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The Second Generation Trans Am Information Site

VIN Number and Cowl Tag Decoding

How to decode your VIN number and cowl data tag to decipher your car


VIN Number

The VIN numbers break down in different ways depending on your model year so check the links below for the break down of each of the years. This can be found stamped on a plate attached to the driver's side dash panel clearly visible through the windshield. It is also stamped on the Firewall of the vehicle behind the blower motor and on the engine and transmission of the car. As you can see in the photo above, the VIN numbers are usually broken down in a 13 digit/letter combination which identify the series, model, year, engine, assembly plant, and production number. The first digit is the GM Division that produced the car (which in this website's case, it is all "2" for Pontiac). The second digit is the Series (Firebird, Esprit, Formula, Trans Am). The third and fourth digits signify the Body Type (coupe, convertible, etc.). The fifth digit is the engine code (Pontiac 400, Olds 403, etc.) The sixth digit is the Assembly Plant (Norwood, OH, Van Nuys, CA, etc.). And the seventh through thirteenth digits is the cars production number. To help decode your specific year, please go to this page and select your year: Year By Year


Cowl Data Tag

All the cowl tags vary from year to year and from plant to plant, so if you do not see your information exactly, don't be alarmed. This page will help you decode your cowl tag and make sense of how your car was originally optioned. See left for an example of a cowl tag from 1978 and the various areas of the tag itself. The cowl tags also did vary from year to year in the placement of some of these codes, but with this overview, you should be able to decode the numbers. On some of the cowl tags there are extra codes in the 4 corners. There is sometimes an "ST", "BDY", "TR", and a "PNT" which stand for "Style", "Body", "Trim", and "Paint" respectively. To help decode your specific year, please go to this page and select your year: Year By Year

Model Year: This was the model year for the car. Production runs started in September and ran through August the following year. So, for 1978, they started to build the cars in September of 1977 and ran through August of 1978.

Car Model Line: This designated what car model was rolling off the Fisher Body Plant assembly line. As you will see on the break downs on the years, this information did not always match what the VIN number stated. In the early years from 1967 to about 1973 or 1974, they were pretty consistent with following the VIN number. Meaning, if the VIN number stated a "2287" for Trans Am, then the cowl tag usually followed suit with a "228" on the cowl tag. When you get up into the later years around 1976 and later, the VIN number stated a "2W87" for Trans Am, but the cowl usually read "2FS87" for Firebird. Not to worry about this when you are decoding your cowl tag. Pontiac and GM were rolling these cars off the assembly line pretty fast, so they mostly left the Fisher Body Plant as Firebird bodies and were made into Trans Ams at the GM Plant.

Production Plant: This was the area for which Factory was producting the car such as "N" for Norwood, Ohio or "L" for Van Nuys California.

Fisher Body Production Number: This was the actual production number of the body when it rolled off the line at the Fisher Body Plant. No, this does not match the Pontiac Production number located at the end of your VIN number. These were two totally different plants between GM and Fisher, so these numbers don't match and are not supposed to match. Also, the production number is not relative to the car...... meaning that this production number was relative to the cars rolling off the Fisher Body Plant's line which included more than just the Firebird/Trans Am car line.

Interior Trim Code: This was the area for the interior trim colors It was a code that consisted of two numbers which designated the color and one letter which desginated the type of interior such as "Standard" or "Deluxe".

Misc. RPO Codes: This area in the middle of the cowl tag was usually reserved for misc RPO codes such as the "A51" for bucket seats, "A31" for power windows, "WS4" for Trans Am, or the infamous "Y82" or "Y84" codes for Special Edition Trans Ams. Now these codes varied from plant to plant as far as what information they put in there. For example, the Norwood Ohio plant used the "WS4" code for Trans Am in this area, but usually never used it for the "Y82" codes. But the Van Nuys California plant usually used the "Y82" codes, but usually never used the "WS4" codes for Trans Am. So again, if you do not see a certain code here when you think it should be, check to see which plant it came from..... For More information about RPO codes, check this page out: RPO Codes

Exterior Paint Codes: This area was for the extrior paint color of the car. The codes were a two number code for the color followed by an "L" for lower paint code and a "U" for upper paint code. Now, most Firebirds and Trans Ams had the same paint code for upper and lower body paint, but certain cars such as the Formula, the 1979 10th Anniversary Trans Am, or the 1980 and 1981 Pace Cars had different codes listed for upper and lower body paint. The Formulas quite often had a different lower body color. The 1979 10th Anniversary has Silver listed for the lower body paint and Charcoal for the upper body paint, and the Pace Cars had White listed for the lower body paint and Charcoal or Black for the upper body paint. But for most instances, these two color codes should be the same. In the earlier years, this was a 2 or 3 digit number for the exterior paint code

Build Date: This area was for the actual build date of the car. This was a two digit number code followed by a letter. The two digit number designated the month the car was built, and the letter code designated the week in that month the car was built.

Secondary Interior Color: This area listed the secondary interior color option. This is where they really went all over the place with codes and numbers. Sometimes this code is failry easy to decode with abbreviations like "BLK" for Black, "OXB" for Oxblood, "TAN" for Tan, or "CAR" for Carmine. But sometimes this code is not so easy to decode. But if you look at the other interior code on the "Interior Tirm Code" line, you can usually make out what it stood for. For example, the code listed here might be a "T-3". Well, if your interior color code is a "62" for Camel Tan, then the "T-3" stood for Tan as your secondary interior color. I have seen codes all over the spectrum like "T-3" for Tan, and "BL2" for Blue, or even I have seen a "B--" for Black. So, sometimes these codes are easy, but whatever is listed there, you should be able to tell from your other interior trim code was this codes stands for. Most of the Firebird/Trans Am interiors were a single color code, but some of the cars came with a white interior, so this secondary interior color could have been a variety of colors such as black, red, and blue.

Fisher Body Time/Date Code: This area was used for the Fisher Body Plant and was the Time and Date code for when the car was built. Now since quite some time has passed since these cars were built, some information is just lost and figuring out what exactly thius code is or how to decode it has been lost to time. I have not seen any solid information yet that has decoded this time and date stamp.