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 (VIN). 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 Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or "serial number" listed. 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 1939 truck, but it says 1938 on the title. This can happen easily if it was sold in the last part of 1938, but was really a 1939 truck. Some states called the truck 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-1939 trucks, start by looking at the dashboard or inside / outside of the firewall. For the years 1939-1946, it should be found on the right side of the cowl, under the hood. Advance-Design (1947-1954) and later trucks should have a plate located on the left front door post. The GVW is stamped as 46 (hundred pounds) on the 1940s trucks. Don't confuse this as being the year of the truck. The serial number is not stamped on the frame of 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s trucks. It may be on the frame of late 1950s 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 a lot 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
As an example, a truck with VIN 2ND1002 was built at Tarrytown, New York ( 2 ), is a 1932 1932 1.5-Ton "Confederate" series truck, with dual rear wheels ( ND - information listed on the Series page ), and was the second truck off the line ( 1002 ).
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:
A truck with a VIN of 21GDK10020 was built at Janesville, Wisconsin ( 21 ) is a 1937 3/4-Ton truck ( GD - information taken from the Series page ) and rolled off the assembly line in November ( K ) as the 9,020th truck ( 10020 ).
through 1955 1st Series
The code changed significantly in 1953. VINs now had:
A truck with VIN L54A001901 was a 1-Ton ( L ) built in 1954 ( 54 ) in Atlanta, GA ( A ), and was the 901st truck off the line. ( 0001901 ).
With the 1955 second series trucks came some more changes.
A truck with the VIN H255J000101 was a 1/2-ton ( H ), a 1955 Second Series ( 2 ), building in 1955 ( 5 5 ) at Janesville, WI ( J ), and was the 101st truck off the line ( 001101 ).
1956 - 1959
Another year, another change:
So a VIN 3G56F001001 on a truck would be considered a light truck ( 3 ) 1-ton ( G ) built in 1956 ( 5 6) at the Flint, Michigan plant ( F ) , and was the first truck off the assembly line there. ( 001001).
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.
A truck with a VIN of 1K364F100011 would a 1961 ( 1 ), 4-wheel drive ( K ) 1-ton ( 36 ) pickup ( 4 ) built in Flint, Michigan ( F ) and was the 11th truck off the line ( 100011 ).
1965 and newer
The 1965 and newer truck VINs will be added as I can get to them. Unless someone wants to help?
A Stovebolt is one 50 year old that looks good with a spare tire.