Parts Identification Before Restoration
By Stephen Kassis
One of the first things necessary to do on a restoration is to identify the vehicle and its components. This is important no matter what year or vehicle you plan to restore. Why identify? Many times, the person selling a vehicle thinks they are “sure” of the year. Even though there are many similarities in Chevrolets, each year is different in subtle (and sometimes dramatic) ways. Restoration entails countless hours of work, and great expense, that most cannot easily afford. Identifying the vehicle and its component parts ensures that the vehicle and parts are a correct match, before spending the time and money restoring the wrong parts.
When searching for parts, it is imperative to know the exact year, and sometimes the approximate date of manufacture, of the vehicle. In some cases, parts are different from the early production to late production cars in the same year!
This discussion will focus on 1929-1932 cars, but the basic process will hold true for earlier and later cars & trucks. Fisher Body built “closed cars” (cars with roll-up windows): Coupe (including: Sport Coupe with rumble seat, 5-window coupe with trunk, and 3-window coupe), Coach (2-door sedan), Sedan (4-door sedan), 5-Passenger Coupe, Cabriolet, Landau Phaeton, and Sedan Delivery. For the 1931 and 1932 model years, there were also Deluxe and Standard versions of each body style. The Deluxe versions basically differed from the Standard by the addition of accessories.
Roadsters and Phaetons (Touring cars) are “open cars” (these cars have celluloid (plastic) side curtains instead of roll-up windows) and are NOT Fisher Body cars. The open car and truck bodies were built by Chevrolet and are quite different from their Fisher closed-bodied cousins.
There are two types of identification plates on most Chevrolet cars: the Fisher Body tag and the Car Number or Model Identification plate (sometimes called Data Plates). If the vehicle is a closed car, the Fisher Body identification tag is located on the firewall in the engine compartment. This tag is aluminum with raised letters and is riveted in place. Open cars and trucks do not have this tag.
The Car Number or Model Identification plate (used on both open and closed cars) is on the passenger side main body sill (closed cars) or seat frame (open cars). On trucks the tag was located on the right side firewall in the engine compartment. This tag is a screen-printed (black), aluminum tag with stamped numbers and is nailed to the floor or seat frame and screwed to the firewall on trucks. Many times the car tag may be missing because of the deterioration of the wood, allowing the nails to loosen. These two ID tags hold a wealth of information.
Foreign Built Chevrolets
In addition to U.S. manufacturing plants, Chevrolet had assembly plants all over the world. Most of these facilities assembled bodies onto chassis that were built in the U.S. and sent overseas. In Canada, General Motors of Canada manufactured vehicles that have slight differences from U.S. manufactured cars & trucks. Canada built most of the export cars & trucks, many of which were right hand drive. Some of the differences include, but are not limited to: upholstery, paint, bumpers, fenders, and accessories.
In Australia, Holden Body built most of the bodies that were mounted on the U.S. built chassis. These bodies are very different from their U.S. counterparts. If you are restoring a Holden Body Chevrolet, most body parts will not interchange with U.S. or Canadian-made parts. Use extreme caution when ordering replacement parts for these vehicles. Most mechanical parts will interchange, but body parts may not.
Fisher Body Tag
The Fisher Body tag shows: Job No, Body No, Paint No, and Trim No. It also indicates the plant of manufacture. To decipher the information on this tag, break down each number individually.
Start with the example Job No 32569. “32” is the year of the vehicle = 1932. This designation started with the 1930 production year. (1929 and earlier cars used a completely different job number, which will not be discussed). “569” indicates that the vehicle is a Chevrolet Special Sedan (4-door Sedan). Table #1 (below) shows the 1930-1932 Job Numbers.
Body No. O 3368, “O” indicates that this vehicle was produced at the Oakland, California factory. Table #2 (below) indicates the letter and number designations for the Chevrolet factories in the U.S. The factory number designation was used only on the Car Number or Model Identification plate, which will be discussed later. The number “3368” indicates that this was the 3,368 th Special Sedan to be produced in Oakland, California factory in 1932.
The Trim No “17” refers to the specific interior treatments of each vehicle (i.e. upholstery, headliner, door panels, etc.) Some Chevrolet Master Parts Books have a breakdown of these numbers starting in about 1942.
The Paint No “99” indicates the specific paint combination for this vehicle (i.e. colors for upper & lower body, wheels, instrument panel and depression, hood, hood molding, hood striping, body striping, & window offsets). See 1929-1934 Chevrolet Duco Paint Specifications for a breakdown of these numbers. For 1929 passenger cars, there is a more complete list of paint combinations in the 1929 Service News. Another aid when painting your car is the Paint Instruction Drawings. We have many of these drawings for 1929-1938 that will give details on pinstripe details and location of paint on the body.
Car Number or Model Identification Plate
The Car Number or Model Identification Plate shows the factory of manufacture, series designation (i.e.: BA = 1932 passenger cars), the month of manufacture (1932 and later models) and the car number. Example: 6BA 03 14173
In the example above, the first number or numbers indicates the factory where the vehicle was manufactured. Referring to Table #2 (below), the number “6” indicates that the factory where this vehicle was manufactured was Oakland, California.
The letters “BA” indicate that this was a 1932 series passenger vehicle and the model was called “Confederate”. Table #3 (below) lists the 1929 to 1932 series and model designations that were used on all cars.
The numbers “03” indicates the month that the vehicle was manufactured – March of 1932. If the number was “11”, that would indicate that the vehicle was manufactured in November of 1931. This part of the serial number was not used until the 1932 production (model year), therefore, 1931 and earlier models will not have these numbers.
The number “14173” (model series unit number) indicates that this is the 13,173 rd vehicle to come off the Oakland assembly line in 1932. (Note: the numbering started at 1,001).
In addition to the identification plates, there are also many casting numbers and cast date codes on mechanical parts of the car. The casting numbers are 6-digit “raised” numbers cast into the parts. See Table #4 (below) for casting numbers of 1931 & 1932 cars. The date codes are a letter/number combination.
Date Code Example “B 15 2” the first letter is the month (i.e. A=January, B=February, etc.). The first number or numbers “15” are the day of the month = February 15th. The last number is the last digit of the year. In this example, the “2” indicates 1932, 1942, 1952, etc. You must be able to identify the part within a 10-year range or compare the casting number with those used for the suspected model year. The date code is a convenient way to quickly identify the year of manufacture. However, caution must be taken as repair parts produced several years later, may have the correct casting number, but an incorrect date code.
Try to identify this example: “K 14 1”. This is a little tricky. Production on the new models would begin in September or October of the prior year. This code is November 14, 1931, which would be correct for a 1932 early production vehicle. Refer to Table #4 (below) for a listing of casting numbers.
In addition to casting numbers, there are also stamped serial numbers on the engine block, transmission and rear end. These numbers can also be used to identify the year of the engine, transmission or rear end. Unfortunately, we do not have a chart for the stamped serial numbers.
Table #1: Job Numbers
|551 = Coach (2-Door Sedan)|
|552 = Sedan-Club (4-Door w/no rear quarter windows – 1930 ONLY)|
|557 = Coupe-Standard (Trunk)|
|559 = Sedan-Standard (4-Door)|
|568 = Cabriolet|
|570 = Sedan Delivery|
|572 = Coupe-5 Passenger|
|558 = Coupe-Sport (Rumble Seat)|
|567 = Coupe-5 Window (Trunk)|
|569* = Sedan-Special (4-Door)|
|571 = Landau Phaeton|
|*In 1930 ONLY, 559 was used for both Standard & Special Sedan|
Table #2: Plant of Manufacture
|Plant||Letter Code||Number Code|
|Terrytown, New York||T||2|
|St. Louis, Missouri||S||3|
|Kansas City, Missouri||K||5|
|Buffalo, New York||B||12|
Table #3: Year, Series, Model
Table #4: Casting Number