Recently, aaron65 provided a very good example of how to decode the fender tag on his Pontiac and Dodge. In an effort to provide information as broad as possible, let’s jaunt over to Dearborn to see how things were done back in the day.
Using a handy example, let’s examine this 1963 Ford Galaxie that we’ve seen on occasion.
Open the driver’s door and you’ve found the location of the Galaxie’s data plate. Unlike contemporary and later GM and Chrysler products, Ford used just this single tag to tell an owner all about their car. Nothing under the hood, no second plate mounted elsewhere – just this. Like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages.
Here’s a closer look at the data plate. It provides both the serial number (saying “VIN Number” is redundant) and various other attributes about the car. The one distinct disadvantage in having a date plate such as this is not having a specific listing of what options the car received during its manufacture. If any “build sheet” exists within the car, I have yet to find it.
As some ’80s rap singer would say, let’s break it down!
Let’s start with the serial number, or what the data plate refers to as the Vehicle Warranty Number:
The first digit, 3, is the model year. Hopefully anyone would not encounter this as a challenge, as hopefully this car wouldn’t be confused with being a 1950s or 1970s model.
The Z is where the car was assembled; in this case St. Louis. The letter designations for the various Ford plants spanned from A to Z, but obviously there wasn’t a plant for each letter.
The third and fourth digit, 62, is the designation for trim and body. In this case, it is a Galaxie 500 four-door Town Sedan. The trim numbers for a Galaxie 500, in all iterations, ranged from 61 (for the two-door Club Sedan) to 66 (for the two-door hardtop fastback).
X is the engine code for the two-barrel 352 cubic inch (5.8 liter) V8. Other engines were the 223 straight six (5 for retail, E for taxi); the 390 V8 (Z for retail, P for police interceptor); and the top dog 427 V8 (Q for four-barrel and R for two four-barrels). While the 260 and 289 V8s were available in the Galaxie, it was not easy to discern which codes were meant for cars other than the Galaxie.
The last six digits are the production number, starting with 100001, making my Galaxie the 35,511th car down the assembly line in St. Louis that year.
The information along the top line drills down to much more detail.
This denotes the car is a Galaxie 500 four-door sedan. It does seem to overlap the “62” for trim and body in the warranty number. Other possible numbers would be 76A for a Galaxie 500 convertible or 54B for a Galaxie (non 500) four-door sedan. In general, the Galaxie 500 bodies have an “A”, the fleet level 300 an “E”, while the Galaxie (non 500) and Galaxie XL have a variety of singular letters following the two-digit body number.
For 1963, I = Champagne Iridescent
This color sample, a screenshot from www.tpocr.com, shows the wide variety of colors one could get on their Galaxie in 1963. This website has been invaluable for information presented in this article.
Having a red interior with a champagne colored car would be rather unsightly; the 98 refers to the gold colored vinyl for the interior of my Galaxie.
The letter is for the month; A for January, B for February, and so forth. The number is the day of the month, so my Galaxie was built on June 7.
I had no clue until now this car was built on a Friday.
DSO is an acronym for Domestic Special Order. Looking around various websites gives all sorts of diverging information, so I thought it best to utilize the 1962/1963 Ford Shop Manual. Can you get more reliable than that? According to the shop manual:
So my Galaxie was just another ordinary unit ran down the production line, which makes sense given it is a four-door sedan.
Non-locking axles had ratios ranging from 3.00:1 (Axle 1) to 4.11:1 (Axle 9). Mine is mid-range with a ratio of 3.50:1.
Ford offered five different transmissions for the Galaxie in 1963 – a true sign of how things were much different back then. Transmission 1 was a conventional three-speed; Transmission 2 was a three-speed with overdrive. Beyond that, the number Ford assigned to the transmission was one greater than the number of gears, with 3 for the two-speed Ford-o-matic, 4 for the three-speed Cruise-o-matic, and 5 for the four-speed manual.
Hopefully this helps navigate around the unique elements that were Ford coding practices in the early 1960s.
Note: As stated earlier, the website www.tpocr.com was a terrific resource when researching this article.