After five years of expressing his contempt for Ralph Nader via his license plate, a Chevy Corvair driver in Iowa has been told he must stop.
John Miller, 51, loves the Corvair. He collects, repairs and sells them. And like anyone who loves the Corvair, Miller feels a certain disgust for Nader. For the past five years he's shared his feelings about Nader with a license plate that reads "F NADER."
In 1965 Nader gained fame with the publication of his book "Unsafe at Any Speed," detailing the resistance of automobile manufacturers to improving safety. In particular he attacked the Corvair, claiming it had a tendency to roll over. That claim would be proved false in a 1972 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study.
But the good times ended with Joel Paulson's letter to the Iowa Department of Transportation on May 16.
"'F NADER' is obviously this Corvair owner's response to Ralph Nader's charge against the Corvair. I don't believe I should have to explain to my children about 'F NADER,' " Paulson wrote.
Apparently Paulson lacked the creativity or imagination to offer any number of non-swear related answers, ranging from "I don't know" to "Frank Nader."
It wasn't until receipt of this letter that it occurred to anyone at the DOT that the 'F' was in fact an f-bomb.
"Usually, it doesn't raise an eyebrow. It just brings a chuckle," Miller said. He's told several people in the past that he's Nader's brother Fred and adds that he sees cars with identical plates from across the country when he attends car shows.
Now Miller has to choose between another personalized plate, a $50 refund and a regular plate or filing an appeal.
"I kind of like this plate and want to keep it, but I am not going to make a federal case out of it," Miller said.
Of course Randall Wilson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union-Iowa would be happy to.
"My thoughts are that they surely have better things to do than take on this guy. ... It just does not strike me as so offensive or gross that the state has any business trying to do something about it," Wilson said.
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