This page has pictures of seven types of 1955-1969 Thunderbird patent plates, also known as warranty plates and data plates.
What do the VIN positions represent? ↓
There are two VIN formats used for years 1955 through 1970. One style has ten alpha-numeric characters; one style has eleven alpha-numeric characters. The 11-character style was also used through year 1980 however starting in 1981, a white plastic sticker was used. The secondary VIN location for years 1958-1967 is under the hood; starting in 1968 the secondary VIN location is visible through the windshield, at the base.
The data plate styles have two basic sizes. The larger style was used in years 1955 through 1965. Starting with year 1966 the data plate is smaller, with smaller embossed characters, as you will see in the pictures below. A couple of points to consider when understanding the codes (body, color, etc.) are these: #1, for years 1955, 1956, and most of 1957 production, there is no trans/axle code - this does not appear until later in the 1957 year; and #2, this group of trans/axle codes which we see in this order through 1961, is reversed starting in year 1962.
The letters I and O never appear in any Ford Thunderbird VIN, regardless of year. However there are paint and axle codes which do use these letters. If you think you see the letter O in a VIN, it is more likely the letter Q. Often the letter Y and number 4 get mixed up, as do the letter Z and number 2. The letters Y and Z appear in the vast majority of 1958-1970 Thunderbird VINs, and the letter Y appears also in many 1971-1976 VINs as well as all 2002-2005 VINs. A couple ofthings to consider - they are extremely remote possibilities, however - #1 a very few 1958- through- early 1960s Thunderbirds were built with low-compression engines which result in an unusual code in the engine position, and #2 some 1956 Thunderbirds were built in Mexico and have MEX in the VIN.
In the "Production Code" area you may see as few characters as 2-3 numbers alone or something as long as this. Here, on this (early) 1957 Thunderbird data plate, "27B" is the scheduled date of February 27, 1957. Part two of it says it was order number 0368B for the Detroit District (33). Because 1955, 1956, and 1957 Thunderbirds were produced on the same assembly line as other Fords (Customlines, Fairlanes, etc.) the VIN "last six" range for these years is high compared to following years when the only Ford brand produced at Wixom was the Thunderbird.
This is the type of data plate used on 1957 Thunderbirds built approximately after May of 1957. The actual "serial number" may be higher on cars with old-style plates. This is because cars are never built in strict sequential order of the VIN itself. Note here we have an extra space in the date code which is 26W. This car was scheduled for production on September 26, 1957. A 1957 Thunderbird scheduled for September 26, 1956 would have the date code of 26J; this illustrates the "second year" date coding as production is now into its 13th month of the same model year.
For all intensive purposes, this data plate is in the same style and order of the late 1957 plate. From now on through all of 1967 year's production, we will see the letter Y in the VIN, which indicates Wixom, Michigan assembly plant. The position of this Y will change but its presence is consistent.
For 1960 we have a different style of plate with a newly-formatted VIN. This is a 1960 Thunderbird so the first character is a zero, signifying the zero in the "1960". The first letter Y is for Wixom; the second letter Y stands for the 352 4V V-8 engine, the most commonly installed engine on 1960 Thunderbirds. There is no letter O in any VIN.
In this 1961 Thunderbird data plate we see the same formatting as in 1960. Note the Y for Wixom is there; the engine code of Z indicates the new-for-1961 390 4V V-8 engine. Every 1961 Thunderbird will have the Z....wrong! A very small handful of cars were built with a low-compression engine and you can find some of them in the Registry's data base.
This style of plate was introduced in 1962. Note the sequence of AXLE and TRANS. This data plate is for 1965 Thunderbird.
This style of data plate was introduced in 1966, and is used through year 1969. The embossed letters and numbers are smaller and more difficult to read. If you see the fifth position in the VIN as being the letter O, as in "ocean", you are mistaken. It is actually the letter Q and it is for the 428-cubic inch V-8 engine. It is common to see the embossed characters run into the black area below the silver area. 1967 Thunderbirds commonly are seen with a 2-character axle code.
Automobiles furnished by Ford Motor Company.