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In this weeks interview, I talked to Shawn Mahaney, owner of Restore A Tag. You may remember Shawn from a short SEMA interview in 2013 where we discussed the restoration he had performed on my original 1964 Kansas license plate for my Chevelle. After that interview was over he shared with me the tremendous back story to launching his business, and how the death of his daughter just a few hours after her birth and a near life ending car accident changed the direction of his life significantly! As a result of that discussion I knew that having him on the show would be a must.
As Shawn shared in the interview, his business started simply because he was a collector of antique license plates. He’d hired a few shops to restore some of then and was unhappy with the results he’d received. So…if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! He formed a business and didn’t look back.
Restore A Tag has developed a system that results in very high end, museum quality restorations. Some of Shawn’s more famous customers are Chip Foose, Jerry Seinfeld, and Peter Kalikow. Restore A Tag plates have been seen at major car shows, magazines and even at Pebble Beach. Shawn told me that 70%-80% of the restorations that come into his shop are for sentimental value and he realizes that he is working with something that can touch people.
Shawn walked me through some of the steps required to restore a typical license plate. Since plates are made from such a thin metal, each process must be done by hand to protect the piece. He pointed out that holes and tears are TIG welded but it is not an easy process as they have to stop quite often to keep the heat out of the plate. Since the metal is so thin the heat could permanently warp a plate and it will never lay flat again. You can see many before and after pictures on the Restore A Tag website.
I did ask about modern license plate restoration as well, since modern plates are usually made of aluminum and are screen printed, not pressed. Restore A Tag has come up with some proven methods to handle these style of plates as well, and even has found a way to handle the reflective paint used on modern plates as well. Shawn also discussed the legal process of registering antique vehicles with year correct license plates, and Restore A Tag keeps a full stock of every year and state combination of plates out there (i.e. if you’d like a 1967 Missouri plate for your ’67 Mustang, just give them a call).
License plates are not the only product that Restore A Tag repairs or produces. They have created a line of license plate frames that come in chrome or powder coat over stainless steel and can custom design a frame for any occasion. They have also developed a way to lock a license plate to a car to deter theft. Shawn said that FBI states 36% of all license plates will be stolen and he understands how critical some of those plates are to people. PlateSafe Locks help insure that the important plates stay where they need to be.
Thanks for the great interview Shawn! Keep up the great work.
This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot - your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!