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Useless Car Trivia Question: Why Did This Car Have Three License Plates?


I bet everyone reading this is looking for just the absolute right thing to say to someone special in their lives, a partner or crush or colleague you wish to impress, perhaps a prison guard you want special favors from or an orderly you want better pills from. The good news is that I have exactly what you need, right here: a choice morsel of top-grade automotive trivia, all but guaranteed to put you in the good – no, best – graces of anyone you tell it to. It’s this: why did the Citroën ID/DS Break need three license plates?

Well, three in Europe, and 31 out of the 50 States of America. Definitely two rear license plates no matter where you were. What’s going on here? Why would this car need an extra license plate at the rear? There’s a hint of the answer in this picture:


It’s subtle, but do you see the extra license plate there? It’s laying flat, at a 90° angle to the normally-positioned license plate there. So, why, exactly, would you want a secondary license plate facing up? Is it to be more cooperative with police helicopters?

To understand why, we must understand the car, at least a little bit. The Citroën DS or ID (basically two trim levels of the same car, the DS being the higher-spec one) was available as a wagon, which the French like to refer to as a “break,” which comes from the French term break de chassewhich means “hunting break,” where “break” refers to a kind of horse carriage used to break horses, and, I guess, also carry people with guns who want to shoot animals in the woods.

Anyway, Citroën’s wagon design included a nice clamshell rear hatch-and-tailgate combo: