I was stopped today in Arlington (Rosslynn) VA for not displaying a front plate on my '86 Spider. Here's the basic exchange at the beginning of the stop:
Officer: License and registration.
Me: What seems to be the problem officer?
Officer: I am issuing a citation for not displaying a front license plate.
Me: I don't need one; it's an antique.
Officer: You don't have antique plates.
Me: I don't need antique plates for it to be an antique.
Officer: I don't care, you're getting a citation.
Me: May I go into the glove box, I have a copy of the Virginia statute.
Officer: Ok, let me see because DMV sometimes changes the rules.
Me (after handing him the copy): The statute says I don't need one since the car is an antique and was not manufactured with a front holder.
Officer: But you have a generic front plate.
Me: No, no front plate at all.
Officer (after looking): Oh, ok, that's the Alfa emblem.
After he read the statute, his demeanor completely changed and he said "OK, I'm still not sure but since you've been more diligent than most, I'll let you go without a citation." He made some comment about him becoming an antique, noted he was around in '86 and remembered front plates on Alfas. I told him dealers had installed front plate holders and he made some comment about drilling through the hood.
I've been carrying that copy of the statute around for the last year and a half and it wound up paying off. I wonder whether the enforcement has anything to do with the numerous red light cameras in that area (not sure if they take the photo of your front plate or not).
If you live in VA and your car is an antique (25 years old or more), I recommend putting a copy of the statute in your glove box. The VA statutes can be found at LIS > Code of Virginia
The relevant portions are:
§ 46.2-730. License plates for antique motor vehicles and antique trailers; fee.
C. Notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 46.2-711 and 46.2-715, antique motor vehicles may display single license plates if the original manufacturer's design of the antique motor vehicles allows for the use of only single license plates or if the license plate was originally issued in one of the following years and is displayed in accordance with the provisions of subsection B of this section: 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1945, or 1946. ...
§ 46.2-100. (Effective until October 1, 2012) Definitions.
"Antique motor vehicle" means every motor vehicle, as defined in this section, which was actually manufactured or designated by the manufacturer as a model manufactured in a calendar year not less than 25 years prior to January 1 of each calendar year and is owned solely as a collector's item. ...
Not sure what "owned solely as a collector's item" means, but I doubt the officer or a judge would know either. There are restrictions on use on antique motor vehicles in VA but only if you get antique plates.