Remember These Old License Plates? This Michigan Lawmaker Wants to Bring ‘Em Back.

By Kyle Kaminski

August 23, 2023

New legislation would allow the Michigan Secretary of State to reissue specialty license plate designs that were used back in the 1970s and 80s to help fund road and bridge repairs.

MICHIGAN—State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) has a fresh idea to help Michigan bring in more cash for road repairs—but only those of a certain vintage may appreciate the plan.

McMorrow this week announced legislation that would allow the Secretary of State’s office to reissue two old license plate designs that were used in Michigan back in the 1970s and 80s. 

And if her bill passes into law, all Michigan drivers will be able to get the new plates for an extra $100.

“For countless residents, these retro license plates evoke nostalgic memories about their childhoods and the cars they grew up with,” McMorrow said in a statement on Wednesday. “Bringing back these vintage looks for modern plates will allow drivers to pay homage to our automotive history while creating a fun way to contribute to improving our roads.” 

Michigan’s old blue license plates were used from 1983 until 2007. And the all-black plates were only issued for a few years—between 1979 and 1983. Under the current law, drivers can still get those discontinued plates, but only if their car was made before 1997 and is used in car shows.

McMorrow’s legislation would make them available to all drivers.

The extra cash raised from the retro plates (which, of course, would be totally optional) would then head back to the state’s transportation fund and ultimately be used to fix the state’s roads.

In 2014, similar legislation was approved in California to offer drivers a nostalgic, 1960s-style black plate with gold lettering, which was a staple of the muscle car era. When it was released to drivers in 2015, it reportedly generated millions of dollars in added revenue for the state.

In 2021, Michigan began offering vintage-inspired “Water Winter Wonderland” license plates, harkening back to the Water Winter Wonderland plates that were offered between 1965 and 1968. The plates have quickly become one of the most popular plate options for drivers.

McMorrow has repeatedly introduced similar legislation in Michigan since she took office—first in 2019 and again in 2021. Each time, the bills have stalled out under Republican leadership.

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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