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Transportation General

Tales from the Back Bumper

A Century of BC Licence Plates

by (author) Christopher Garrish

foreword by Gordon Campbell

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
Apr 2013
General, History, Post-Confederation (1867-)
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2013
    List Price

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Buckle up your seatbelt and prepare for a ride on the history highway! Christopher Garrish has collected hundreds of facts and photos (not to mention licence plates) in this astonishing assembly of motoring madness. Discover what the earliest motorists in the province used to build their own licence plates; why some licence plate numbers are worth waiting in line overnight for; which offensive acronym slipped under the radar and found its way onto a licence plate before authorities recalled it; and dozens of other entertaining anecdotes.


Whether you’re a car connoisseur or a tailgating trucker, you’ll find that Tales from the Back Bumper is more than just an ABC-123 account of licence plates. This book is not only the definitive guide to everything from plate prefixes and decals to provincial slogans and vanity plates, but also a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how cars—and by extension licence plates—have played a part in our exploration and navigation of “Beautiful British Columbia” for the past hundred years.

About the authors

To distract their young son on a cross-continental car trip, Christopher Garrish’s parents encouraged him to illustrate all the different licence plates he saw. Thirty years on, Chris still finds himself scanning for plates and recording what he sees on his award-winning website, He has also published articles on British Columbia history in BC Studies, British Columbia Historical News and Okanagan History. Chris, his wife, Heather, and his two daughters—whose names can be spelled in both English and Licence Plate: K8 (Kate) and 3MM4 (Emma)—live in the Okanagan Valley.

Christopher Garrish's profile page

Gordon Campbell's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This is not just a book of licence plate illustrations; it is a fascinating history of BC, automobiles, government regulations, travel, and transportation . . . A well documented, well illustrated book." —BC Books for BC Schools

"This book will appeal to a popular audience and to historians who are interested in government agencies, bureaucratic monitoring, and the everyday iconography of British Columbia." —Ben Bradley, BCStudies

Much more than a list of colors, photos, and tables of types, this book sets a new level for a history book around a jurisdiction . . . this is a must-have for every collector.” —Jeff Minard, Plates magazine

What a treat! Who knew our humble licence plates were once made of leather—even porcelin? Who knew that a handful of letters and digits could tell so many stories? From WE-LOG to MY-XTC—a century's worth of wacky licence plates from Canada's wackiest province. —Arthur Black, author and broadcaster

The book is full of interesting stories and facts . . . a wonderful gift for any vehicle enthusiast. . . . I don’t want to give away all of the incredible research that has gone into this fascinating book, so I suggest you buy a copy. I couldn’t put it down until I finished it from cover to cover. —Nigel Matthews, the Province