Cataloguing in Gippsland

Musings of a Cataloguer at Large in Gippsland. Just personal thoughts - absolutely no bearing on the thoughts of any organisation with which I am working.

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Location: Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dating Car photos

I have been doing a bit of work with "Doc" Doherty from the Gippsland Vehicle Collection at Maffra to date various photos, and the tip below is one that he often passes along. In this case, he was dealing with this photograph of a car in front of the hotel at Cobannah, from the Stratford collection.


This is what Doc wrote: The car is definitely a Buick tourer (soft top). Buicks from 1924 to 1927 would match the car in the photo as their general frontal appearance did not change much during that period. If it is a Victorian registered car then it most likely is a 1927 model as the number 133086 was issued during that year.

You may notice that the number plate does not have V I C vertically down the left hand side. Prior to 1932 the ‘VIC’ was not used , and the plates not supplied by the Motor Registration Branch of Victoria. Prior to 1932 it was up to the owner to make or purchase commercially manufactured plates once they were allocated their cars registration number. Naturally, up until 1932 there were various styles of plates, but with numbers of a designated size & white numerals on a black background.

The number plate then , while it does help to confirm the year of manufacture of the car, does not , in this case help us much to date your photo. The requirement to have a Motor Registration Branch of Victoria issued plate with the ‘VIC’ down the left hand side only applied to NEW registrations from 1932 on. A car manufactured prior to 1932 could retain its original number without the VIC’ providing the rego was paid & kept up to date. We can probably assume therefor that this Buick had been continuously registered with this same number from 1927 until the date of this ‘photo. The mens’ clothing could date it anytime from the late 1920’s to ...? Photo is too ‘grainy’ to show wear & tear of car, which can sometime narrow it down a bit

So, when you have a photo of a car that shows a number plate, if it has the V I C down the side, it must be after 1931. Thanks Doc!


Blogger Infolass said...

The Association of Motoring Clubs is a good resource if you want to take further steps in identifying historic cars. Contact details at

October 26, 2011 at 1:02 AM  

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