I know Ford started stamping the vin (serial) number on the frame rail starting with the improved car. Can someone tell me which rail it's on, along with a measured distance from some point like a radiator mounting hole? I also need the height of the numbers, i.e. 1/4", 5/16", 3/8" etc.
Here's the reason....I have a 1919 chassis and our local DMV "official" (much nicer term than dictator) insists that ALL cars have a number stamped on the frame, and if it isn't it SHOULD be. Showing her references in books doesn't phase her, so I have to stamp the number on the frame.
Thanks in advance!
A word of caution - in some states it's illegal to stamp numbers on the frame. Your profile says you're in Califuny (as am I). I'm pretty sure this is one of the states where it's illegal. Doing so could come back on you in some unanticipated way to make you miserable.
When I registered my '18 TT it, of course, had no numbers stamped on the frame. I brought reference material. The person at DMV accepted it and used the engine number. I suggest you try a different clerk or go to a different DMV branch.
I bet if you asked that clerk to show you the law requiring a number on the frame she couldn't do it. Unless the law has changed since I had an erroneous pink slip corrected, the clerk's insistence on a stamped frame number is bogus. In that case the number was stamped on a data plate screwed to the firewall. There was no number stamped on the frame. A great many Model T's have been registered in California without one. Henry is correct. Bypass that person and find somebody competent.
Ye Gads! Numbers were the same size as used on the engine VIN. Location varied some, but on the T it was on the Passenger side top rail, rear of the motor mount. All my Ts were "found" stamped there. The CHP & DMV don't know when Ford started doing that (Dec. '25), only that area is where a number should be found.
You can buy stamps at Harbor Freight, BTW--although I know there isn't one in Alturas!
One of the niceties of the T is that you can lift the floorboards to see the number. On the Model A, you have to lift the body and splash apron! ( although, oddly sometimes the number is found on the bottom of the bottom rail on those. I wonder how that happened. . . .Sure makes verifying the number easier on a completed car. . . .)
Now I'm not suggesting anything, but you get a crisper deeper stamp if the frame is held solidly, like a block of hardwood (or a mechanical jack) between it and the floor, and in the frame channel. Not saying, just suggesting. . .
George: I see that you live in Alturas California and you say that you have 1919 T chassis. Do you have any body for said chassis and any VIN paper work,(even if it is from out of state), that matches the engine number? It may be possible to pay for a private VIN verify service to verify the car for you by engine number, but it will have to be a complete car. The Ca DMV Gods may require you to go to the CHP Gods to get a Assigned VIN if they don't like your paper work, so check with local car club members to find a recommended local Ca licensed vehicle verify service to help you.
George, if that's your local DMV, go to another one, maybe a little more rural. That's what Martin Vowell did. He found an older guy at the DMV who understood Ts and told the youngsters to use the engine number. He knew that they didn't have typical modern vins.
The area I've seen the improved frames stamped is right above the hand brake cross shaft on the RH = passenger side.
I have a 1925 frame in my primitive pickup, so I had to stamp it for registration here in Sweden. It's legal to stamp it yourself here, though I had to use a number from an engine in my possession.
Now it's registered as a 1926 with parts from 1915 to '27 in it
Over fifty years ago, I was a young high school kid, and my dad had some business in an out of the way county along the North coast of Califunny. One of the local residents we got to know well was a retired deputy sheriff. At that time, he had been retired for several years already. Being an interesting and friendly old guy, and knowing I was a kid very interested in antique automobiles, he told me some great stories of his early days as a Sheriff's deputy. In the early 1920s, and for a few years, one of the jobs he had to do the most was go out to farms and ranches all over the county to stamp numbers onto the frames of model T Fords for the county clerk who (in those days) maintained local registrations for the state.
There was no specified location for the serial number to be placed. Some of the most common locations were on the front of the front cross member, either in the middle, or to one side depending on the style of front engine mount. The side of the frame rail alongside the engine was another common place, it was accessible from under the fender. On top of the frame rail was also used sometimes. The fender must be removed to see that area. But usually the serial number being moved onto the frame was done when the engine was being replaced (a common task in those days). So, often, when the deputy went out, the fender was off as the engine work was being done, and that was the easiest place to put the number. On top of the frame, just inside the passenger front door was also used often (this became a good location by 1926 because that is where the Ford factory began putting the numbers on new Fords).
I was able to verify much of what he had told me. I had an opportunity to read the section in a '20s vehicle code book that encouraged changing the Ford's serial number from the engine onto the frame. When an engine change was needed? Correcting the title was required. A choice was given by the state. A fee was charged to alter the title to match the new serial number. The rules expressly encouraged changing the car to a frame number, and to make that point, the fee was only about half as much if the original number were applied to the frame. This task could be performed by any number of law enforcement or other (unspecified) people. Different people put numbers in different preferred places. The retired deputy told me about several he had done where he used places other than his preference due to the car being parked inside a tight garage space or other obstruction.
Over the years, I have had about a half dozen earlier frames with serial numbers stamped on them. Some of them were done rather crudely, others were nice and neat. I have seen more at swap meets and other people's homes. Most cars never had the engine changed, and therefore never had the number moved. But a lot of them did.
Just some history to think about.
Sorry I didn't reply earlier....honey do's got in the way.
At this point I have an engine with 1919 number, and a pile of parts....some actually usable. Like a fool, I actually went to our local DMV to find out licensing requirements, but never got that far. The clerk (small two person office here) insisted that all cars had a stamped, hidden vin. She's in her mid thirties I would guess, so knows little to nothing about antique cars. I offered to bring in a written/printed source and show her, but she still insisted it was a state requirement.
There's no great rush at this point, as it will be some time before a vehicle emerges from my shop.
Remember when things used to be simple and common sense ruled?
As usual, the younger folks don't know whereof which they speak! Also, many DMV clerks do not know the vehicle code they are there to enforce--beyond the normal, everyday stuff. We "old car" folks need to know the rules, and be equipped with the code numbers and text that apply to what relates to our cars. I have a Model A that I thought was on "Non-Op", but I noticed I wasn't getting a yearly notice like my Ts got. Checked with the DMV (through AAA, so I wasn't "at" the local office) and found out, it wasn't, and according to the computer, I owed some $700 in back fees and fines. Well, antique autos are actually exempt from the "no non-op" rules, and I knew that. So I went to the DMV website and found an advisory letter to the offices stating that. I made a copy of it, and When I was in a nearby town with a small DMV office (the local Oroville office is a customer adversarial office--if you're in there, you must be doing something illegal--at least that is their attitude) I went in with my paperwork and was told, "Yes, you owe ~$700 back fees" and then I showed her the copy of the letter, which stated that if the car is part of a collection, it's exempt--so then they wanted me to bring in proof of my other cars. I asked, "Can't you just look them up under my name?"
(Now a little sidebar here, a "collection" can be ONE car, this was a misinterpretation on their part, but I went along with it, as I do have a few cars.)
"Um, I don't think so. . " and then she goes and talks to the manager a bit, comes back, and says, "well, fill out this Statement of Facts with your other cars" So I go over and do that, and take it back over to the window (nice thing about a small office, NO Line!) And she accepts that, so now I only owe some $200 My car has vanity plates, and the fee for them is not forgiven, which I knew, so was prepared for that. She even apologized for the extra fees, but I told her it wasn't a problem. Then the manager came over and told me if I was caught even driving it in a parade I would pay all back fees and a fine. That part I didn't understand and had to ask her, "I'm paid up, you mean I still can't drive it?" She mumbles some stuff, and I realized that she was thinking I might "trade plates" to drive my other cars. All because I wanted to keep my A current! So, both my cars with "vanity plates" (personalized and YOM are considered vanity plates) are now kept on current registration just to avoid future problems! Plus, they're both close to running (actually the A runs, it's just buried behind house remodeling stuff, and Barney is just waiting for me to change out the Babbitt thrust washers and the body wood), so If I get the work done, I can just drive them!
Remember; know the rules, come prepared to prove them, and don't tell them anything more than what they need to know to get the paperwork done!
Put the engine number on a metal tag, and hide it on the firewall patent plate. Then she'll be happy.
George in Alturas Ca.,
Simple and common sense ruled? You must be confusing California with Idaho! In California it has been almost 45 years for anything close to simple and common sense in government.
I am just kidding you a little George. It is good that you have some time to sort out getting your T licensed in California. Try going to the Ca DMV online, forms and Q & A on car registration and titles.
Technically a number stamped on the body isn't legal in CA, although that's how the DMV registered my Model A back in 1971.
I have often referred to this state as "Califunny" for nearly fifty years for a reason.
"Remember when things used to be simple and common sense ruled?"
Martin Vowell has a great story when he had that issue. Finally had an old dude who liked old cars and more knowledgeable get everything straightened out and Martin didn't have to have DMV issue an awful little tag to pop rivet on. When Derrick Pang got his runabout registered he had no problem . The DMV office in his heavy old Latino Hood see's plenty of put together/modified cars so they knew. Latino lady after inspection loved having her pic taken in the car. I had my 26/7 done at the AAA, the whole office got so excited. "There's a Model T in the parking lot !!!"