The term “numbers matching” is popular within the classic car community. It is often the difference that separates the ordinary classic cars of today from the cars that are worth six figures or more.
Because of the significant impact the numbers matching trait has on a vehicle’s value, it’s important to know what numbers matching means and how to verify that a vehicle is in fact a numbers matching car.
When vehicle manufacturers are building their cars they stamp numbers on not only the VIN plate, but also on the engine and chassis. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, sometimes numbers can be located in more places than just the areas listed above.
These numbers all correlate in a way that tells a story of when the car was made, what the original body color was, and what engine and transmission originally came in the vehicle. Having the complete story i.e., matching numbers in the appropriate locations adds tremendous value to a classic car.
Each vehicle manufacturer is different. For example, a pontiac isn’t going to stamp their numbers in the same place as a Ford. In general, a classic vehicle normally has 5 or 6 places where a number is stamped.
Since every vehicle manufacturer is different, there’s no one place where the serial number for an engine block is stamped. When it comes to the engine block, the stamp can be found on the drivers side, passenger side, or even on the back of the block.
You will also find a serial number somewhere on the transmission. Again, the location depends on the manufacturer, but the serial number is most often found on the underside of the transmission when viewed from underneath the vehicle.
Here’s where the majority of the inconsistencies come in. There’s several places on the body and frame where a serial number can be stamped including:
Where exactly the numbers will be found on each of these parts varies wildly so you will most likely have to do some digging yourself to find out where they are on your vehicle.
VIN numbers did not become regulated until 1981 so verifying a vehicle produced before that gets a little difficult. However, it can still be done as long as you have enough pieces of the puzzle to work with.
The first thing you must do when trying to verify if a vehicle is numbers matching is to find out what the VIN number is for the car. This is commonly found on the drivers side pillar of the windshield. The VIN number is the main identifier for the entire vehicle. It will tell you the vehicle manufacturer, make, model, color, and what engine is supposed to be in the car.
After you locate your vehicle’s VIN, your next move is to find the number stamped on the engine. This will typically be located on the front passenger side of the vehicle. If it is a numbers matching vehicle, then the information the engine stamp gives you should match the engine that the VIN indicates originally came in the car.
Something to keep in mind here is if the vehicle was manufactured before the 1960’s, you will not find a VIN plate on the engine. Instead, you will need to look for cast dates on the block, exhaust, and intake manifolds. Those cast dates should be within 2-6 weeks prior to the build date of the vehicle.
Once you find the VIN on the windshield and verify that the engine matches, your next step is to see how many more numbers you can find. Think of it as a puzzle. If you can find part numbers not only on the engine but also on the frame and multiple places on the body, you could have something of real value on your hands. However, the work doesn’t stop there. It’s not as easy as finding the VIN number on various places of the car. Instead, you will find part numbers which you will then have to look up and verify if that part 1) belongs on that vehicle and 2) is the correct color. This is all information that will be given to you by the VIN. We often see vehicles where the VIN indicates it was originally a red ‘65 Mustang with an inline 6 when the car has since been painted black and had a V8 installed.
Some places to look for part numbers on the body are inside the fenders, trunk area, and somewhere along the firewall. Again, all vehicle manufacturers are different so you’re going to have to do some investigative work here.
Finding out if a vehicle is numbers matching can be a tedious process, but if you do end up finding all matching numbers, the reward is well worth it!