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A Ride Back In Time - Some of our favourite cars by prefix reg (1983 - 2001)


Depending on the year that a car was issued, the style of the number plate will differ. Over the decade’s number plates have been used to identify an individual car / owner and are designed using different combinations of number and letters to make a unique registration. As well as being an identifier, these plates can reveal a lot about the vehicle they are attached to, such as the age of the vehicle.


Prefix plates were introduced to replace the previous suffix style plates and were designed with a leading letter to designate the year. 


‘A’ = 1983, ‘B’ = 1984, and so on. 


The first letter is followed by 1, 2 or 3 digits, then 3 letters. So as an example, a prefix style number plate will display as C23 HGN or F764 KLX

The final letter to be used in this style was Y in 2001. Letters ‘I’, ‘O’ and ‘Z’ are not used due to their similarity in appearance to numbers ‘1’, ‘0’ and ‘2’, and ‘Q’ regs are used for cars with questionable age or identity.

Plates using the prefix format were issued between 1983 and 2001. Here are some of our favourite cars from those years.


1985 - C Reg Year

Ford Escort

The top spot for car sales in 1985 and for 2 years prior was held by Ford. Their popular Escort model sold over 157,000 during this year. With a healthy 1.6L engine and a top speed of 104 mph, this C reg vehicle was viewed as an ideally sized small family car. The Escort remained a popular choice for new car buyers and maintained its number 1 position for a further 4 years until 1990.


1990 H Reg Year

Ford Fiesta 

In 1990 the newly remodelled Ford Fiesta neatly removed the Escort from its best selling position. Racking up slightly lower sales than its predecessor it sold over 151,000 models in the UK during its first year at the top. Smaller than the Escort and marketed as a ‘Small car for people who don’t like small cars’ made this H reg vehicle highly appealing to the general public. Slightly more economical than the Escort, the Fiesta was a popular choice as a second car or starter car.


1994 M Reg Year 

Vauxhall Cavalier

One way or another Ford dominated the car market from the 1980s to the 2000s with its lineup of models. Often coming in as the runner up was the Vauxhall Cavalier, a larger saloon car. Slightly bigger than the Escort this was a larger family car that found its place as a firm favourite for a company car, used by sales reps all over the UK. The Vauxhall Cavalier had a 20-year production run, selling over 1.6 million cars during that time. 


1999 T Reg Year

Renault Clio

While not a top place holder the Renault Clio was still an extremely popular car. A small car that featured a bit more style than the Fiesta, the Clio was voted as the ‘Best European Car’ on two occasions. Popular with women for its chic street appeal, and backed by some savvy marketing, the T reg Clio racked up sales of 63,991 over a 3 year period. In 1999 it was the UK’s 7th best selling car model and frequently jockeyed for position with the equally popular and slightly sportier Volkswagen Golf.


2001 Y Reg Year

Vauxhall Astra

The start of the 2000s finally saw a challenge to Ford’s hold on the auto market with the new Vauxhall Astra. The model was restyled in 1998 and, at the time, was better than anything else in its class. A 5 door and estate version was sold in late 1999 using the still relatively new internet, and in 2000 the popular coupe version was introduced. In the year 2000, the Y reg Astra rose to 2nd position in the UK, peaking at a total of 98,999 sales. 

Throughout this prefix car registration period Ford dominated the car market and continues to make sales in high numbers today. Vauxhall frequently claimed 2nd place with their Corsa and Astra models as ‘supermini’s’ rose in popularity, and European and Japanese models were gaining an ever-increasing foothold. Even with threats from other car marques the Ford Fiesta and Ford Escort are still the best selling cars of all time, racking up a whopping 4,132,294, and 4,105,192 in sales respectively.

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