Strict rules apply to dealer licenses plates in Illinois

Q. While leaving church Sunday, we noticed a car driving out of the parking lot with dealer license plates. It prompted my always inquisitive wife to ask about who gets to use them, under what circumstances, how much do they cost, etc. Since I know nothing about them and don’t like to always look like a know-nothing husband, what can you tell me?

— F.S., of Belleville

A. I’m hoping the driver you saw was just taking that car for a weekend test spin. Otherwise, he or she should have spent the time in church praying the police wouldn’t be watching because there are strict rules governing where and when such plates can be used.

In Illinois, the policy is spelled out in excruciating detail in Section 1010.450 under Title 92, Chapter II, of the Illinois Administrative Code. It covers all “special plates” that are issued not only to dealers but also to manufacturers, people who transport cars and repossessers — those much-dreaded “repo men.”

People probably are most familiar with them when shopping for a new (or used) car. Before a test drive, the dealer usually will slap on a “DL” plate so the potential buyer can concentrate on the car’s power and handling rather than any flashing cherries showing up in the rear-view mirror. By filling out a form, the dealer can even allow a “prospective bona fide buyer” to take a vehicle on a one-trip demonstration drive with cargo or merchandise of up to three days.

There are other uses, too. Such plates can be used if the vehicle is being towed from a manufacturer or other seller or to a buyer. They can be used on vehicles being loaned — but not rented — to customers whose cars are being repaired, which also may explain the plates you saw last weekend. They also can be used on one truck up to 8,000 pounds that the dealer uses to haul parts necessary for the operation of the dealership.

But there are a long list of strict taboos. In general, they cannot be used on any rental vehicle, work or service vehicle or any vehicle used strictly as a personal vehicle rather than a demonstrator for customers. So, for example, a dealership owner could not give dealer plates to his kids so they could avoid license fees while driving a car at college.

The number of plates a dealer can buy depends on the size of the dealership under equally strict rules in Chapter 625 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. If, for example, you sell only one to 10 cars every year, you can buy only one set of plates under a dealership fee schedule. If you sell 751 to 1,000, you can buy 40 sets of plates while those selling more than 2,501 can purchase 90 plus 10 additional plates at each additional 500-car-sales milestone.

The cost is $45 for the first “master set” and $13 for each additional set. So a dealership selling, say, 50 cars a year can buy a maximum of eight sets for $136 (the first at $45 and seven at $13 each). If more plates are desired, it would have to pay what most drivers pay — $101 each additional set, according to Elizabeth Kaufman, deputy press secretary for the Illinois Secretary of State in Chicago. Of course, dealers also have to pay $1,000 each year for a license just for the right to sell new or used cars.

Q. Whose deep, booming voice do we hear on the current “We have the meats!” Arby’s commercials?

— Sam Moyer, of Collinsville

A. It’s none other than beefy American actor Irving Ramses “Ving” Rhames, a man who in 1998 gave his Golden Globe award, which he had won for starring in “Don King: Only in America,” to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon simply out of generosity.

Born to an auto mechanic and homemaker in Harlem, he would discover his love for acting at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts and graduate from the prestigious Julliard School. He was named for NBC journalist Irving R. Levine, of all people, and was convinced to shorten his first name to “Ving” by fellow acting student Stanley Tucci.

In addition to playing the flamboyant boxing promoter, Rhames has earned many other award nominations for his work in “Rosewood,” “Baby Boy” and “Mission: Impossible II.” In 2005, Rhames, who will turn 56 next Tuesday, played the lead role when USA resurrected “Kojak.”

Today’s trivia

Under what circumstances was the term “Air Force One” chosen as the call sign of the presidential airplane? What was the nickname of the first plane used by a chief executive?

Answer to Tuesday’s trivia: Wouldn’t it be fun to go back to the old days when you really didn’t know who a party’s presidential candidate would be before its convention started? Unfortunately for lovers of true political suspense, that hasn’t happened since 1952, when Democrats gathered at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago.

The convention saw four viable candidates still in the race: Sens. Estes Kefauver and Richard Russell, Averell Harriman — and Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson claimed he was not a candidate, but he gave such a rousing welcoming address that Jake Arvey, the leader of the Illinois delegation, quickly convinced him to throw his hat into the ring.

The first two ballots saw Stevenson win only about a quarter of the votes, slightly trailing Tennessee’s Kefauver each time. But President Harry Truman thought nominating a Southerner would lose both black and Northern white voters in November, so he convinced Harriman to drop out and back Stevenson.

On the third ballot, Stevenson finally eked out a majority of 617.5 votes (50.2 percent) to win the nomination. He would be whomped by Dwight Eisenhower (442-89 electoral votes) in the fall, and it would be the last time any political party would take more than one ballot to choose its candidate.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or call 618-239-2465.