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How to Read the VIN Number on a GM G-Body

by Paul Dohrman

GM designated its midsize cars with the A-body chassis and rear-wheel drive “G-bodies” starting in 1982, when the A-body chassis switched to front-wheel drive. The G-bodies were produced from 1982 through 1988. Examples of G-bodies are the Chevy Malibu and Monte Carlo, the Oldsmobile Cutlass and the Pontiac Grand Prix. You can read the car’s Vehicle Identification Number to partially confirm that your car is a G-body.

1

Locate the VIN through the right corner of the windshield, bolted to the dashboard.

2

Read the 10th digit, which is the model year. The digit must fall between B and J inclusive, for years 1982 through 1988. ("I" isn’t used to code for model years, since it could be mistaken for the number 1.) Unfortunately, this is as far as you can get in using the VIN to verify your car is a G-body, since the VIN doesn’t distinguish between front- and rear-wheel drive for those years.

3

Find your model year at wrath.com/vindecode/, which gives all the VIN codes for GM cars for model years going back to 1972.

4

Interpret digit 1 of the VIN as the country of manufacture: 1=US and 2=Canada. Digit 2 will be G, for GM.

5

Interpret digit 3 as follows: 1=Chevy, 2=Pontiac, 3=Olds and 4=Buick.

6

Interpret digit 4 as the seatbelt system: A=manual, B=automatic. This applies for 1982, but the restraint system code vary both in its coding and its position in the stretch from 1982 to 1988. Check the Vincard PDF for your own model year.

7

Interpret digits 6 and 7 as the body type in 1982. It distinguishes between notchback and plain back, between coupe and sedan, and between two-door and four-door. The G-body chassis was for two-door cars, not four-door. This list won’t be reproduced here, since the coding varies by model year.

8

Interpret the eighth digit as the engine type. There are 26 engine types for 1982 models alone, so the list won’t be reproduced here. Ignore the ninth digit. It’s an internal check.

9

Interpret the 11th digits as the plant site. With over 35 locations for 1982 models alone, the list won’t be reproduced here.

Tips

  • If you want to confirm you car is a G-body, you can also check the lists on the home pages of g-body.org and gbodies.com. Note that though two-door Cadillacs were made during this period, they don’t fall under the heading of “G-body.”
  • You can’t use the VIN to confirm that your car is rear-wheel drive, like all G-bodies. Front-wheel and rear-wheel breakdown isn’t in the VIN translation for the years the G-body was produced.

About the Author

Paul Dohrman's academic background is in physics and economics. He has professional experience as an educator, mortgage consultant, and casualty actuary. His interests include development economics, technology-based charities, and angel investing.

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