How to Find a Pre-1980 VIN Number

by John Marcheur
itstillruns article image
old car image by pearlguy from

The 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) encodes vital information, such as a vehicle's manufacture date. The Federal law regarding the record and display of the VIN first became effective in 1981. The law required manufacturers to display the VIN directly on the body of newly produced vehicles. Generally, insurance companies, repair shops and auto parts retailers use the VIN to identify a specific vehicle related to a client or registered owner. Because of the difference in record-keeping, the location of a VIN assigned to vehicles prior to 1981 requires the use of alternative resources and techniques.

Step 1

Gather vehicle information. Write down the vehicle year, vehicle manufacturer, trim and engine type, transmission type and model name.

Step 2

Contact the vehicle manufacturer. Prior to 1981, motor vehicle manufacturers maintained separate, in-house records of vehicle identification numbers. Call, email or write motor companies to inquire about the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN for your vehicle.

Step 3

Contact an auto parts manufacturer. If the vehicle has undergone previous repair, contact an automobile parts manufacturer to inquire about parts ordered for the vehicle. Auto parts record keeping activity often requires the use of a VIN to identify a customer or vehicle order.

Step 4

Contact a previous owner. The written records maintained by a previous owner may contain vital VIN information. The owner's personal maintenance records, personal will, bankruptcy statements or even information regarding a divorce settlement may contain copy of the vehicle's VIN. If the previous owner is unknown, obtain registered owner information by conducting a title check at the local department of motor vehicles' office.

More Articles

article divider