TMCP #202: Shawn Mahaney on How Restore-A-Tag Brings Old License Plates Back to Life!

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My Chevelle wearing it’s very first 1964 Kansas issued license plate after Shawn and the RESTORE A TAG team’s fresh restoration.


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.

My Kansas license plate, before and after!

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.

Me, Jeff Allison (Allison Customs), and Shawn Mahaney at SEMA 2013.

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.

Check them out on Facebook and on the internet You can call them at 410-703-3873 between 8-5pm Eastern Standard Time.

Thanks for the great interview Shawn! Keep up the great work.

-Rob Kibbe

Chevelle First Days 1964 Pic 4
Just for fun, here is a shot of the Chevelle brand new in 1964. I used this picture to verify that the license plate I found in my dad’s garage was indeed the original one!


This interview sponsored by our pals at National Parts Depot – your premier source for muscle car restoration parts!


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6 Responses

  1. Hello,
    Anyone know if these guys are still in Business ? I sent them a plate long ago for repair
    and I can’t get a call back for the life of me…
    No one has answered the phone for months / 10 calls plus… and I emailed them as well…
    Bad Business / Buyer beware –
    Car Guy –

  2. Hello,

    Have a same issue with my 4 antique plates sent to him from Europe back in Nov 2014. In the meantime I have changed several e-mails but no result. I will be coming to DC for a private trip in Nov 2016 and decided to visit the place, if the address is still correct. In any case his Facebook is very active with new examples of fine restauration presented. Looks like there are most preferred customers and then secondary ones.
    Europlate #805

  3. Same problem here and I am losing patience. I sent them license plates back in January 2016 and was promised over and over they were almost done. I have heard nothing back despite repeated calls and texts and emails. I am going to complain to the BBB! I want them back if they are not finished – or at least a mighty fine explanation! This is no way to run a business. These plates are VERY sentimental to me. If you can’t get them done in a reasonable time – you call me back and then send them back. You don’t ignore your customers.

  4. Ok, Good News, i finaly recieved my restored pleates back a few months ago, a two year wait, they are very nice and i would like to thank shawns brother-in-law for finnishing them and sending them out – He made thing right in the end all around –
    I understand that shawn was in a bad crash and may not return to work ever… be patient and i believe thay will come thru in the end –
    Most other guys doing this are back loged 3-6 months ;-/

    Steve –

  5. I also got my plates back a few days ago. They finally sent them back unfinished, which is fine with me. I was just happy to get them back. I wish them the best of luck in the future and I hope everything gets back on track for them in 2017! It seemed like they had an awesome thing going! I am going to start looking around for another company that does this.

  6. This was an awful experience. Sent Shawn a brand new plate with payment in full. That was it. Months went by, nothing. Tried calling. Left 5 messages, nothing. Finally, he responded with text. Plate was on the table to be painted. A month later it arrived. Paint was wrinkled along the edges. I complained, his response was, that’s what happens when you rush me! Forget about this company! TERRIBLE

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