Prepared by LOVEfords on June 20, 2010. See http://forum.love-fords.org
Ford, Mercury, Edsel, Lincoln Date Code System
The date code is on the metal plate attached to the firewall, glove box, door striker, or the door
itself. It lists the scheduled build date of the vehicle, and not necessarily the actual build date. In
many years, the date code is actually part of the "Production Code", sometimes separated by a
dash or a space.
Scheduled vs. actual build date is an important distinction. The two dates are very likely to be
different. It starts because when a vehicle's order was accepted and planned for production, a
scheduled date was assigned. This was the date on which Ford expected to be able to actually
build the vehicle. That date was not necessarily in strict sequential order of the VIN or when the
order was placed, but more commonly associated with assembly plant capacity, parts and
component availability, and even labor unrest.
The date code can be comprised of two or three characters. There are a few variations of the
way the date code is presented, but it will always have one letter. The ways we see the date code
are as follows: Note the differences
E1 through E9
E10 through E31
1A through 9A
01A through 09A
10A through 31A
When the letter precedes, and the date is 1-9 there is no leading zero. When the letter follows
there may or may not be a leading zero. The letters used above are examples. In actual use, 24
of the 26 letters of the alphabet were used to show a scheduled date.
In order to understand the significance of the letters and their meanings, it is first necessary to
understand the basics of a typical "production year". Generally speaking a production year began
in August and ended in July. For instance, production of 1963 Fords started in August of 1962
and ended in July of 1963. Sometimes a production year started later, say November of the
previous calendar year, and sometimes the production year even started in January of the
What would happen if a production year spanned more than 12 months? This did happen more
often than one might think, take for example three notable planned examples: (1) the 1965
Mustang; (2) the 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III; and (3) the 1970 Ford Maverick. And there
were other times, too, not always planned far ahead, like the 1960 Thunderbird produced from
August 1959 through September 1960 and the 1957 Thunderbird produced from August 1956
through December 1957. Examples like these meant that there would be two Augusts, two
Aprils, two Septembers, etc. How was the distinction made?
Ford used a table of two production years, simultaneously to ensure that if a production year ever
went further than planned there would be 24 month codes to be used. For the most part the
second set (months 13-24) were never used however it is not uncommon to see date codes going
into that territory. Some plants started production later, kept it going longer, or both.
Consider the first production year. Following is the table with the codes and the months
represented by them
A = January
B = February
C = March
D = April
E = May
F = June
G = July
H = August
I = not used because of its similiarity to the number 1
J = September
K = October
L = November
M = December
Let's consider 1963 Ford production that began in August 1962. The first Fords scheduled to be
built would date codes like 05H, 06H, and 12H. These Fords would have the lowest "last six" of
the VINs from that plant. The sequence continued, J, K, L, M. When the first cars were scheduled
for January of 1963, they received date codes in the "A" range. So in actual production
sequence, a typical production year had this sequence: H, J, K, L, M, A, B, C, D, E, F, G. These
cars used the first production year table.
Now consider the second production year (not the model year, like 1963 or 1964), but the months
associated with the factory producing a specific model year like 1963. To accommodate the need
for the next months' codes, this table was used:
N = January
O = not used because of its similarity to zero
P = February
Q = March
R = April
S = May
T = June
U = July
V = August
W = September
X = October
Y = November
Z = December
Getting back to that 1963 Ford production, the last cars produced in the first twelve months of
production would have date codes like 29G or 31G. Cars produced in August, 1963, (the 13th
month of production) would have date codes like 01V or 11V.
A very important fact to be noted here is that in order for the second set of month codes to be
used on the data plate, the production must enter the 13th month. This is what trips the switch to
go to the second group (N through Z). So, while Dearborn production of 1963 Fords may have
started on July 31, 1962, the production at Dallas may not have started until September 1, 1962.
For this reason we see different month codes associated with different "last six" VIN lows and
highs. Such a VIN low of 100123 at Dearborn might have 31G. Yet at Dallas, which started later,
never made a car in the month of July until 1963, could have 31G on a car with a VIN of 178999.
Considering those 1960 Thunderbirds mentioned earlier, the production of these cars was known
to be over 12 months well in advance, however the actual stop date was rather open-ended. Ford
did keep building 1960 Thunderbirds later than they expected, even with the pre-planned "12+"
assembly run. This was due partly to the integrity and usable life of the body dies and the
extreme popularity of the car itself. When rumors began leaking in April of 1960 that an all-new
Thunderbird was planned, buyers flocked to Ford dealerships and not only bought stock on hand
at an unprecedented rate, but thousands of new pre-sold orders were taken too. It is known that
most of these cars were heavily optioned, more so than those produced earlier in the year. For
this reason, and because of known delays associated with the 1961 Thunderbird production, Ford
kept the Wixom Thunderbird line going at full steam throughout the summer and into September,
making for 14 production months.
Similarly the 1957 Thunderbirds enjoyed a long production run - 16 months - on the Dearborn
line. They were built alongside 1957 Ford Custom 300s, Fairlanes, and Ranch Wagons and then
alongside 1958 Fords of those same types. Because of this, the very late 1957 Thunderbirds are
one of an exclusive group of Ford products to carry month codes like W, X, Y, and Z. Of course,
no 1957 Thunderbirds have month codes of N through V. This is because in order to use 01N for
instance, 1957 Thunderbird production would have had to take place on January 1, 1958.
1965 Mustangs, 1969 Mark IIIs, and 1970 Mavericks are the most obvious examples of pre-
planned, strategized 12+ month production. These three cars basically followed the same
production schedule: March through December, and January through August, for their first
production year resulting in 18 months of builds, and 18 different month codes. Using the 1965
Mustang as an example, here is the list of Dearborn production months in order and their
March 1964 = C
April 1964 = D
May 1964 = E
June 1964 = F
July 1964 = G
August 1964 = H
September 1964 = J
October 1964 = K
November 1964 = L
December 1964 = M
January 1965 = A
February 1965 = B
March 1965 = Q
April 1965 = R
May 1965 = S
June 1965 = T
July 1965 = U
August 1965 = V
Note January (A) and February (B) 1965, this was the first time production happened in a January
or a February, and these being the first times, the first production year codes are used. Using this
rather "backwards" approach assures that a full list of 24 month codes are always available. For
1969 Mark III production, we use the years 1968 and 1969; for 1970 Maverick we use the years
1969 and 1970 in the examples above.
Technically there is no such thing as a "1964 1/2" Mustang however that term is widely accepted
today. A 1964 1/2 Mustang means a car built in January through August of 1964. This term came
about by Ford marketing when they got a jump-start on the 1965 model year. Not only did
customers get an entirely new kind of car type, they also got the privilege to own the first of the
1965 models, some six months ahead of everyone else. Today we also recognize these "1964
1/2" Mustangs as having some production differences like a passenger seat adjustment,
alternator, and other items which were phased in gradually, then being standardized by the time
production started in September 1964.
Another important fact about the early 1965 Mustangs is that in the beginning, they were made
only at Dearborn. Later, production began at Metuchen and San Jose. So Mustangs built at those
plants will not follow the date code scheme above.
Legally, all Mustangs built from March 1964 through August 1965 are 1965 models, regardless of
how they are titled or registered. There is no such thing as a 1964 Mustang, and a document that
says this is incorrect. However for the enjoyment and intrigue of the Ford hobby, we happily refer
in conversation and stories to those early ponies as "1964 1/2 Mustangs".
1970 Mavericks were introduced with much fanfare exactly five years after the Mustang, using the
same marketing strategy. They were popularly called "1969 1/2" models at the time however it is
very uncommon indeed to hear this term used in 2010.
And let's not forget about the 1969 Mark III.... truly a singular example of Ford production
logistics, the 1969 Mark III was built concurrently with 1968 Lincolns starting in March of 1968.
The last six of these Mark III VINs was taken from the same pool used for 1968 models which
began at 800001. When production of 1969 Lincolns began in August of 1968, the VIN last-six
pool started where 1968 left off (rounded up to 848000), an unprecedented and as yet
unrepeated event in Ford history. For this reason we see an artificially high last six of 1969
Lincoln VINs. Similarly as with the Mustangs and Mavericks, we see that same 18-month code
system used. However what is unique here is that we see the "regular" Lincolns (Sedan and
Coupe) being phased into production well after the start of the Mark III builds. So by the time
March of '69 comes around, while these are the first 1969 Lincoln Sedans being built, it is the
second month of March production for all 1969 Lincoln/Mark III production, so of course the cars
use the Q month code regardless if they are a Mark III, Sedan, or Coupe.
If you are reading a 1969 Lincoln or Mark III VIN, it is important to remember these facts:
800001 through 848000 were used by both 1968 Lincoln Sedan/Coupe and 1969 Mark
III cars, with Mark III being phased in around the 825000 range. The last couple of
hundred numbers before 848000 were never assigned. 8Y81A825101 would be a 1968
Lincoln Continental Coupe; 9Y87A825102 would be a 1969 Mark III; and 8Y82A825103
would be a 1968 Lincoln Continental Sedan. Note the progressive increase in last-six,
note the year indicator in position #1 and the model indicator in positions #3-4. The last-
six pool is constant.
848001 and higher are all assigned to 1969 Lincolns, regardless if they are a Seda,
Coupe, or Mark III. All 848001 and higher have a year indicator of "9".
As mentioned, this situation seems to be unique in the Ford VIN system. I don't know of any other
time such an event took place. This is because it is the only time of which I am aware when a
next-year model was being built at the same time as a current-year model, at the same assembly
plant. Remember that in March of 1964, Mustang production entirely took over the capacity at
Dearborn; 1964 Fairlane and Ford production had been halted some time earlier to re-tool for
Mustang. Likewise, Maverick production completely accounted for capacity at its plants.
And that's about it...except really savvy or very inquisitive minds will make note that I have not
mentioned the Mark II Continental...yet. And for good reason. To begin with, let's understand and
agree that the Mark II Continental is not a Lincoln, and that it does not have a model year. That's
right. The Mark II was conceived to be a Continental, a free-standing car line in its own right,
operated by the Continental Division. The car, according to plan, was to be of such unique and
already classic design that it would need no year designation. However, motor vehicle agencies
did not necessarily agree with that "no year designation" idea. For this reason, today we generally
accept that Mark IIs built in the first production year (July 1955-July 1956) are 1956 models, with
cars built after that being 1957 models. To make matters worse, DMVs do not accept the car
name of "Continental", they call it a "Lincoln" (as is the case in previous Continental years). The
author begrudgingly accepts this principle as matter of legality only, in actuality these cars are
simply "Mark II Continentals". And I guess there are worse things in a car's life than being called
Mark II Continentals used their own date code system on the door data plate. Read carefully:
July 1955 = 7
August 1955 = 8
September 1955 = 9
October 1955 = 0 (zero)
November 1955 = A
December 1955 = B
January 1956 = C
February 1956 = D
and so on, including every letter including I and O, right through S.
A Mark II dated 91 was scheduled for September 1, 1955. A Mark II dated 019 was scheduled for
October 19; D12 means February 12, etc. In fact the author is aware of some Mark IIs which do
not seem to follow their own rule in regards to the month code. Suffice it say that such a car as
the Mark II Continental is not bound by traditional, rigid date codes. This matter is trivial and in the
long run unimportant to the Mark II's concept and presence. It's the opinion of the author that the
Mark II does deserve a status that puts it in a special place in the history of automobiles.
Your comments and questions are always welcome.