How to tell if the numbers match on a car - vehicle identification numbers

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If you have an older muscle car or classic car that you are restoring or selling, or if you are interested in purchasing one of these cars, you may heard the saying - "Check to see if the numbers match". This is such a broad term and really means different things to different people, but in simple terms, matching numbers means that the car carries the original engine, whose ID number matches the VIN (vehicle Identification Number) of the car. Matching numbers to determine value of a vehicle can get really complex and go so far as to make sure that the chassis, engine, and other mechanical components are original to the car. Here are some of the basics about vehicle numbers and what you should look for.

Things You'll Need

  • Read the VIN Number (located on the right driver side pillar of the windshield)
  • Read the Engine Stamp
  • Read the Door Stamp
  • The first number to look at is your VIN number, or Vehicle Identification Number. This number is most commonly found on your drivers side pillar of the windshield. The VIN Number is a 17-character alphanumeric identifier that acts a serial number for your car. The VIN number contains four relevant parts and helps to identify:
    1) "World Manufacturer" of the vehicle,
    2) "Vehicle Description",
    3) "VIN accuracy check digit",
    4) "Vehicle Identification".

    The VIN number sets the stage for the other numbers on your vehicle parts.

  • The second number to look for on your vehicle would be the engine stamp or engine VIN plate. If you want to be sure that your engine is the original engine of your vehicle, then your VIN will tell you which engine the car came with. When you look at the VIN plate or stamp on your engine, the sequence of ending numbers on the Engine VIN stamp should match the Vehicle VIN stamp. If it does not, then the engine in your car is not the original engine. Sometimes it is hard to find the VIN or stamp number on your engine, so look for a tab located on the front passenger side cylinder head just below the valve cover and the transmission for the numbers.

  • If your car is pre-to late 60's, then you are not going to be looking for a VIN plate on the engine. They did not put VIN plates on the engine during this time, so you will have to actually look for casting numbers that are part of the engine, exhaust, and intake manifolds. The cast dates should be about six weeks prior to the build date of the car and the build date of the engine should be about two or three weeks prior to that car build date. Make sure the cast dates on the heads ,intake , and exhaust manifolds all fit into this window before the car build date to check for authenticity.

  • The third place to check for vehicle numbers is on the inside front drivers door post. If you open the drivers door and look on the door post, there should be a metal plate held on with two rivets. This plate will tell you the date the car was built, the original exterior paint color, and the original interior color. You can use these numbers to verify the authenticity of the vehicles color scheme and trim levels.

  • The last place to check for your vehicle's numbers is on the actual chassis itself. Locations vary for this number, but it should also match your VIN number to help you identify if your vehicle has been in an accident or has had complete new framework done to it.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you can find some old Manuals for your car, they have engine id info listed by size and generally by year.
  • Some of the old mechanic shops and old dealerships might also have a library of repair manuals you can check.
  • Check the trim packages available on your model car, and check the numbers on your vehicle to see if your trim package details match the data plate, accessory list for your car, or even the factory build sheet. The data plate will let you know the vehicles pedigree by the codes stamped on it. This can also be found on the vehicle firewall or door post.
  • Do not be fooled by badging on the car. Lots of people generally change badges and ornaments on a car for extra show. This can be misleading, and you can find all of the information you need on the VIN, and Engine VIN.
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