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Michigan may bring back its blue and black, retro cool, license plates

license plate tha's blue with "Great Lakes" on the bottom
Michigan drivers could once again get the longstanding blue “Great Lakes” plate that was issued from 1983 to 2007 or the black “Great Lake State” plate used from 1979 to 1983. (Courtesy)
  • Senate bill would bring back blue and black license plates issued in the 1980s and 1990s 
  • The legacy plates would cost $100 and benefit Michigan roads
  • More than 1.1 million Michigan drivers have picked the vintage-inspired ‘Water-Winter Wonderland’ plate released in 2022

“Water-Winter Wonderland” not your thing? Legislation pending in the Michigan Senate would resurrect two other classic license plate options for drivers to choose from along with more modern designs. 

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, would bring back the longstanding blue “Great Lakes” plate that was issued from 1983 to 2007, as well as a shorter-lived black “Great Lake State” plate used from 1979 to 1983. 


The effort builds off of the release of 1960s-inspired “Water-Winter Wonderland” plates, based on the maize and blue models issued to all Michigan drivers between 1965 and 1968.  They have sold more than 1.1 million since their re-release in 2022, McMorrow told lawmakers Tuesday.


Drivers can get the “Water-Winter Wonderland” plates for the same price as other standard options, $5 plus the cost of annual registration fees. Other collector plate options include an additional charge that benefits universities, nonprofits or American veterans, depending on the plate. 

Under McMorrow’s bill, introduced in coordination with Michigan’s Department of State, the two new legacy plates would cost $100 — and instead of donating the extra money to a cause, the funds would go to the Michigan Transportation Fund for road repairs. 

McMorrow said the proposal would create “a unique way for drivers to accessorize their car, celebrate our car culture and help us fix our roads by generating potentially millions of dollars of additional revenue without raising taxes.” 

McMorrow told lawmakers that she’d be willing to negotiate the $100 fee to maximize the number of drivers who would make the switch. But she said it’s a hot topic among her constituents.

“I've had countless conversations with car enthusiasts over the past few years who saw this bill in the news and want to know, more than anything else we're working on: ‘When can I get the blue plate?’” she said. 

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, suggested during the hearing that the state could take an alternative route: bring the blue plate back for good as the standard plate option. 

“I’m just saying, why not keep the specialty plates whatever they want, but do away with the other state standard plates and just go back to this plate?” he asked.

Michigan’s Department of State could incur additional costs if the proposed legacy registration plates were approved, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency. The agency also noted it’s not clear what exactly the money could be used for once it hit the Michigan Transportation Fund.

The legislation remains pending before the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and would need to pass both the Senate and House and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

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