Owner of vanity license plate ‘Del Mar’ willing to part with it — for a price

By Jonathan Heller


For the past 22 years, the one-and-only vanity license plate that reads “Del Mar” has been affixed to John Chambers’ 1988 Range Rover.

But Chambers, 54, said he has become disenchanted with the development and influx of out-of-state residents that has transformed Del Mar from a quiet seaside town into a bustling city. He’s fed up to the point that he wants to unload the plate to the highest bidder.

“I grew up in Del Mar and I love it,” said Chambers, who moved to Leucadia in 1994. “But it’s not Del Mar anymore.”

Of course, owners of vanity license plates can’t actually sell them. The way it works, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, is that the plate must be surrendered at a local office. The plate is then technically up for grabs. The “buyer” of the plate should be prepared to go to the DMV at the same time Chambers surrenders it to increase his chances of receiving it, said Jan Mendoza, a DMV spokeswoman.

“There is no absolute guarantee that the second person would get that configuration, however, chances are better if the surrender and reservation paperwork were submitted to the DMV at the exact same time,” Mendoza said.

Chambers said he would make the deal contingent on the buyer actually receiving the requested lettering on the plate from the DMV, alleviating any risk.

The buyer would receive two brand new plates with the current state design — not the same exact plate Chambers is surrendering.

Chambers said he plans to use word of mouth, Craigslist and eBay to advertise the plate, which he believes is worth at least $20,000.

Chambers, who owns a shop that repairs and restores vintage sports cars, thinks that the plate would likely appeal to a wide range of potential buyers, especially real estate agents.

“If you show up in a car with ‘Del Mar’ on the license plates, it’s like you own the town,” he said.

Chambers can be reached at