Sunday, August 26, 2012

Volkswagen Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): Part I- Pre-17 character VIN requirement

VIN definition and history.

A car‘s vehicle identification number (VIN) is the automotive equivalent of human DNA. With the rise of vehicle mass production numbers in the mid 1950s, American automobile manufacturers began stamping and casting these identifying numbers on cars and their parts to give an accurate description of the vehicle. Early VINs came in all sorts of variations, depending on the car manufacturer. In the early 1980s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sought to standardize these identifying numbers when they began requiring all road vehicles to have a 17-character VIN. With the fixed VIN system for major vehicle manufacturers as known today, we now have a unique "DNA" style number for each vehicle that rolls off the assembly line. A format for Vehicle Identification Numbers was "officially" outlined in ISO Standard 3779 February 1977 which was last revised in 1983. 

Where to Find Your VW VIN

VIN numbers are comprised of only numbers (1-0) and capital letters (A - Z). However, the letters I, O and Q are never used in order to avoid confusion in reading. There are no signs or spaces are allowed in a VIN. VINs can be found in several locations on a car, but the most common places are: 
-door frame/door post of the front doors (usually driver side, but sometimes on the passenger side) 
- dash near the windshield 
- the engine itself (machined pad on front of engine) 
- car's firewall 
- left-hand inner wheel arch 
- steering wheel/steering column 
- car's title, registration, guarantee/maintenance book or on the declarations page of your auto insurance policy 

Volkswagen (VW) and VINs.

Early VINs were not standardized between manufacturers, nor were they called VINs at the onset. VINs are critical pieces of information for identifying the exact VW type and the engine that was put into it when it was built. It helps identify the origin of the VW and may also give clues regarding the stock parts that were used in the vehicle when it was built. 

A. VW VINs before the 17-character VIN requirement:

VW used a combination of two numbers- the Chassis Number and the Engine Code to convey information about the vehicles. This can be worked out also from the plates the factory fitted to the car. One can find one or two metal plates (modern ones have stickers): the Chassis plate and the Production plate (if fitted). If your VW is pre-70 model year (pre-Aug 69), you will not find the production plate but you can estimate production plate details from a comparison of chassis numbers.

1. The air-cooled Chassis Plate
This is found on the front panel on Beetles, Type 3s and Type 4s. Types 2s have a similar plate on the bulkhead behind the left-hand front seat, with extra details included. It may look something like this (especially if early 70s):

from Dating your Volkswagen
1st figure: A Type 3 chassis plate is shown above; for a Beetle, this will start with a ‘1’; a Type 2 (Bus) starts '2'; a Type 4 (411/412) starts '4'.

2nd figure- depends on the body style of the vehicle (eg standard or Super).

3rd figure- is the model year. From the 1965 model year, the codes are as follows:
      5     1965
      6     1966
      7     1967
      8     1968
      9     1969
      0     1970
      1     1971
      2     1972
      3     1973
      4     1974

4th figure- from 1970 there is a fourth digit of a 2 (rarely a 3) to avoid earlier numbers being duplicated. In a couple of years production exceeded 1,000,000 which makes the extra '2' become a '3'.

6 figure serial number follows the 4th figure. 

     1*5 123456 is a 1965 Beetle, 
     1*52 123456 or 1*53 012345 are 1975 Beetles. 

2. The Air-cooled Production Plate.

from Dating your Volkswagen

With the production year established using the Chassis Plate, one can also figure out the production day and month. From August 1969, VW fixed a production plate which holds the information you need for this.
This plate is found on Beetles, Type 3s and Type 4s on the front panel near the chassis plate, but painted in the body colour. For Type 2s, the details may be found on the plate behind the left-hand front seat. It gives the production date as the week of the calendar year, and the weekday. Using the plate details, you can work out your VW’s exact date of manufacture down to within a week or so (maybe the exact day using a computer calendar) and even find out the original colour in some cases.

For the sample plate above, this VW was made on Monday, Week 18 (a 1971 calendar lets you work out the actual date). Its factory colour code is 21, which is Marina blue (shown in brochures).
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  1. I think using the VIN number we can learn the history of the car you buy.
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  2. It is useful post and very informative. I got more information about the Vehicle identification number such as, VINs are critical pieces of information for identifying the exact VW type and the engine that was put into it when it was built. It helps identify the origin of the VW and may also give clues regarding the stock parts that were used in the vehicle when it was built.Most Indian Upcoming Cars in India and that models are refined and designed on innovative technology platforms.

  3. Thanks for great post. Please notice that there's universal VIN lookup software tool. For all car brands it shows extended tech info plus factory options. Hope it can be a useful tool for any owners.

  4. Amazing, I have been working on VWs for 20+ years and have never know what this tag is for. I used it to decode a 1972 Baja Champion Special edition and it matched what production month it should be. I couldn't find the paint code brochure number though, I found the paint is L96M (Marathon Blue) I am however, grateful that I am able to find the exact day of production for a VW made over 46 years ago.. thank you!

  5. I cannot figure out the year of my puma gts pate number chassis is 11691174. They didn't start making the convertibles till 1970 or I would think it was a 66. I would appreciate the help

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