How to Decode a Classic Mustang's VIN & Data Plate

Revealing a 1964 1/2-1973 Mustang's History

Ford Mustang Door Tag
Learn how to examine your classic Mustang's Vehicle's Identification Number (VIN), as well as the Data Plate or Warranty Plate. Photo Courtesy of Vintage Mustangs

Have you ever come across a great deal on a classic Mustang but wanted to know more about the car? The owner says the car came from the factory with a V8 engine and a Raven Black paint job. In a world where parts for classic Mustangs are plentiful, how can you be sure he’s telling the truth? The car might have been created as a six-cylinder Mustang with a V8 replacement under the hood. If he's not being honest about the engine, what else is he hiding?

Before you hand over your hard earned money, it’s a good idea to examine the Vehicle's Identification Number (VIN), as well as the Data Plate or Warranty Plate.

Where to Find the Number
For starters, you need to know where to look. In general, the VIN should appear on one, or more, of the following locations:


  • Engine Compartment on driver's side fender apron, under the fender
  • Inside the Car where Windshield and Dash meet (Passenger side 1968, Driver’s Side 1969+)
  • Partial VIN Stamped on the Back of Original Engine Block (1968-1973)
  • Door Jam of Driver’s Side Door on Data Plate

Missing or Mismatched VINs
Chances are, the car you examine won’t have a VIN in each of these places. If you’re checking out a pre-1968 Mustang, you won’t find the number on the dash. If the car has undergone major restoration, it’s possible the door jam on the driver’s side of the car has been replaced. If you’re dealing with an engine, unless it’s an original, you won’t necessarily find the number.

Even if it is original, you won’t find the number on pre-1968 Mustangs (1964 1/2- 67 K Codes are the exception).

The Original Data Plate
The most valuable find is the vehicle’s original data plate. This is located on the door jam of driver’s side door. If you can find this you can determine the original color, trim style, date it was manufactured, DSO (District Sales Office) number, rear axle identification, and the vehicle’s transmission.

Very often the original data plate is missing, or does not match up with the vehicle you’re inspecting. For instance, if someone took a driver’s-side door jam from one Mustang and put it onto the car you’re checking out, the VIN Number on the data plate will be different than the VIN under the hood or on the dash. Use good judgment when investigating a vehicle's history. If something doesn't seem to match up, dig deeper to find out why.

Decoding the Information
Once you find the VIN number, it should look something like this: #6FO8A100005

This number tells a lot about the car. For instance, the 6 signifies a 1966 model year. The F tells me this was produced in Dearborn, and the 08 says this is a convertible. The A is my engine code. For this particular year, we’re looking at a 289 cubic inch V8 engine. Finally the 100005 is your consecutive unit number which describes the order in which this Mustang was built in the factory. For instance, a Mustang built early in the run would have a lower consecutive unit number than one built later in the year.

This is all fine and dandy, but unless you’re an expert, you’re left with a bunch of numbers that mean little to nothing. That’s where a Mustang decoder comes in handy.

For many years, people carried pocket VIN decoders around to identify Mustangs. The following are a few online decoders that will decipher just about any classic Mustang VIN and Data Plate you have:


In the end, you'll feel a lot better about your purchase if you take the time to research the vehicle. With a little help from your trusty VIN decoder, you should be feeling confident about your purchase in no time at all.

What about other model year Mustangs beyond 1973? Try the following decoders: