I travel a lot. In 2015 I flew 238 times. I am also of Middle Eastern origin (Persian), though very much Australian. So the running joke in the CarAdvice office is that, since I’m strip-searched for what seems to be every single one of those flights, I may as well be a stripper. Though I suspect my career potential may be limited in that capacity.
The reality isn’t as bad, although I’ve taken to simply walking up to the ‘random’ explosives test at airports to avoid the pretense and awkwardness of security staff pretending they’re not patiently waiting for me to finish tying my laces before advising I’ve been “selected for a random explosive traces test”.
Yes, okay, sure. Random. I get it.
Racial profiling is a very real concept, but we are talking about cars here and, in that capacity, profiling is just as evident – though, as you’d expect, it’s as much about the make and model as it is the driver.
I’ve been in the business of reviewing cars for almost ten years, and you might guess that being pulled over by the police for random reasons is nothing new. At one point it even went beyond the cars themselves, when, many years ago now and in my previous place of residence, one of the neighbours called the police to report me for having a suspiciously significant number of different cars through the garage. The cops came, had a laugh, and then left.
As a car reviewer I drive hundreds of cars per year: performance cars, luxury cars, supercars, family cars and even people movers. Which ones do the police love to annoy the most?
Obviously, the answer is performance cars, but that, somehow, doesn’t extend to exotics – as I found out recently when I drove an Aston Martin all the way from Melbourne to Brisbane without numbers plates and didn’t have a single highway police patrol make a fuss.
I made a similar trip in my WRX back in the day, with just the front plates missing, and I was pulled over so many times that the trip seemed to take forever.
Very early this year I bought another car. A truly and utterly unjustified decision, as I hardly get to drive it, but I had been looking for it since the beginning of time, so…
When the right example came up for sale, I – as I explained to my wife – basically had no choice but to buy it. It wasn’t really a decision, merely fate taking its course.
It’s an Aston Martin Vantage N400 Coupe, of which there are only three in Australia and 240 in the world. Mine is in Karussell Orange (named after a corner at the Nurburgring), the only Australian example in that colour and one of only 48 in the world. Fair to say, I’m happy with the buy.
It’s extremely loud, like most Vantages, thanks in part to an exhaust bypass switch that opens the baffles from a standstill so it’s deafening on acceleration.
It’s also, well, loud in appearance, so when I bought it in Melbourne earlier this year, I expected to be the prime target of police everywhere.
Having decided that I’d prefer the pleasure of driving it to my base in Brisbane rather than simply truck it for the lower odometer impact, I was very surprised that instead of a license plate, I was handed a piece of paper to keep in the car that gave me a 10 day permit to drive from Victoria to QLD. Essentially a temporary exemption from a licence plate until I got the car registered in QLD.
A plate-free and very loud car, lots of tunnels with speed cameras… what is a man to do? I will leave that to your imagination.
When they handed me the piece of paper it came with a very stern warning: you will be pulled over regularly, so make sure you have this piece of paper to show immediately, or you will be in lots of trouble.
With that in mind, I was mortified to think that I would be more of a cop magnet than already possible. The truth? Not one single police officer pulled me over, the entire way from Melbourne to Sydney and then to Brisbane.
If you’re wondering, I went past 19 highway patrol and 8 standard patrol cars (I kept count), some of which drove behind me, then alongside, and didn’t even blink an eye.
Counting my lucky stars for the lack of police attention, not to mention the numerous hidden speed traps that I ‘avoided’ along the way, I finally got the car to Brisbane and put on my personalised plates – of which I only had the rear one as the front had gone missing when we moved house.
I called QLD transport and explained the situation. They told me that unless I have both front and rear plates on, it’s a $95 fine on the spot, so best I come and swap to standard plates while my replacement ones arrive… in three weeks.
Of course, I didn’t do that – as a visit to a QLD transport office is not unlike slipping into a week-long coma – and proceeded to drive around Brisbane without a front number plate for three and half a weeks, without a single police car ever caring.
In that time, I put 1500km on the odometer. It was often parked in public, and on three separate occasions, it was even parked next to a police car.
At one point in time, in Brisbane’s West End, a police car stopped and parked in front of the Aston. The officer got out, noticed the missing number plates (went to the back to check that it had something on at all) then simply walked away.
When the front plate arrived I initially contemplated not bothering to attach it. After all, any “life-saving” speed camera snaps from the front would be far more expensive than a $95 fine. However, logic got the better of me and on they went.
The reason I mention all of this is because, a few years ago, I had a WRC blue WRX with the exact same number plates, which would often get stolen for someone’s bedroom wall (at a replacement cost of $195 to me, thank you very much).
Each time the front went missing, I would get pulled over by a Police car almost immediately. The friendly officer would give me a long lecture and usually let me go, though one gave me a fine, having pulled me over three times in less than two weeks for the same reason.
Back then it really wasn’t my fault, as it would (and still does) take Personalised Plates QLD a rather long time to remake the plates and it’s far too much of a hassle to swap back to standard plates to then swap back again when the replacements arrive (and they charge you for the privilege).
So why pick on a blue Subaru but not an orange Aston Martin? Same person, same plates, and the orange car is much louder than the blue one.
Call it what you want, but a few reasons come to mind…
Either the police are constantly looking at cars like the WRX, Evo, Skyline, and so forth, to pick faults – but hardly take a second glance at other cars. Or, they figure owners of those performance cars are far easier to pick on, and make it stick if it gets to a court room, than a motorist in anything else.
It’s also possible that the policing of missing front plates is no longer as much of a big deal as it was a few years ago.
No doubt this difference in police treatment happens to plenty of people that own multiple cars, but I want to hear your experiences of unjustified police prejudice towards your car, either for being pulled over too many times or being ignored when there’s a valid reason not to be.
I am awfully aware that QLD police will no doubt now send me a nice $95 fine for missing front plates once this article goes live – and I am happy to say, officer, that your money is waiting here for you.
In five cent coins.