Andrew Turnbull presents

The History of School Transportation in Mercer County, WV

Technical Information: Deciphering VINs


school bus


Early Ford VINs are maddening...both due to the lack of a model year character, and the lack of consistent and detailed reference information readily available to decode them.


Positions 1-3: Model

Not an exhaustive list:

B50 B-500
B60 B-600
B61 B-600
B70 B-700
B75 B-750

Position 4: Engine

Take this list with a massive dash of salt. Ford was notorious for playing fast and loose with engine codes, using the same letter to denote different engine types in different years (or possibly even the same year).

A Unknown (Diesel?)
C 5.4L V8
E 5.9L V8
H 6.1L V8
K 7.0L V8?

Position 5: Assembly plant

K Kansas City, Missouri (US)
U Louisville, Kentucky (US)
V Kentucky Truck Plant, Kentucky (US)

Positions 6-11: Production sequence

Again: Ford VINs of the 1960s and 1970s did not contain a model year code, and serials simply continued in sequence from one year to the next. Different assembly plants built trucks at different rates; however, it seems that Ford periodically reset serials to a common starting number across all plants, so the cutoffs are consistent across all lines.

Initially, sequential serials were all-numeric. This was followed by a 1-alpha series from 1967 on. Numbering got extremely squirrelly during 1976 and 1977, with serials first duplicating 1967-68 numbers and then backfilling unused sequences. Finally, Ford adopted a 2-alpha format in 1978 with letters A-K in the second serial position.

Year Starting number
1961 100001
1962 205001
1963 325001
1964 445001
1965 580001
1966 732001
1967 A00001
1968 C00001
1969 D82001
1970 G30001
1971 J70001
1972 M40001
1973 Q00001
1974 S60001
1975 V20001
(through X79999)
1976 A00001
(through D24999, duplicating 67-68 numbers)
1977 000001 - 099999
(followed by X80001 through Z)
1978 AE0001
1979 DC0001
1980 GA0001


In 1981, Ford adopted the uniform 17-digit VIN format being imposed throughout the industry. To the relief of all, this was also the point at which Ford began including a model year code, as well as explicit gross vehicle weight rating and brake system information:


Positions 1-3 and 11: Manufacturer and assembly plant

1FD-V Ford, Kentucky Truck Plant, Kentucky (US)

Position 4: Gross vehicle weight rating and brake system

M 19500 lb 8900 kg Hydraulic
N 26000 lb 11800 kg
P 33000 lb 15000 kg
W 26000 lb 11800 kg Air
X 33000 lb 15000 kg

Positions 5-7: Model

Both the B-600 and B-700 were produced through 1994. With the 1995 facelift, the chassis line was consolidated into a single model designated B-800 and badged simply "B-series."

B60 B-600 Gasoline
B70 B-700 Gasoline
B80 B-800
J65 B-600 Diesel
J70 B-7000
J74 B-700 Diesel (1981?-87)
J75 B-700 Diesel (1988-94)

Position 8: Engine

A 7.8L I6 Diesel
C 5.9L I6 Diesel (Cummins)
H 6.1L V8 Gasoline
K 7.0L V8 Gasoline
N 8.2L V8 Diesel (Fuel Pincher)
P 6.6L I6 Diesel
U 10.4L V8 Diesel (Caterpillar)

Position 9: Checksum

0-9 or X, calculated from the other digits.

Position 10: Model year

Ford's model years traditionally began in August of the preceding calendar year. The cutoff started creeping forward in the early 1990s, ultimately culminating with the 1995, 1997, and 1998 model years beginning in March. All "1998" chassis were in fact built in 1997, as Ford discontinued the production of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in Kentucky before the end of the year.

B 1981
C 1982
D 1983
E 1984
F 1985
G 1986
H 1987
J 1988
K 1989
L 1990
M 1991
N 1992
P 1993
R 1994
S 1995
T 1996
V 1997
W 1998

Positions 12-17: Production sequence

The sequence started at A00001, resetting at the start of each model year. As in 1967-77, the leading letter was a serial character that could theoretically advance as far as necessary; however, the Kentucky Truck Plant in this timeframe never proceeded beyond "A." A few 1981 chassis have the letter "J" in this position; the significance of this is unknown.

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