, which is ridiculous, considering that over half (31 out of 50) states require plates at the front. This isn’t some weird regulation only some backwater counties in the states of Idaho or Franklin have–it’s the majority of America, and, hell, there’s even a whole lobbying group for front license plates.

Seriously, there is.  I had no idea, but there are people who give so much of a shit about front license plates that they make maps like this:

 

So, despite front license plates being commonplace, there are still many, many cars that seem to have given zero consideration into how to mount these things, and as a result many people who give a shit about the look of their cars resist mounting front plates as long as they can. If you search YouTube for “front plate” you see a litany of videos of people lamenting about being “forced” to add a front plate or showing off tactics to mount them discreetly or temporarily or to avoid drilling holes in their cars.

Yes, drilling holes for license plate mounting is common, and is a dramatic reminder of how little many car designers care about the problem of where to mount a front plate. Even cars that do provide some sort of official bracket, like the current C8 Corvette, still find themselves with issues that no product anyone ever buys should create, as seen here in this Corvetteforum post:

Yes, the guy is complaining because something he has to do to keep his car legal also makes his car look like Adolf Hitler. If you bought an air fryer and some kind of UL code required you to modify it, but that modification made it look like a little Nazi war criminal sitting on your kitchen counter, nobody would stand for it. But it happens in cars, especially for states with dark license plates.

I think a more charitable association of the C8 ‘Vette with a light-colored plate is Bugs Bunny, but honestly that’s not a huge step up from Hitler when it comes to the image most C8 Corvette owners wish to convey.

The Corvette is hardly the only car to suffer from a front plate transforming the whole car’s look into a bunny; I’ve talked about these license plate issues before on that other site and mentioned the Miata as another recent example because, look:

Come on. That’s a bunny.

Good License Plate Thing 1: The C4 and C5 Corvettes

Anyway, GM wasn’t always this blind when it came to front plates, even for the Corvette. Look at the C4 (1983-1996) and C5 Corvettes (1997-2004), for example:

This is how you handle a license plate like a goddamn adult. You accept the reality of it, and then you do the best you can to make it work. In these Corvettes, the solution was to make the version that required a front plate the default, and instead of desperately trying to find where to stick the damn plate after the car is designed, you integrate that need into the design from the get-go.

The result? A little inset area just for the license plate, and, for the minority of states that do not require a front plate, a clean, simple, decorative panel with CORVETTE badging is set into the recess, with no shame or attempt to foolishly hide something that has no need to be hidden.

Also, note the very slight crease in that C4 Corvette’s filler panel’s center? It’s easy to replicate that on a real plate with a very slight folding of the license plate, so when it’s mounted it keeps a bit of that crease. It’s a nice, subtle touch.

If you needed the plate, it was integrated cleanly and deliberately, and if you didn’t, well, then the car still looked good and provided you with another place to remind people you own a Corvette. Everybody wins.

Good License Plate Thing 2: The Screw-Less Wonder

For a number of Buicks in the mid-1980s and 1990s, including the Park Avenue and the Riviera, you didn’t have to screw your rear license plate into crude holes punched into sheet metal, like some filthy animal, but rather all you needed to do was gently slide the license plate into a slot inside the trunk, where the plate would elegantly glide down into its specially-designed nookh, where it would remain, safe and secure.

Keeping access to the slot in the locked trunk provided more safety from theft than a normally-mounted license plate, which can be removed with a simple screwdriver. This solution was easy to use, attractive because the plate could be more tightly integrated with the body work , more secure, and, if you yourself wanted to change plates more often to undertake whatever devious plans you had, that would be far quicker to do.

This is so cool, let’s get a better picture of that slot, and how it looks in place:

Damn, that’s an elegant solution! And when the license plate is in place, it’s recessed into its little chrome-rimmed nook and looks so clean and well-integrated. I love it.

Why is this approach completely extinct today? 

Look, there’s a Rolls-Freaking-Royce Cullinan, a big ultra-luxury SUV that starts at $330,000, and it still uses garbage screws, just like my Yugo does. What a pile of crap. Have these people never seen a Riviera?

Also, nice backup camera integration, Rolls-Royce. Did you get the person who did the backup camera treatment for the Mitsubishi Mirage? Another triumph, fellas.

Good License Plate Thing 3: Let The Light Do Some Advertising

License plates add another level of complexity in that by law the rear one is required to be illuminated, so provisions for this lighting must be made. Most cars deal with this problem the same way they deal with all license plate requirements: begrudgingly and with minimum effort.

Sometimes this leads to clever solutions, like the many taillight designs over the years that have incorporated a window under the taillight bulb to “borrow” light to act as a license plate lamp (see one example to the right there), since the two both need to be illuminated concurrently anyway.

Normally, it’s the taillight bulb that is doing the altruistic work of illuminating the license plate as well. However, I can think of one – And I think it is just this one – situation where a license plate light bulb is called upon to perform an additional task. Here it is:

Yes, the Pontiac Sunfire! The Sunfire was a pretty unremarkable little car built between 1994 and 2005 on GM’s ubiquitous-yet-forgettable J platform, but the one thing these cars did was make their twin license plate light bulbs do double duty by illuminating that PONTIAC logo on the rear sort-of-heckblende plastic panel between the taillights.

It’s clever and fun! Plus, you could easily see if one of your license plate lights was out if you all of a sudden found yourself driving a TIAC or a PON.

I feel like a lot of us do a fair amount of shitting upon GM for a lot of things, but I have to give them credit where it’s due. Few other automakers have taken license plates as seriously as GM has, at least a few times.

 

(images: GM, eBay, Frontplate.org, izmocars, Warner Bros, Harbone)

(and thanks to The Autopian’s Bishop of Automotive Ephemera for research!)

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94 Responses

  1. While I was reading the fuel systems standards you linked to this stood out to me: (d) Gravity or syphon feed prohibited. A fuel system must not supply fuel by gravity or syphon feed directly to the carburetor or injector. It made we wonder what kind of maniac would crate such a system. I think your mind would have to be heavily under the influence of iron oxide.

    1. That’s how early cars worked, the Ford Model A had it’s gas tank in the cowl between the engine and driver, basically putting a gas bomb over the laps of those in the front seats. IIRC there are a few Victorian era race cars that compete at Goodwood with tanks mounted like that, IIRC the Darracq 200HP race car from 1905 has it’s mounted directly above the engine.

    2. Back in the day it might have been more common, especially with microcars. The Berkeley SE328 I have sitting in the garage awaiting restoration has its fuel tank under the engine lid and feeds the twin Amal carbs by gravity.

      1. My KV Mini 1 also has its fuel tank at the top of the engine compartment for gravity feed but with the addition of a small tube running from the fan shroud to the tank in order to provide a modest amount of positive pressure, which I suspect adds nothing of value to the process beyond supporting the claim that yes, it’s supercharged, after a fashion.

  2. Another thing — North American automakers only make room for these pathetic postcards that Americans call number plates. Those things are way too small for all the characters on them, but add some useless height that is filled with irrelevant stuff like the state motto. Even if they sell those cars in countries with sensible plate dimensions.
    Ever looked at European plates? That’s how you plate.

    1. Coming from the UK, every other countries plates seem to have ‘too small’ writing on them.
      Also, in case the massive font wasn’t enough of a giveaway, we have white plates on the front, and yellow on the back, for, erm, reasons I guess?

    2. Honestly, my call is that it’s European plates that are too big. American plates are hard to read, but you should be able to make a more readable solution take up the same space rather than increase the space to fit the current one.

      1. It’s not just another separated-by-a-common-language quirk either, there is a legal difference between number plates and license plates; the UK DVLA issues a registration number but no plates, it’s the owner’s responsibility to get those from a 3rd-party supplier (as a practical matter the dealers mostly do it but there’s a replacement market so, also parts stores?); in the US the state supplies the actual plate(s), often made using prison labor, and at one time you’d get a new set every year with the year stamped into it next to the state name so it served as a tax receipt.

      1. Italy has an interesting setup, the front plate is maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the rear. At one time it was semi-reversed as well with the region code after the serial number instead of before but that was eliminated sometime around 1980, before doing away with region codes entirely in the mid ’90s.

  3. I don’t know why I’m surprised that there is a lobbying group that is in favor of front plates, but I am. I love that their website full of “facts” that are mostly just made up reasons with no data behind them, or obviously cherry-picked data that they claim support their position. Who are these people? I’m guessing it’s mostly supported by law-enforcement types (and maybe toll collectors?), but it would be interesting to know who cares enough about this issue to actually create a lobbying organization for it. I’m detecting the aroma of astroturf.

    Would also be interesting to see an actual real study comparing the 19 states (many of which have significant population, tolling, etc.) to see if there is ACTUALLY a higher rate of any of these supposed issues such as toll theft, night-time front collisions (!!!), etc. My guess is that many of these claims would not find much support in the data.

    Torch is totally on-point here with this article. Why don’t designers consider the front plate? If car makers really don’t want to design cars with front plates, why don’t they do more lobbying in state legislatures to get rid of the front plate requirement? Maybe by purposely designing cars without the front plate, they’re hoping to create a grass-roots movement to get people to support getting rid of it in more states?

    1. Frontplate is run by 3M, which provides “Comprehensive Vehicle Registration Solutions” for state DMVs.

      Not surprised at all that a giant corporation is pushing for something pointless that will increase profit.

  4. The lack of front plate integration on some cars is thoroughly aggravating. On my 2 series I ended using a tow hook mount to avoid drilling holes and still having a plate poke above and/or below the bumper face, but then that created it’s own issue as the plate ended up blocking one of the parking sensors, so the car was constant fear of running into my license plate.

  5. I live in the two-plate state of Illinois, and my Jaguar lived the first part of its life in Arizona. Which means that when it came to me, there was no bracket, nor holes to install a bracket, on the front bumper. And I really liked it that way, so I never even tried to put the front plate on. For a while I kept the front plate in the trunk, just in case, but it’s been 11 years now and I’ve never even been warned about it. I wonder if the cops even care at this point, because front plates might be the most frivolous automotive rule I can think of.

    For the record, all my other cars wear front plates, so it bugs me, but not enough to push my luck any more than I already am.

    1. I’m amazed my Sister hasn’t gotten a ticketed for her Challenger, We’re in Illinois, but the dealer hear had to bring it in from Indiana in ’14 (It’s a purple R/T Classic) and the dealer couldn’t bring themselves to drill the holes in the front bumper, then when she got hit and the bumper was replaces, the body shop left it without holes as well. Only time I know of her getting pulled over was a rusty XJ Briarwood she had that lost it’s plate holder in an icy road incident and was going round without until she got pulled over for that and something else, just can’t remember what though.

    2. Cops like to use lack of a front plate as an excuse to pull you over then start asking where you’ve been and if you’ve been drinking and any other fishing expeditions they feel like going on. Allegedly. This certainly hasn’t happened to anyone I know.

      (It has)

      1. About a mile or so from my house, a guy was pulled over for not having a front license plate. The encounter ended with him being fatally shot in the back by the police. Meanwhile, I’ve lived in the exact same neighborhood driving my ’07 RAV-4 that hasn’t had a front plate on it since I bought it in ’09 (previous owner must have lost it, and I didn’t notice for the first couple weeks I owned it). So I’ve driven that car unmolested for thirteen years. But unlike the poor guy at the beginning of my post, I am white, and white folk don’t seem to get pulled over, let alone shot, for lacking a front license plate.

        Fuck the Pasadena police.

    3. Front plates have many uses. One of them is traffic cameras. If a camera snaps a photo of your car from the back only, you can’t see who is driving, and since you can’t pin a moving violation on the owner of the car, only on the driver, the law is SOL with that. So photos need to be taken from the front. If there is no front plate, you need an extra-complicated setup with two cameras: front to identify the driver, back to identify the vehicle. (Yes, I see the hole: motorcycles.)
      Also, automatic plate readers (to open parking garage barriers and such) always look at the front. No front plate = you can’t get in.
      Of course, with North American plates, it doesn’t make a lot of difference, since they are so small and of so low quality that they are hard to read even in person, much less on a photo, much less automatically.
      Euro plates front and back for the win!

  6. It’s things like this nonsense that made me follow you to your new home. Yesterday it hit me “Hey, where did Torch go?” Now I know, and I’m here.
    I’ve been lucky to have lived in three states that required only one plate (or as they say down south: tag) – PA, NC, and SC, with IL in with the evil majority. I’m with you, designers/manufacturers should do a better job of integrating plates, it’s not like it’s a surprise or anything. The Buick solution was pretty slick, never knew that little trivia.
    Oh yeah, the C4 face is the best ever, fight me.

  7. I have lived in numerous 2 plate states and have never run a front plate. It has never been an issue.

    Given the lack of enforcement of this stupid requirement, I am extremely happy that automakers consider “front plate solutions” an afterthought.

    The front plate will ruin the look of a car no matter what – why design a solution that will ruin the look of the car without the plate? At least give some of us a chance.

    1. It’s rarely enforced due to the difficulty of enforcing it: a officer would need to see both the rear plate to identify the state it’s registered in, and the front to realize that it is missing. At that point it’s a pain to either turn around or slow to let you pass so that they can pull you over.

      That said it’s an easy additional ticket to write if they pull you over for something else, or a pretext to pull you over if they want to investigate your car further

    2. I’ve never been pulled over in a state that requires it, for not having one, but I’ve been pulled over three times in Nebraska for not having one. Twice a Colorado plate, and once a Montana plate. Yes technically CO requires one, and MT does require it. But no one in either state really gives a dam. but Nebraska uses It as an excuse to search your car.

  8. Honestly, had my car not come with the whole mount and screws on the nose, I wouldn’t have put the thing in there. Its about time we abolish the front plate country wide, its just a waste of resources and time, when every use case is covered by, just look at the other end of the car too. Also on the topic of plates, why does it seem so few states put the county on them anymore? I always loved this on a road trip, you could tell right quick if the guy or gal you were drafting with was going your way or not.

  9. This is a distinctly American problem, not least because you have those gaudy plate surrounds advertising the selling dealer “Bob McFirearm Dodge & Chinese ATV” and screws holding the damn things on. Use Velcro!

    We did used to mock up various plates from all over the world on our models in the studio. Usually a small plinth would be used so the bodywork surfaces didn’t have to be altered.

    1. What are you even talking about. Plenty of Euro plates look like shit on cars and have dumbass mounting methods.

      And the license plate surrounds are easily removable (or if you have half a brain, ask them to never install them).

  10. >Why is this approach completely extinct today?

    The answer is in the image directly below the question.

    Automakers produce global car designs now. Note how the area for the plate will fit any plate around the world. That’s not possible to do (at least easily/cheaply/reliably) with a slot.

  11. My personal bone to pick regarding front plates:
    2005-2009 Mustang.
    GT models: smooth front bumper, looks great with no front plate.
    GT500 models: smooth front bumper, looks great with no front plate.
    *California* Special models: smooth front bumper, looks great with no front plate.

    V6 models: big ol recess front and center, smack in the middle of character lines, which looks terrible without a plate in it, and leaves behind two nasty holes drilled straight into the black plastic.

    It’s my opinion that every car should have one of those removable tow eyelets (separate bone to pick) and that the plate should mount to one of those screw-in mounts widely available on the aftermarket. If I’m gonna spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car the least you could do is include a $10 part so that when I move states my car doesn’t look ugly, or I don’t have to devalue it by popping holes in it.

  12. I realize this is Autopianland…. Not Moto- topian…. But on motorcycles the trend to minimal rear fenders is forcing both the tail light and license plate to be mounted on some strange appendage rising up from the swing arm. Totally strange look. Although mounting the plate and tail light down by the rear axle is no better.

  13. I owned a C4 Corvette for a while and never could figure out how to get that blanking plate off and mount the front license plate, so I never did. I got a ticket for it once, but I was happy that’s all the officer gave me a ticket for. I was younger.

  14. So that site “frontplate.org” is owned by 3M who makes equipment and supplies for license plates. So yes, big license plate lobby is at it again. down with them! Fortunately, I’m in a 1-plate-state, and thus I do not need to defile the front of the giant tiger nose on my Cadenza.

  15. Here in the (S) fine (/S) state of Tennessee, I have discovered two weird things about license plates. One, the state actually has a law that the license plates HAVE to be redesigned every so many years, which is weird. It means that have to send out new metal plates to people when they renew their plates. I just moved here last year, and got tags for three cars and a MC, all the “old” design. Now, TN is going to mail me 4 tags in the “new” design, just for the heck of it. I think it’s weird to have a state statute that REQUIRES plates be cosmetically changed.

    The 2nd weird thing is that the new plates are apparently not good at being license plates. :). The new plates are white lettering on a dark blue background, and apparently many LPR (license plate reader) systems used by law enforcement can’t read them very well, and especially can’t read them well at night. Great planning there!! Now they are pausing distribution of the new plates until they can figure this out. Can’t have all those little podunk county police departments losing out on revenue streams!!

  16. The solution on my 1993 Corrado:
    Drill a bracket into the front bumper and let moisture get under there and bubble the paint.

    The solution on my 2009 Jetta:
    Drill a bracket into the front grille so it cracks the plasti-chrome and let moisture get under there so it’s peels off.

  17. I love all of his topics, but can someone buy Torchinsky a Thesaurus so he doesn’t sound like a petulant teenager?
    “shit” is used 7 times for “give a shit”
    Alternates: care, consideration, thought, effort
    I’m sure there are more…

  18. When I bought a BMW new and it arrived by boat from Germany the dealer actually asked if I wanted them to drill the holes on the front because some people don’t like that, like they don’t even come drilled from the factory even though most of EU and U.S requires it? I would have expected the luxury brands would have at least figured out an elegant solution by now and then I come to see this?! Corvette has always done a good job granted, but that second slide in plate??? ????

    Every vehicle should have this, so coola Oh, and have you seen the new electric plates that are now legal in California? My Audi dealer sells them and they are actually pretty cool, but not for $1,000 a plate cool.

    1. European cars for the EU market (and Japanese cars for the JDM, and so on) do always come with front bumpers or bumper inserts that have a front plate mount built-in.

      Given that front plates are optional in the US and some people are very vocal about ‘not ruining the lines of the car’, manufacturers often make ‘smooth’ front bumpers Americans in front-plate states have to specifically drill.

  19. Go ahead and issue me a citation for no front plate. I’ll gladly pay the fine rather than drill holes into my beautiful (to me) cars. For the record, I have lived my entire nearly half-century existence in two-plate states and have NEVER been cited for no front plate. It is a dumb law and the cops know it, thus don’t care to enforce it.

    1. I don’t get why everyone in America’s so mad about front plates. Europe requires them, Japan requires them, Australia requires them, how is it such a ‘breach of liberty’? I mean, I get that U.S. plates look ugly, but that’s a different point entirely.

    2. My favorite trick when I lived in a front plate state was to take the plate they sent me, bend and scratch the bejeezus out of it, run it over in the driveway a few times, then throw it under the seat. Whenever I was questioned about it, I produced the battered plate and claimed it had just fallen off earlier that day. Once I even claimed to be on my way to the auto parts store for new fasteners at that very moment. It worked every time.

    3. Some rural county deputy sheriff pulled me over driving my wife’s e90 because of no front plate. I was fuming – I was driving the speed limit on a rural two-lane highway with no good place to pull off, and he had turned around to pull me over just because of no front plate. The car was new enough at the time that we hadn’t been back to the dealer since the plates arrived to have them mount the bracket. (In fact I didn’t even realize that the car didn’t have a front plate – for a moment I thought the plate might have been stolen or something as I didn’t believe him when he said I didn’t have one.) He gave me a warning, but at the time we were returning from a wedding ceremony with our infant son in the back seat and that stop really sucked.

  20. I find it incomprehensible that my 1932 Chevrolet ignores all of these rules and conventions. The tank is located at literally the very back of the car, protected by a 3″ wide bumper. Additionally, the filler is located on the driver’s side and is covered by a simple cap that opens with 1/4 turn. This car is so unsafe I can’t believe they allowed it to be built.

    And lets not get started on a total lack of turn signals and back up lights. Or the plate glass side windows. Or the door latches that can open with a slight bump. Or the hugely annoying “Flying Goose” filler cap on the radiator that blocks a good 2% of my forward vision.

    DEATH TRAP!!

  21. I love that GM kept the center-fill flip-up license plate design going that long. They really made the best 70’s car you could buy in the 90’s. I purchased a ’94 Fleetwood Brougham from a local dealer last year and the young salesman told me he finally had to break out the owner’s manual in order to fill the gas tank for when I picked it up. Even the station attendant had no idea where to fill it up at.

  22. I cannot recall the number of times I have had people complain about having to fit front plates.

    Probably the worst excuse is the they upset the aerodynamics!…I drive in both Europe and North America and yet the Germans seem to have no problems with front plates and they are not suffering from huge drag on the autobahns.

    Yet, I see cars here with the front plate on the dashboard ( which will of course result in deep understanding from the local Law), illegal plates made out of vinyl,reduced size plates and so on.

    I have some moderately quick cars and just slap the plates on. I agree that GM had the right idea on the examples you cite, but of course Euro plates are a different size so the design criteria are different in any case.

  23. I wonder if the switch to EV’s could be a good opportunity to hide the charge port under a flip-up license plate? I think the Leaf is the only one with a centre-mounted port (and at the front), and with modern liftover height being a bit lower than it was back in the B-body’s era, so it’s probably not happening, but could be a neat solution.

    As well, the slot for the license plate is ingenious, but probably shut down by dealers who had nowhere to put their plate surround anymore.

  24. You touch on a really good point with this article. Why are license plates still treated like some last minute afterthought, just slapped into a car’s design? Even my ’21 Kia has the plate mounts just held in place by a couple of self tapping slotted screws drilled into the bumpers. It’s not like this is just some law that was passed a week ago or whatever. Cars have been required to have them for nearly a century at this point. It makes little sense to me.

    1. A closer look reveals that frontplate.org is operated by 3M.

      Among this conglomerate’s product offerings is a little thing called 3M License Plate Capture, formerly known as PAGIS, which is a high-volume license plate capture tool for law enforcement.

  25. Torch, read through the Cornell Law link (because I get a weird kick out of reading laws sometimes, and cause its a slow work day) and I don’t think that’s the appropriate link for saying that flip down license plates are illegal? Now, before we go into any of this, I am not a lawyer and I didn’t sleep at a Best Western last night

    Closest I saw was 393.65, b, 3 – Fuel spilled vertically from a fuel tank while it is being filled will not contact any part of the exhaust or electrical systems of the vehicle, except the fuel level indicator assembly

    Thought maybe you had the wrong section, so I went back to Subpart E and then clicked on “Liquid Fuel Tanks” 393.67 and read through it. Section C, 7 specifically “i” may be it, but again I don’t see anything concrete.
    393.67, C, 7 i – Each fill pipe must be designed and constructed to minimize the risk of fuel spillage during fueling operations and when the vehicle is involved in a crash.

    If that is the relevant line, it means that it wouldn’t be illegal to have one of those just that it would be difficult to ensure that there would be no leaks in a crash, but it still might be possible to have a flip down plate covering a gas cap. And y’know, that kind of excites me.

    1. Hey! I think the reason is not specifically the flip down plate part, but because those regs state the fuel system must be at the widest part of the car, and that’s why they end up on the sides and not the rear. Also, modern safety doesn’t allow the tank to be right at the back there so a middle-of-the-back filler neck isn’t possible anymore. I guess, yeah, it doesn’t mention plates specially, though. I’ll tweak the wording. Thanks!

      1. Simpler than that, Torch.
        Filler neck at the rear plate would have fuel system components outside of the safety structure, which is disallowed. “But so’s the rear quarter!” Ah, but it’s not. That’s why the opening is so recessed in modern cars – so that it resides within the boundaries of the rear safety structure. Widest part, by the way, is interpreted as safety structure and not bodywork (Porsche 911’s prove that. The fuel tank is actually located at the narrowest point of the body work.)
        But if you want to see just how weird and largely ineffective fuel system safety actually is, go look at the underside of a Jeep Commander or WK. 22 gallon tank which is literally only secured by resting on a non-galvanized stamped steel plate which obviously rots out, and it hangs well below the unibody rail. But it’s considered “completely safe” because the tank is fully ‘within’ the unibody rails (uh,) and the filler neck is inside of the rear quarter crash structure (making filling it up a pain.)

      2. May be misreading that as well, 65,b,1 says “No part of the system extends beyond the widest part of the vehicle;” which just means it has to be recessed and behind a cover if its on the side of the car? Like the cap couldn’t get knocked off if you were squeezing through a narrow opening?

        1. Filler necks in the middle of the back of the car are out of the question as the tank needs to be forward from that, like, a lot, so it doesn’t explode on the car being rear-ended. Filler caps belong on the rear quarter of the curb side of the car.
          Here in Europe, you can tell which cars are half-arse conversions from RHD markets like Japan by looking at the filler caps on the left and single exhaust on the right, while LHD really requires the opposite arrangement.
          Why so many American cars appear to have the filler cap on the left despite being designed LHD is beyond me. Maybe someone can enlighten me?

          1. Anecdotally, I heard that Euro designed and Asia designed cars are set up so fuel can be added by someone standing on the safe side of a car stranded on the shoulder of a roadway. I.E. German cars on the right hand side, Asian on the left.
            Also exhaust routing typically dictates that the filler side is opposite the exhaust pipe. Presumably to avoid conflagration if there is a spill or overflow. There was a Martin Gardener puzzler to that affect many many moons ago.

          2. Why would it be beneficial to have all cars have it on the same side? Not all gas stations are constructed so that traffic flow around the pumps works equally well from both directions. In places where the approach to the pumps uses a line of cars (like many Costcos, due to their relatively attractive price point), it’s helpful that only half the cars are aiming for the left side of the island instead of all of them.

          3. @Halftrack_El-Camino
            Well, your Miata has it on the (correct) curb side, for the Japanese RHD market (left), and Mazda can’t be arsed to switch it to the curb side on LHD markets, so it ends up on the wrong side. That’s what I mean when I say you can identify half-arsed LHD conversions of originally RHD cars.
            With the filler cap on the right, when you pull up to a curb-side pump, you don’t have to drag the hose all across the back of the car to fill it up. Agreed, curb-side pumps are no longer very common, but there’s where the conventiom comes from. And it’s beneficial for all cars to have it on the same side. Also, if you have to fill up from a jerry can on the side of the road, having the filler cap on the curb side is very, very much safer.
            So curb side it is.

          4. Why would you want the fuel door on the curb side? When it’s on the same side as the driver, you don’t have to walk around to the other side of the car for a fill-up. I don’t see a benefit to having it on the other side? For the record, I’ve never noticed any rhyme or reason to which cars have it on which side—even American-brand SUVs sometimes have it on the curb side of the car for whatever reason, whereas my Miata—designed and built in Japan—has it on the (US) driver’s side, even for the JDM version.

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