'Bolters helping 'Bolters is a beautiful thing!
So you just bought the Chevy truck of your dreams, and now you want to know just exactly what you own? You need to know and decipher your truck's Vehicle Identification Number. With a VIN, and the information it provides, you can determine your truck's pertinent information -- which will help you to better order parts, register it, find a lost title and a lot of other things. Barry, who was our "first contact" with the Stovebolt world, has put together a great bit of useful information here.
If you were fortunate enough to have a good title for your new purchase, great! It might even have a VIN listed (or a "serial number." But while most states titled vehicles by the VIN, some states titled by the engine serial number (found stamped in the block to the left of the distributor), which doesn't have much to do with the body serial number. As most old trucks have had the engine replaced once or twice, your title may not match your engine (if it has been replaced) and your title uses an engine number.
Also, some states titled vehicles by the year they were sold, and not the model year. Since production usually started in September of the year preceding the model year, you may see a title for what you would call a '39 truck, but it says '38 on the title. This can happen easily since it was sold in the last part of '38, but was really a '39 truck. Some states called this a '38 then, since it was sold in '38. I've seen this happen up into the early '50's. You may also see one that was a slow mover and got sold a year after it was made, and titled as such.
So if you look at the number listed on your title and it doesn't make sense when checked against the tables below, it may mean that the listing is actually the engine number. So you'll still need the VIN.
Finding the VIN
All trucks should have a body serial number tag on them somewhere with the serial number and gross vehicle weight (GVW) on it. On the pre-'39 trucks, start by looking at the dashboard or inside / outside of the firewall. For the '39-'46, it should be found on the right side of the cowl, under the hood. Advance-Design ('47-'54) and later trucks should have a plate located on the left front door post. The GVW is stamped as 46 (hundred pounds) on the '40's trucks. Don't confuse this as being the year of the truck. The serial number is not stamped on the frame of '30's, '40's, and early '50's trucks. It may be on the frame of late '50's trucks near the steering box.
Many of these plates were just screwed on from the factory (not riveted in the older trucks), and sometimes have been removed. Reproduction blank plates are sometimes available to replace lost or damaged plates. You have to stamp your own numbers on them.
Decoding the Chevrolet VIN
So you can't always trust the title to tell you the correct model year. You can get alot of information from the body serial number. This will tell you the model year, sometimes the month the truck was built, which plant it was assembled at, the Series (size) of truck and production sequence number.
The easiest way to do this, of course, is to check it on-line (we have a few listed on the main Tech Tip page). But if you want to figure it out on your own, here's how:
1929 through 1932
These early Stovebolts (we'll be adding the four-cylinder trucks later) had a VIN comprised of three elements: Factory Code; Series; and Production Order for that particular plant (Starting at 1,001).
Example -- 2ND1002
The truck in the example is the second 1932 1.5-Ton "Confederate" series truck (with dual rear wheels) built at Tarrytown, New York.
1933 through 1952
Starting in 1933, GM started adding a Month of Production code to the VIN. Stovebolts now had a VIN comprised of four elements: Factory Code; Model Year and Series (Note: Chevy added the 3/4-Ton back into the lineup for the 1937 model year.); Month of Production; and Production Order for that particular plant (Starting at 1,001). Production of a new model year usually started in the fall of the preceding calendar year.
Example -- 21GDK10020
The truck in the example is the 9,019th 1937 3/4-Ton truck built at Janesville, and it rolled off the assembly line in November, 1936.
1953 through 1955 1st Series (Last of the "Advance Design")
TThe code changed significantly in 1953. VINs now had: Series (single letter); Model Year (last two digits of the year); Factory Code (now changed to letters); and Production Order symbols. Each series was separately numbered in sequence for that particular plant (Starting at 001001).
Example -- L54A001901
The truck in the example is the 900th 1954 1-Ton truck built at Atlanta.
1955 2nd Series (First of the "Task Force" trucks)
With the '55 2nd series came some more changes. The first symbol was the code for the Series of the truck (1/2-ton, 3/4-ton etc.) and the second symbol was a "2" for second series of '55 trucks. The 3rd and 4th symbols were the year, and then came the plant symbol. Last of course, was the sequence number (6 digits and started with 001001 at each plant).
Example -- H255J000101
The truck in the example is the 100th 1955 Second Series 1/2-Ton truck built at Janesville.
1956 - 1959 ("Task Force" trucks)
The first and second symbols indicated the Series (all light trucks had a "3" in the first position). Third and fourth symbols indicated the two-digit year. The fifth symbol indicated the assembly plant (now changed to letters from numbers). Last was the the sequence number (6 digits and started with 001001 at each plant).
Example -- 3G56F001001
The truck in the example is the first 1956 1-Ton truck built at Flint.
1960 - 1964
In 1960, VINs were radically revamped to reflect the growing diversity in the trucks being offered. The VINs of these years are comprised of seven elements. This table doesn't include info for El Caminos, Sedan Deliveries or Corvair trucks.
Example: A truck with the VIN of 1K364F100011 would be the 100th 1961 truck built at Flint, Michigan. It is a 1-Ton 4WD pickup.
1965 and newer
I965 and newer truck VINs will be added as I can get to them. Unless someone wants to help?
One 50 year old that looks good with a spare tire.