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Mahoning is in the Top 10 of Ohio counties for historical vehicle plates

Published: 1/2/14 @ 12:00


By RICK ARMON

Akron Beacon Journal

AKRON

Tom Ciccarelli can’t imagine life without his red 1967 Ford Fairlane.

His late father, Patrick, co-signed so he could buy it new from the former Conn Ford.

Ciccarelli and his late wife, Carolyn, took memorable trips together to car shows.

And the retired 66-year-old from Cuyahoga Falls plans to pass the prized possession — with only 29,000 miles — along to his kids when he’s no longer around.

“Nobody could put a price on that, you know?” he said. “I’ve had crazy offers on it, and everybody looks at me and says, ‘Why wouldn’t you take $25,000 for that car?’ You can’t replace something like that.”

Such is the emotional attachment and passion people feel for their historical vehicles, especially in Northeast Ohio.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has issued about 360,000 historical plates statewide, with more than 151,000 based in Northeast Ohio. Overall, there are 11.8 million vehicles registered in the state.

Vehicles only have to be 25 years old to qualify.

Cuyahoga County, the most populous in Ohio, leads the state with 31,147 historical plates, according to a Beacon Journal analysis of state data.

Franklin County is second with 23,963, and Summit County is third with 22,225.

Northeastern counties Stark (16,491), Lorain (12,392), Lake (10,892) and Mahoning (10,611) also are in the top 10. Medina is 11th with 9,262.

The number of historical plates issued doesn’t surprise collectors.

“Once you’re a gearhead, it’s in your blood,” Rich Cragle, 44, of Springfield Township, said about the passion that comes along with owning an older vehicle.

He has two pickups: a 1976 Ford F-150 and a 1975 Ford F-100.

Ciccarelli has owned “umpteen hundreds” of vehicles through the years: Cadillacs, Lincolns, Chevys, Pontiacs and Dodges. He’s partial to Fords.

“You see something, you really like it, and you buy it,” he said.

Ohio started offering historical plates in 1953 for vehicles that were at least 35 years old. That restriction dropped to 25 years in 1973.

Drivers pay a one-time fee, a little more than $30, then don’t have to renew the plate.

The only catch is that these vehicles are supposed to be used only in parades, tours and collector-club activities and not for general transportation.

Because owners never have to renew the plate, BMV officials aren’t sure if the 360,000 figure is an accurate representation of historical vehicles in Ohio.

Some of those vehicles might have left the state or even been scrapped since the plate was issued, they said.

The number of plates issued in Northeast Ohio isn’t surprising, given its strong automotive history, said Derek Moore, the curator of transportation history at the Western Reserve Historical Society, which runs the Crawford Auto-Aviation Collection.

That history includes such former car companies as Packard, Peerless and Chandler, and current Ford and General Motors plants in the region.

“A lot of those people who work for car companies tend to be people who enjoy cars,” Moore said. “So a lot of those people get into the collector-car hobby, and that’s a big part of why Northeast Ohio is collector-car heavy, because of the history of this area.”

Some interesting facts about historical plates:

Vinton County in southern Ohio has the fewest with 253.

Ohioans are most fond of vehicles from the late 1960s, with the top five years being, in order: 1966, 1969, 1967, 1965 and 1968.

The most-popular decade for historical vehicles is the 1960s, with 113,926 plates issued.

“That doesn’t surprise me because of that baby boomer generation,” Moore said. “The ’60s is probably their first cars as young adults, and they are going back and living that nostalgic era of their life and trying to find the cars that they owned when they were younger.

“And also there’s an abundance of American cars in the late ’50s and ’60s era. Those are the cars that have survived, along with the ‘muscle car’ era.”

Five plates are issued to vehicles built in the 1800s.

Chevrolets rule.

BMV records are poorly kept when it comes to brand and model identification.

Some brands, for example, are entered as “CHEV” and others as “CHE.”

Many don’t even list a model.

But there are at least 105,633 Chevrolets and 73,928 Fords with historical plates. Pontiac is the third-most popular at 17,217.

Some of the vehicles with historical plates might not match your vision of a historical vehicle.

More than 48,550 vehicles from the 1980s have a historical plate — 13 percent of the total.

“It has now reached a point where cars from my childhood are getting historical plates on them, so it’s getting very weird,” Moore said. “It is odd to go out and see a 1980 Chevy with historic plates on it. It doesn’t seem quite right, but it’s the rule and that’s what they deem as a classic.”

Some motorists with historical plates are abusing them and using their vehicles every day, collectors said.

“I see it all the time,” said Jason Burdette of Barberton, who restored a 1972 Ford Galaxie into a police car.

Those owners think it’s a way to avoid paying an annual registration fee, he said.

At first, David Schultz, the former executive director of the Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles and a collector who has four cars from the 1930s, was surprised to learn there are so many historical plates issued in the state.

Then he thought about it and concluded it isn’t that shocking at all, given the fact that vehicles have to be only 25 years old and that number is always growing.

Moore said it’s nice to see so many historical plates issued.

“It’s great to hear that people are keeping the cars and saving them,” he said.