Since 1954, American automobile manufacturers have used a Vehicle Identification Number, commonly referred to as a  "VIN", for the purpose of vehicle description and identification. The early VINs came in a wide array of configurations and variations, depending on the individual manufacturer.

VIN patterns prior to 1981 vary from one manufacturer to the other. Ford used 11 digits, GM and Chrysler used 13,  Volkswagen and Shay used 10. Distribution of letters and numbers was not standardized, nor was the meaning attributed to each one. The only thing that could be said with a certain degree of certainty is that the last 4 to 7 numbers corresponded to the "production number".        

In a Shay, if your second digit is the number "0", it is possible that this corresponds to the production year 1980. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine...!

Beginning with model year 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, required that all over the road vehicles sold must contain a 17-character VIN. This standard established a fixed VIN format. Much of the following information comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Web Site.

VIN coding has so many variables that it comprises a complete book in itself to list all the makes, models, body types, engines, origins of manufacturers, etc. Provided below is a quick guide to the VIN structure. If you should need further information, you could try to contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) by website at
http://www.nicb.org or by telephone at (708) 430-2430. The NICB publishes various identification manuals.

The following information refers only to the new 17-digit VINs used on Shays. If you have any information on the shorter VINs used previously,
please tell me what you know. I'll be glad to expand this text.
          
                                                          Position          1     2    3     4    5      6   7     8    9   10    11    12 to 17
         Example: my Shay:                      VIN #        
     1     H   W    A    3      1   A    A    5    A     E     006086

Digit 1: Nation of origin
"
1" = U.S., "2" = Canada,  "W" = West Germany

Digits 2: Manufacturer
"C3" = Chrysler, "FA" = Ford, "ME" = Mercury, "
H"  = presumably a Shay.

Digit 3: Model
"
W" = Passenger car,  "X":  Pick-Up

Digits 4 to 8: Vehicle Description Series
These digits represent items such as the car or truck line, series, body type, restraint system, and engine. Since they are assigned at the manufacturer's discretion, they are not always in the same order. For example, General Motors uses positions (4) and (5) for car-line series, position (6) for body style, position (7) for the restraint system (type of seatbelts, etc.), and position (8) for engine type. On the other hand, Ford uses position (4) for the restraint system, (5) for the designation, (6) and (7) for the body type, and position (8) for the engine. Let's presume that Shay used the same order as Ford did:

             
Digit 4: Restraint system
              "
A" = Lap belts only , "T" = Lap & shoulder belt (?), "B" = Passive Restraint System Seat Belts, "P" = Active Belts,
              "L" = Dual Airbags

             
Digit 5: Designation
              "2" =
Super Deluxe Model A (twin sidemounted spares), including Special Edition Super Deluxe (such as the Polar Bear,
                               Golden Oldie and College Classic)

              "
3" = Deluxe Model A (one spare left side mounted)
              "4" =
Standard Model A (one spare rear mounted)
             
"C" = Thunderbird

             
Digits 6 & 7: Car Line, Series and Body Type
              "
1A" = Model A, "21" = Thunderbird

             
Digit 8: Engine  
              "
A" = 2.3 liter 4 cylinder, "3" = 3.8 V6, "F" = 5.0 V8

Digit 9: Check Digit

This digit is mathematically derived from values assigned to the other 16 digits. The check digit will determine whether a VIN is a valid number, or not. See the check digit formula information below.


Digit 10: Year of Manufacture
There is a common table that all manufacturers use. A look at 25 years is as follows (note the lack of the letters I. Q. 0, U, & Z ):
           
1980A               1985 F             1990 L                 1995 S                   2000 Y
           
1981 B              1986 G             1991 M                1996 T                   2001 1
           
1982 C              1987 H             1992 N                1997 V                   2002 2
            1983 D              1988 J              1993 P                1998 W                  2003 3
            1984 E               1989 K             1994 R                1999 X                  2004 4


Digit 11 - Assembly Plant
"
E" = Probably corresponds to the Elm Street plant in Battle Creek, Michigan.  In the case of some other manufacturers, these digits are shared by two different plants. For example a passenger car assembled in the General Motors Lordstown plant carries a (7) as does a GM plant in Fujisawa Japan.

Digits 12 to 17: Production Number
This is the sequential number that is assigned to the vehicle as it leaves the plant. It tells you what number on the assembly line your car was. Car lines can start anywhere between 000000 and 999999. Furthermore, please note that there has been instances where the sequential production number of a car exceeded the published total car output for that model year! How can that be? There could be a production number gap, for whatever reason. Or maybe some prototypes were included in there. Or perhaps the total production number is wrong... who knows?


                                                     
THE VIN CHECK  DIGIT FORMULA
The check digit of a Vin appears in the 9th position and provides a way to verify the validity of all of the other characters in positions 1 to 8 and 10 to 17. The check digit is calculated by carrying out the following rather complicated mathematical computation:

(1) Assign to each number in the VIN its actual mathematical value and assign to each letter the value specified in following Table:

         Table 1 - Number Values for Vin Letters
              A - 1                  G - 7                  N - 5                  V - 5    
              B - 2                  H - 8                   P - 7                  W - 6
              C - 3                  J - 1                   R - 9                  X - 7
              D - 4                  K - 2                  S - 2                  Y - 8
              E - 5                  L - 3                   T - 3                  Z - 9
              F - 6                  M - 4                  U - 4

(2) Multiply the assigned value for each VIN character in the Vin by the Position weight factor specified in the following Table:

         Table 2 - Vin Position and Weight Factors
             Vin Position              Weight Factor                   Vin Position        Weight Factor

                             1st ......................  8                               10th ...................9
                             2nd .....................  7                               11th ...................8
                             3rd ......................  6                               12th ...................7
                             4th ......................  5                               13th ...................6
                             5th ......................  4                               14th ...................5
                             6th ......................  3                               15th ...................4
                             7th ......................  2                               16th ...................3
                             8th ...................... 10                              17th ...................2 
                             9th ..(check digit to be calculated )

(3) Add the resulting products and divide this total by 11.

(4) The numerical remainder is the check digit. If the remainder is 10 the letter 'X' shall be used to designate the check digit. The correct numeric remainder, zero through nine (0-9) or the letter 'X' shall appear in the VIN position nine.

(5) A sample check digit calculation is as follows for the following Vin:

               Position:                  
       1   2    3    4    5   6    7   8   9   10   11   12    13   14   15   16   17
               Vin Character:               
1   H   W   A   3   1   A   A   5    A    E     0     0     6     0     8     6

               Assigned Values:            1    8   6   1    3     1   1   1  _    1     5     0     0     6     0     8     6
               Weight Factors:             8    7   6   5 
  4     3   2  10  _    9     8     7     6     5     4     3     2

               Products:                      8   56  36  5  12     3   2  10  _    9    40    0     0    30    0    24   12
               Add Products:               8+ 56+36+5+12 +  3+ 2+10   +   9 + 40  +0  + 0  +30  +0  +24 +12   =  247
            

               Divide the Sum of Products by 11:  247/11  = 
22 and 5/11 .
               The remainder is
5, therefore the check digit designation is "5" .
         __________________________________________________________________________________________________
SHAY OWNERS' CARS VIN NUMBERS: It has helped us in identifying general tendencies (full of unexplainable exceptions) as to production time of cars according to their Vin as well as type of instrument clusters you can expect in them. Owners of 1 gauge cars describe theirs like being a Jeep CJ-5 gauge.
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TECHNICAL INFORMATION: VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
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