How to Tell if Your Corvette Has Matching Numbers - For 1960-1996 Corvettes


Whether you want to buy a used Corvette or just learn more about one you already own, never assume that it's a matching numbers car based solely on someone's word. By finding and comparing specific numbers on the car, you'll be able to tell how original it is in its current condition. It takes a little effort to be able to access some of these numbers, and if you're inspecting a rare or high-value Corvette, it may be worthwhile to bring in an expert to ensure everything is correct.   

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What is a Matching Numbers Corvette?

A matching numbers Corvette (also called a numbers matching Corvette) means that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the car and the stamp on the engine match, proving that the original engine is still in the car. Numbers matching can also extend to the transmission, alternator, starter and other components. For a full explanation of matching numbers and why it's important, read our article here. 

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How Old is Your Corvette?

Chevrolet began stamping the VIN on Corvette engines and transmissions in 1960. "The purpose was to reduce the number of car thefts," says Richard Newton, author of "How to Restore and Modify your Corvette, 1968-1982." Though this policy didn't really help protect your sports car from thieves, Newton says, "it was effective, however, in helping people determine whether the Corvette they were purchasing had the original motor installed."

For Corvettes built before 1960, VINs and engine stamps can give you clues about the correct engine. But there is no production number that definitely mates one to the other. By comparing codes for the engine type and horsepower, the engine cast date, engine build date and the car's build date, it is possible to determine if the engine is original or not. Proper documentation can help authenticate the matching numbers, but you may need an expert to help you validate how much of the car is actually original. 

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Find Your VIN

The VIN on a 1969 Corvette. Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

Locating your Corvette's VIN depends on its build year. Before 1968, when a federal law required this serial number to be visible from outside of the car, the Corvette's VIN was on the steering column (1960 to 1962) or on a brace below the glove compartment (1963 to 1967). For 1968 and newer Corvettes, the VIN is stamped either on the A-pillar or the dashboard, allowing you to read it through the windshield.

The VIN is a code full of information about your Corvette. In these simple digits are details on the manufacture year, the assembly plant and the model. The last six digits of the VIN are the production number, which will be unique for each Corvette. 

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Check your Engine Number

To find the number on the engine pad, look for a stamped series of numbers near the right-hand cylinder head on front of the engine (1960 to 1991) or on the rear of the engine (1992 to 1996). This stamp includes codes on where the engine was built, the engine size, the casting date, the assembly date and the serial number. Christine Giovingo with Mecum Auctions says that for their company, sellers claiming matching numbers must verify only four numbers on the block -- "Engine casting number, Engine casting date, Engine assembly date, and VIN or serial derivative."

If you are unable to locate the engine stamp, use a soft cloth to gently clean away any grease or dirt built up on the block. If you clean the engine and the number is still missing, it may have been sanded off during a motor rebuild.

The last six digits of the engine stamp is the serial number, which should match the production number on the Corvette's VIN. Cast date and assembly date (also called build date) are two other key clues to corroborate an original engine; both dates should be a few months prior to the build date on the body.

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Check Your Transmission and Other Components

For a matching numbers Corvette, the most important thing is to have the original engine. Having other parts with the correct numbers can also be important if you want to maintain as high of a level of factory-correctness as possible.

On the transmission, the exact location of the code depends on the brand. Many classic Saginaw, Muncie and Turbo Hyrda-matic transmissions, for example, place the code on a stamp or plate on the right-hand side of the transmission case. On this code, the first digits reveal the manufacturer, model year and assembly plant. The final six numbers is the production sequence. On a matching numbers transmission, these six numbers will match the production number on the VIN and engine stamp.  

The next step is to analyze the numbers on components like the alternator, carburetor, distributor, generator, starter and water pump. By checking these codes, "a Corvette owner could easily determine which parts had been replaced," says Newton. "Even though these numbers may not match the VIN number, they should match the sequence of production." Because these numbers change through the years, use a source specific to your model to look up the correct part numbers for your Corvette.

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Use Supporting Documents

A Corvette's documentation is an important tool for understanding what is original and what has been replaced. Inspecting stamps on the car -- the VIN, engine stamps and trim tag, for example -- and comparing those with sales receipts, the build sheet and expert resources. Be cautious: it is possible to fake matching numbers by sanding off old numbers and restamping them to match the car. If you suspect this is the case, you may want to have an expert check the car.