The story goes that just before Jaguar debuted the E-Type in 1961, the company asked the British government for an exemption from affixing the mandatory front plate. The government refused. Which is why the debut E-Type had a giant sticker on its hood reading, "9600 HP," the coupe its own sticker with "77 RW." The quest to avoid diminishing a car's leading-edge design continues to this day, and California might have provided a solution for everyone: Jalopnik reports the state now allows stickers to be used as front license plates.
It's taken nine years and five bills in the California State Legislature to get to this point, and the program is still in pilot phase. In 2013, the California Senate tasked the DMV with brainstorming ways to avoid the annual rigmarole of sending stickers and cards to vehicle owners. A company in Huntington Beach, California called License Plate Wrap presented its idea for license plate stickers to the Senate in 2014. After being approved, LPW passed a series of tests with the California Highway Patrol, then succeeded with a pilot program involving 28 fleet vehicles.
The exploratory program has been extended and opened to the public. For interested CA residents, the first step to getting on board is to make sure your registration is current. Go to the LPW site and choose from the menu of eight kinds of plates. Provide the information for the plate — the same details you'd give to the DMV, plus the vehicle's mileage. Here's the anachronistic part: LPW doesn't take credit cards, so you can only pay with PayPal or by sending a check, money order, or cashier's check. The cost is $85 plus tax, which comes to $93.89, and that's on top of the DMV fee for special plates. Delivery takes three to six weeks, and for the purposes of the pilot program, LPW needs to be informed when the wrap is installed. And seeing that this is a front plate replacement program, the sticker needs to be placed where police and cameras can still read it.
Finally, the company recommends only using the sticker on a vehicle with good paint, saying, "Removal of LPW will not damage the paint if the vehicle has original factory paint job or high quality paint."
The bill that led to the program asked the California DMV "to evaluate the use of alternatives to stickers, tabs, license plates, and registration cards, subject to certain requirements...." That's license plates in general, and California doesn't mandate stickers on front plates, only on the rear. We suspect that if this finds wide adoption among the public and by police departments, back plates could be wraps as well.