by Larry Gorden and Bob Johnson
December 2003, updated April 2006, May-Jun 2007, Dec 2007, Jan 2008, Dec 2011
This Information is applicable specifically to 1955-57 Pontiacs and likely applies directly to many other years, earlier and later -- details may vary slightly.
There are two identification tags attached to the body:
Serial Tag - A stainless steel tag spot welded to the driver’s door jamb that contains the body serial number (VIN used for registration). The serial tag was installed at the Pontiac assembly plant where the body was mated to the chassis and assembly was completed.
Fisher Body Data Plate, often referred to as just the "Data Plate" (also sometimes called the "Cowl Tag"). It is a small aluminum tag riveted to the cowl or firewall, painted the same color as the cowl. The Data Plate was installed on the body at the Fisher Body plant where the body was built.
The examples below are both from the same 1956 Safari, but the interpretive information used to ‘read’ these tags is similar for other Pontiac models.
Below is a serial tag as found on the driver's side front door jam, hinge side, just above the interior light switch. These were unpainted stainless tags spot welded to the body at the Pontiac assembly plants.
The first letter, a 'W' in this example tag, identifies the Pontiac plant where the car was assembled. Codes used between 1954 and 1958 include the following:
A = Atlanta, Georgia
C = South Gate, California
F = Framingham, Mass
K = Kansas City, Kansas
L = Linden, New Jersey
P = Pontiac, Michigan
T = Arlington, Texas
W = Wilmington, Delaware
The next digit immediately following plant designation, ‘7’ in this case, indicates the car is a member of the 27 series which used the 122 inch short wheel base frame (all Chieftains, Super Chiefs, and Safaris). By contrast, an '8' code here would indicate the car was a 28 series which used the longer 124 inch wheel base frame (all Star Chief models except Custom Safari).
The next two digits, '56' in this case, indicate the model year of the vehicle. This should correlate with the first two digits of the Body No. code found on the Fisher Body Data Plate.
The 'H' code in the middle of the serial number indicates the car was originally equipped with a Hydra-Matic transmission. An 'S' would indicate a standard transmission (An interesting side note, only ten 56 Safaris and four 57 Safaris are known to have been produced with standard transmissions).
The remaining digits after the transmission code, '15431' in our example, represent the serial number for the car as it came off the assembly line at that particular Pontiac assembly plant. Serial numbers were issued by each assembly plant for each car of a given transmission type.
This serial number was stamped into the serial number tag and onto the front right side of the engine block. For a ‘factory original’ car, these serial numbers should match. Since the first car produced gets serial number 1001, the door tag number in this example tells us this is the 14,431st (15431 - 1000) Hydra-Matic equipped car (includes all body types) to roll off the Pontiac assembly line at the Wilmington, Delaware plant in 1956.
See the Master Parts Catalog for serial numbers used at each Pontiac assembly plant. For all plants except the Pontiac MI plant (code P), see "Assembly Plant Serial Numbers" beginning on page 18. For serial numbers used at the Pontiac MI plant, see "Car Model Information" beginning on page 7.
Fisher Body Data Plate (Cowl Tag)
For mid 50s Pontiacs, you'll generally find the Fisher Body Data Plate (we'll call it the "Data Plate") tag on the engine cowl or firewall, passenger's side (under the right rear corner of hood). However, for cars equipped with air conditioning (either factory or dealer installed) this tag was relocated to the driver’s side of the car due to a conflict with the AC equipment. The Data Plate was made and attached to the body by Fisher Body before the body was sent on to the Pontiac assembly plant. The Data Plate was painted the same color as the cowl. It defines the configuration of the car and is an invaluable source of information for returning a car to its “original” condition.
STYLE No = Year - Model
BODY No = Plant location & production number
TRIM No = Upholstery material & colors
PAINT No = Car colors
TOP = Convertible top type/color
In the above example, the style number is shown as ‘56-2764DF’. The ‘56’ indicates it is a 1956 model. ‘2764DF' is the body style number, in this example representing the Custom Safari Station Wagon. In this body style number, '27' indicates the 27 series, where '28' would indicate the 28 series.
The 1955 Safari body style was 2564DF. 1957 Safari body styles were 2764DF for the two door and 2762SDF for the four door Transcontinental. Select one of the following links for a complete list of body styles:
1955 Body Styles
1956 Body Styles
1957 Body Styles
Body style Numbers for other years can be found in the Master Parts Catalog beginning on page 7, "Car Model Information".
The example tag lists the body number as ‘CL 3016’. The initial letters, CL in this example, is a code for the Fisher Body plant where the car body was built. The 1960 Pontiac Master Parts Catalog lists these codes:
PO = Pontiac, Michigan
BA = Doraville, Georgia
BL = Linden, New Jersey
BC = South Gate, CA
BK = Kansas City, Kansas
LA = Lansing, Michigan
BW = Wilmington, Delaware
BF = Framingham, Mass
BT = Arlington, Texas
EP = Euclid, Ohio
Most but not all of these codes were used in the 1940s and 1950s. We believe that all of the plants were used in 1955-57 for building Pontiac bodies. The EP code for Euclid was first used in 1959, code CL was used for the same plant in previous years.
In addition to some of the above codes, these Fisher Body plant codes were used on 1955-57 and some earlier Pontiacs.
CL = Euclid, Ohio, suburb of Cleveland (code changed to EP in 1959)
P = Pontiac, Michigan (single letter code) used prior to PO
L = Lansing, Michigan (we think)
Most Pontiac bodies were produced in a Fisher Body plant adjacent to or close to a Pontiac assembly plant. The completed bodies moved from the Fisher Body assembly line into the Pontiac assembly plant next door where the body was mated to the chassis and car assembly was completed.
But all 1955-57 Pontiac station wagon bodies were manufactured at the Euclid Fisher Body plant (code CL) and the bodies were shipped to Pontiac assembly plants around the US for mating the body onto the chassis.
All 1956-57 Pontiac convertible bodies were produced at the Pontiac MI (code P) Fisher Body plant. It appears that all 1955 and some earlier convertible bodies were built at the Fisher Body plant with code L. We believe the L plant is in Lansing, Michigan. There was no Pontiac assembly plant in Lansing so all the bodies were shipped to Pontiac assembly plants around the country.
The number after the body build location code, '3016’ in this example, indicates the production sequence of this individual body within its body type. In this example, since we know there were 4,042 Safaris produced in 1956, this tells us this particular body was the 3,016th Safari body produced that year! Anyone out there have body number 0001 or 4042, the first and last ’56 Safari bodies produced?TRIM No
This code identifies the type and color of upholstery originally installed in the car. 278 is the code for leather upholstery in the ivory and dark blue color combination. There are four possible trim codes for the 56 Safari listed in the Dealer’s manual and Pontiac Master Parts Catalogs. See these links for a complete list of trim codes.
1955 Trim Codes
1956 Trim Codes
1957 Trim Codes
Trim Codes for other years can be found in the Master Parts Catalog beginning on page 613, "Trim Combinations".
The paint number code, QK in our example, identifies the exterior paint colors for the car, For 1956, this was a two letter code with lower body color listed first, followed by upper body color. In this example, the car was originally Catalina Blue (Q) on the lower body and Nimbus Grey (K) on the upper body. If the car had originally been painted a single color, say solid Catalina Blue, the code would read ‘QQ'.
In 1955 and previous years, a numeric code was used rather than the 1956 and later alphabetic codes. In 1957, Pontiac used a three-letter code allowing for 3-tone cars. See one of the following links for a complete list of paint codes.
1955 Paint Codes
1956 Paint Codes
1957 Paint Codes
Paint codes for other years can be found in the Master Parts Catalog beginning on page 582, "Color Combinations".
This area of the tag is reserved to indicate the convertible top type and color for convertibles.ACC
The various letter codes found here identify the accessories and accessory packages installed at the factory. Only certain codes will appear on the Fisher Body Data Plate - those being the ones that affected how the body was built. Keep in mind that some models (Star Chiefs) came standard with certain ‘accessories’ that were not standard on others (Chieftains). Not all possible accessory codes were used on every car so equipped, since various accessories were ‘packaged’ for better sale ability. Also different combinations and sequences of code letters had different meanings, so interpretation of these codes can be confusing. To add further to the confusion, some code letters (such as 'X') were used in more than one accessory code and Fisher Body plants were not consistent on which codes they stamped into the tag. In this example 'BK', K = Underseat heater & defroster and K = Latex Foam Cushions.
See the following Accessorizer documents for codes that were used.
1955 Pontiac Accessorizer
1956 Pontiac Accessorizer
1957 Pontiac Accessorizer