Archive >

Vehicle Identification Numbers


Vehicle Identification numbers

First, all VIN numbers are 14 digits long. There are no exceptions. It is all too common for title and documentation records to be incomplete, or plain wrong.

As an example, in the '60s the California DMV put the car's model and the serialized portion of the actual VIN (the last six digits) on the car's title as the VIN, it would read "300SE004857". I have bought enough cars around the country to know that other States had there own variation of this tactic.

It is also not uncommon for the number to be mis-read. I have seen a lot of titles that were missing one or two digits, and I have seen titles that had 14 digits but one or two digits where wrong. (This is the kind of problem that is the hardest to get the local Department of Motor Vehicles to fix.)

The break down of the Vehicle Identification Number is as follows:


Chassis Type = 112

Body Style variation = xxx

Steering side = Xx

Transmission type = xX

6 digit serial number = xxxxxx

The chassis type is always "112".

The Body Style variation is "014" for short-wheel-base sedans, "015" for long-wheel-base sedans, "021" for coupes, and "023" for convertibles.

The "steering side" indicates whether the car is "left hand" drive, or "right hand" drive. "1" indicates "left hand", "2" indicates "right hand".

Transmission type indicates either a manual transmission, or an automatic transmission. "0" indicates manual, "2" indicates automatic. (Here is a Benz trivia question for you. Though not used on 300SEs, what does a "1" in this position indicate?)

The 6 digit serial number is just that. All 112 chassis cars used the same serial number sequence.

Contrary to the opinion of many folks, there was not a separate sequence of serial numbers for each of the different types of 112 chassis 300SEs. In other words, unless it is a very early SWB sedan, the serial number does not indicate which vehicle within a particular type of variant the car is, i.e. 112.014-12-004857 is not the 4857th SWB sedan, it is the 4857th 300SE.

The factory placed the Vehicle Identification Number in two places on the car. The "permanent" location is the top side of the right-front frame rail towards the front of the car. It's not the easiest thing to see, but with some cleaning and a flashlight, you can find it under the intake manifold, right behind the air cleaner.

The second place to find the VIN is on top of the radiator core support. It is stamped into a tag that is screwed to the top of the support, and is here only for convenience. It is not uncommon for the tag to be missing, especially if the car has ever been painted. After all these years, it is not uncommon for the metal tag to be riveted on, but this is not "factory". The tag was always attached to the right (viewed from the rear of the car) side of the radiator core support. If you find it somewhere else, it's been moved.

Some confusion comes from the fact that on the early cars there is also a metal tag attached to the left (viewed from the rear of the car) side of the radiator core support that has a 13 digit on it (as well as the 3 digit paint code). This is the body number, not the Vehicle Identification Number. The format of the number is exactly the same as the Vehicle Identification Number, except the serial number portion is only five digits long. These same cars also have the body number stamped directly into the metal of the radiator core support. Note that on very early cars the body number always shows the transmission type as "manual". This does not mean that the car was built with a manual transmission.

Later cars also had a plate attached on the driver's side of the radiator core, however, it is less confusing because none of the numbers on it are more than five digits. The primary piece of information on this plate is the 3 digit paint code. The plate is referred to as the "option code" plate.

Two photographs are provided showing the VIN stamped into the frame rail.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version