Text and images courtesy of Year One, with Rick Jensen.
Discovering your classic car’s body or fender tag for the first time can be an exhilarating experience. And usually, that excitement is soon after tempered with “Wow, I really don’t know how to read this!”
Year One knows how you feel, which is why they took the time to create a Vehicle Info & Decoding section on their website. Here are some excerpts: read along, learn something, and you’ll be decoding in no time.
DECODING BODY TAGS
The body tag on your car contains vital information for the restorer. The model, body style, paint color, interior color, and date of manufacture are all found on this metal tag. On 1958-67 models, the tag is riveted to the firewall near the windshield (it's vertical). 1968-72 models moved to the cowl panel under the hood near the windshield (it's horizontal). All models used a tag of this sort, and from 1964-72 there are 3 basic tag styles––1964-67, 1968, and 1969-72. We've illustrated all 3 here, and we've listed the important information (and how to read it). If yours is missing, someone removed it!
TIME BUILT CODE: The date of manufacture of the car. Consisting of 2 numbers and 1 letter, the code tells you the month and week of the month the car was built. The 2 digits represent the month (01=January, 02=February, etc.) while the letter represents the week of the month (A=1st week, B=2nd week, etc.). It's not possible to pinpoint a specific day of manufacture from the data plate, only the week of the month the car was built can be determined. Generally, most date-coded components on the car were built between 2 and 8 weeks before the build date of the car. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.
MODEL YEAR: To the right of the "ST" letters (short for "Style") are the last 2 digits of the model year of the car. "64"=1964, "70"=1970, etc.
DIVISION SERIES: The first digit of this code identifies the GM division (1=Chevrolet, 2=Pontiac, 3=Oldsmobile, 4=Buick), the second and third digits identify the series (Chevelle, LeMans, Cutlass, Skylark, etc.). See the V.I.N. decoding information at www.yearone.com/yodnn/VehicleInfoDecoding/GMVINplatedecoding/tabid/345/Default.aspx. While the series code on the data plate may not match the series code in the V.I.N., it must be from the same family (the series code will not represent an Impala on a Chevelle data plate, or a Catalina on a LeMans plate, and so on).
BODY TYPE: Following the division series is a 2-digit code that identifies the body style (or type) of the car, such as 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible, 4-door sedan, etc. See the V.I.N. decoding section for a list of body type codes.
ASSEMBLY PLANT: This code identifies the assembly plant where the body was mated to the chassis/driveline, and final assembly procedures were performed. This is a 1 to 3 character code, and it must match the assembly plant code in the V.I.N. See the V.I.N. decoding section for a list of final assembly plants and their codes.
UNIT NUMBER: To the left of the BODY or BDY letters is the unit number assigned at Fisher Body. This number will not match any numbers in the V.I.N. and is not significant to identification or restoration purposes.
TRIM NUMBER: To the right of the TR letters (short for TRIM) is the interior code. This 3-digit code shows the color and style of the interior and seats.
BODY COLOR: To the left of the PAINT or PNT letters are the exterior color codes. On 1964 Chevrolets, the codes are all 3 digits (including two-tone cars, which have unique 3-digit codes). From 1965 to mid-1969, Chevrolet used 2 letters--the first is for the lower body color and the second is for the roof paint, vinyl top or convertible top color. Buick, Olds and Pontiac used this 2-letter system from 1964 to mid-1969. From mid-1969 to 1972, all divisions used a 2-digit code for the lower color, followed by a 2-digit code for the roof paint, or a letter for the vinyl roof or convertible top color.
ACCESSORY CODES: On 1967-and-earlier models only, there may be accessory codes listed on the data plate. These codes indicate certain options on the car. Some of these codes have been decoded on Chevrolet and Pontiac vehicles, while Buick and Olds are still a mystery. The following types of equipment have been listed on data plates that have been decoded: tinted glass, transmission, console, air conditioning, radio, mirrors, rear defroster, seat belts, and bumper guards. Year One lists known accessory codes from 1964 to 1967 on their website; register to view them. These codes will not appear on 1968-and-later plates. Accessory codes reappear with a different format in 1970 on various cars.
SEAT TYPE: There may or may not be an additional code following the trim code that identifies the type of seat installed in the car. These codes break down as follows:
A41 = 4-way front power seat (bench)
A46 = 4-way front power seat (bucket)
A51 = Front Strato bucket seat
A75 = H.D. front bench seat
A81 = Headrest (Strato seat type)
A82 = Headrest (Conventional seat type)
The fender tags of 1962-66 cars are laid out in a very similar fashion. The scheduled build date is under the left portion of the "SO NUMBER". The number under "BDY" (body) represents the car line and model, which is the same as the first three characters of the V.I.N. The number under "TRM" is the interior trim code, while the exterior trim codes are found under "PNT". Sometimes the paint and trim codes are transposed, but this should be fairly obvious. The row of uppercase letters (4th line from the bottom) represents option categories. A number under any of these letters defines an option in that letter's category. The row of numbers at the top of the tag are not yet known, but are thought to be routing, shipping, or gate information on 1962-64 models. For 1965, these numbers may represent option information in addition to routing information. Also for 1965, "A", "B" and "C" take the place of 10, 11, and 12 in the production date for October, November and December. In 1966, the row of numbers at the top are replaced by a row of lowercase letters, which are another row of option categories. A number under any of these letters represent an option in that letter's category. For information on decoding the option codes, see our selection of books by Galen Govier in the Literature section.
For 1967 and 1968, the bottom 3 lines are changed completely as compared to earlier tags. The bottom line at the left starts with 2 letters and 2 numbers which identify the car line and model (same as the first 4 characters of the V.I.N.). This is followed by a 2-digit engine code, a 1-digit transmission code, and then a 3-digit tire code. Next is a 3-digit build date, followed by the order number. Moving up to the 3rd line from the bottom, numbers 1 through 8 appear here, which denote categories. A number listed under any of the category numbers defines an option in that category. To the right of the 1-8 numbers you will find "AX" for axle, "TRM" for the interior code, and "PNT" or "PAINT" for exterior colors.
Continuing to the right, there is a grouping of letters "UBS". The "U" is for upper interior door color, "B" for buffed paint and "S" for the stripe or accent color. The codes for these are listed directly below (on the 2nd line from the bottom). The 5th row from the bottom is a row of upper case letters representing option categories. At the top of the tag is a row of lowercase letters also representing option categories. A number under any of these category letters defines an option in that letter's category. For information on decoding the option codes, see our selection of books by Galen Govier in the Literature section.
The 1969 Lynch Rd. plant fender tag is somewhat unique compared to other 1969 tags. The bottom row, to the left, has the 4-character car line and model code (same as the V.I.N. first 4), followed by a 3-character engine code. These are followed by a 2-character transmission code, then the 3-digit build date and the vehicle order number. The 2nd line from the bottom starts with the exterior color (usually 2-characters) followed a 3-character interior code and a 2-character upper interior door color code. Above these codes are a few selected codes, usually abbreviated actual option codes. Lynch Rd. tags typically list very few option codes, regardless of how the car was optioned. The 5th line from the bottom usually contains 3 groups of 3-digits for the engine, axle, and transmission build codes. The top line is not yet known. In 1970, Lynch Rd. tags became more like other plants, but still retained the 3 group, 3-digit engine, axle, transmission codes on the 5th line from the bottom.
SOURCE: Year One P. O. Box 521 Braselton, GA 30517 800-932-7663 www.yearone.com