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December 3, 2007

Coolpl8z.com

If our cars are extensions of our personalities, then vanity license plates are the purest distillations of those traits, our lives reduced to six or seven characters. In many states such as Virginia, Florida, and California, vanity plates are as common as Jimmy Fund plates are here, and developing creative and unique messages is an art form. In this world, Coolpl8z.com is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Benjamin Mace is its curator.

The site houses a collection of nearly 2,000 stunningly clever plates, all of which have actually been issued by a state motor vehicle department. The legends on the plates range from the creatively mundane - AFORDY7 on a 1947 Ford - to the hilariously insulting - a California tag that reads I[HEART]YRMOM.

Some of the better plates either play off the model of the car or take advantage of the special characters on specialty plates. One tag belonging to someone with no love for Big Blue uses the giant M on a University of Michigan alumni plate to spell MORONZ. Then there's the Virginia NASA specialty plate that says LOSTN. Another, on a Hummer H2, reads 1MPG.

Mace has been running the site for about two years (his own plate reads IN2PL8Z, below) and has submissions from all over the country. His favorites change over time, but there are some classics that stay at the top of the list. "There is a white Ford Bronco with NOT OJ on it that made me laugh pretty hard when it was submitted. I also like the model-specific plates: 2K1SPC on a Honda Odyssey," he says. (Get it? 2001 A Space Odyssey.)

Many of the more, ah, creative plates can't be printed in a family paper, and Mace has a special section for tags that slipped by the folks at the DMV. But others, such as the plate on a Nevada SUV that reads WUZ HIZ, and the one on the vintage Camaro reading UR OWNED are just as good. One word of advice: If you ever find yourself behind the young lady with the DUMBLND plates, turn around and drive as fast as you can the other way. Trust me.

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