How to Decode Your Classic Mustang's VIN Number

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You have your eye on a classic Mustang and want more information about this beauty. How do you decode your classic Mustang’s VIN?

Understanding a vehicle's VIN is the key to unlocking a treasure chest of information about the car. Many websites can provide you with a complete vehicle history, find out where it was made, or even find out whether the car was in an accident, just by tapping a few numbers and letters into a computer. While obtaining that information can be a time-saving and money-saving adventure, I’m old school. I just like knowing what every character on my car’s nameplate means, whether it is 11 characters on older Mustangs or the current 17- digit/letter system used today.

The following key can be used to decode the 11-character VIN of your Mustang.

  • The First Character =  the Year of production.
  • The second character is = the assembly plant.
  • The Third and Fourth Characters = body style
  • The Fifth Character = engine size
  • The Last Six Characters = Production Number

Since it wasn't until 1981 that the government made 17-digit VINs the law of the land, auto manufacturers had their ways of marking their vehicles. Some did it in 5 or 8 digits. Others, like Ford, had 11 characters. Understanding the information your VIN contains can help you know if your Mustang is a blue-blood original or a pieced-together car worth a lot less because it doesn’t have matching numbers.

This article will help you figure out the mystery of your Mustang’s VIN and why you might be having trouble with it.

Table of Contents


First Order of Business - Finding the VIN

Considering that over a million Mustangs were built in its first eighteen months of production and that Mustang has been around in some form or over fifty years, it is easy to see the popularity and resilience of this great American car. For an overview of the Mustang, click here.

Ford was never able to make an owner’s life easy. If you glanced down at your pre-1969 dashboard, you might have discovered the standard VIN plate is missing. Open the side door jamb, which may or not have a data plate. Where is the VIN located?

Check Under the Hood on the Driver’s Side Fender

If you simply raise the hood, grab a flashlight or your smartphone’s camera, and snap a photo, you should be able to distinguish it. (the VIN is located to the engine's right on the inside of the fender).  You may need to wipe the area down with a cloth if the car’s been sitting for a while.

In 1968, the VIN plate was moved to the passenger side of the dash, near the base. Many restorers fail to know this quirky little detail about classic Mustangs and completely cover the VIN when installing dash padding. If you stand next to the passenger fender and look down straight through the windshield, you should see a small plate with numbers stamped. That’s the VIN. Since some of these VIN tags were made from aluminum, moisture may have rotted or corroded the numbers so severely that they could not be read. You will need to be careful in restoring it because the display of a corroded VIN plate is illegal in most states.

In 1969, the VIN plate was moved to the driver’s side at the base of the windshield. The VIN plate was made of stainless steel, which made the numbers easier to read and less susceptible to corrosion.

Use the DataPlate on Your Mustang

At the base of the driver door is a Dataplate that will contain your VIN. This is a great place to retrieve the VIN should you not be able to find it on the inside of the fender under the hood. Because a data plate is relatively easy to replicate, double-check the VIN if you have any concerns about the true origin of your vehicle.

The Secret VIN?

Did you realize that every Mustang holds a secret regarding VINs? Well, that secret VIN is stamped on the inside of the inner fender near the cowl on the passenger side. This secret VIN was a deterrent to thieves stealing the ever-popular Mustang and filing away the current VIN. If the VIN on the nameplate is the same as the “secret” VIN under the passenger side, which is also the same as the VIN on the paperwork, then you have a rare Mustang with matching numbers. Any matching number of VINs is considered worth a lot more money than one that has been cobbled together with different parts from different engines.

How To Decode Your Mustang’s  VIN?

Since every character on a VIN means something, it is essential to know precisely what. Here is a simple key to unlocking your classic Mustang’s VIN.

First Character - the Year of Assembly (When)

The first number is the year of production. All 1964 and 65 Mustangs have a “5” as their first character. After that, 6 = 1966, 7 = 1967, 8 = 1968 and so on. (The character for 1970 repeats at 0, not the letter A like you would expect on a current VIN plate).

Second Character - The Assembly Plant (Where)

There are one of three assembly plants producing Mustangs. F = Dearborn, Michigan; R = San Jose, California; T = Metuchen, New Jersey. For example, if your Mustang begins with a 5F, you know that you have a 1965 Mustang made from the plant in Dearborn, Michigan, the heart of Ford Motor Company.

Third/Fourth Character = The Body Style (What Kind Outside).

There were three options for the Mustang back in those days, 07 = Coupe; 08 = Convertible; 09 = Fastback.

Fifth Character - The Engine Configuration  (What Kind Inside)

Several different engine sizes were used in the production of early Mustangs. Below is a listing of them.

  • The letter “A” means the car has a 289 4 Valve V8 - uses  premium fuel
  • The letter “C” means the car has a  289 2 Valve V8 - premium fuel
  • The letter “K” means the car has a 289 4 Valve V8 - high performance (prem. fuel)
  • The letter “T” means the car has a 200 1 barrel -  V6
  • The letter “U” means the car has a 170 1 barrel V6 (1964 1/2 Mustang only)
  • The letter “D” means the car has a  289 4 barrel V8 (1964 1/2 Mustang only)
  • The letter “F” means the car has a 260 cu in 2 barrel V8 (1964 1/2 Mustang only)

The Last Six - The Production Number (Who Are You?)

The last six characters are the production number assigned to the plant on that particular car. For example, 002165 would have been the two thousand one hundred and sixty-fifth car to roll off the assembly line that year.

Why is Understanding a VIN important?

One of the primary reasons to be able to decode your VIN is to help provide you with information on the engine of the car. Because restorers can easily swap the original engine for something else, the VIN helps you identify if the engine was the same as the one that came off the factory line. A Mustang with original parts and an engine with matching numbers is a rare beast and is worth a lot of money should you decide to sell it. You can use it as a test to see if the seller is telling the truth about his car before you pay whatever ridiculous price he’s asking.