Understanding the Data Plate Date Code
By: Rick Ochs
Edited by Richard Fleener
The “Date” you see on the Data Plate of your Talladega/Spoiler/Spoiler II is very likely not the car’s Build Date.
If it isn’t the Build Date what the heck is it? It is simply the date that the Ford planned or estimated to build the car. Ok, so your next questions are:
- How do you find the real Build Date?
- Why wasn’t the car built when Ford intended to build it?
- Why didn’t Ford put the real build date on the Data Plate?
The first question is much easier to answer than the second and third. To find the real Build Date of your car you will need a factory invoice or simply order a Deluxe Marti Report. On a factory invoice the “input” or “entry number” is shown. The entry number shows how the cars were entered into the factory’s “to be built system”.
As for the Deluxe Marti Report, the actual Build Date is shown in the orange box in the middle of the right hand side of the page. Also listed in this box are:
- Order Received
- Car Serialized
- Scheduled For Build
- Actually Built
These will be explained later.
Questions 2 and 3 will need to be answered together and will be much more complicated. What is provided will be true for all Production cars. However, to further complicate the answer, there may be some differences between special cars like the Prototypes and Pilot cars.
The following information was provided by long time Talladega owner, researcher and onetime assembly plant worker, better known around here as the Guru, Rick Ochs. To make the information more compatible with this site his original text has been edited and enhanced with additional information with his permission.
To begin let’s look at the pre-production Bill France Signature Car’s “Marti Report”. If you look at the build date provided on the Marti Report it shows “Actually Built 01/13/69”. If you look at the Data Plate (door tag) on the France Car’s Marti Report it shows “Date 10A”. This translates to January 10th, three days prior to the actual build date.
One more thing, the VIN for the France car is 172877 (we will only list the sequence digits from the VINs for simplicity).
Recently, I used some old build sheets I had been given back in the day from some Torino Cobras. I used some of them as a guide to look up some paint codes and dabs for a non-production Talladega (the yellow Bunkie Knudsen car) that was undergoing restoration. The Cobra build sheet I was using had a Build Date of January 10th (same date as the Data Plate for the France car) 1969, Atlanta plant. I looked at that car’s VIN and it was 179781.
If the France car was VIN 172877 and this Cobra Torino (non-Talladega) was VIN 179781 (higher number or later build) how could these two cars be built at the same plant in the same time frame as listed on the Data Plate “Date” and be an estimated 6,904 units a-part?
A brief review of the process used to initiate the build of a car at the factory in 1969 may help. First, a car was “Serialized” by the factory when the Order was placed into the system. This Order could be initiated by a dealer or when someone in Ford made an order at the Central office. The Order then went to the plant. Next, the car was “Bucked” which means the floor pan was started. This was the very first step in the construction of the uni-body cars. The Serial Number was also stamped into the car per the Build Sheet.
Based on my experience at the plant I estimated that the plant was able to build approximately 50 to 55 per hour on the assembly line. (Time frame 1969) By doing the math as to how many cars per day could be built (usually two shifts per day were in operation back then) it suggests the France car was Bucked around the end of December 1968 or between Christmas and New Years (the Plant would normally be closed for this week). We also know the France car has the “welded rocker panels” just like the production Talladega’s so it looks as if Ford pulled the Buck from the assembly line and ran the France car thru the body shop in last week of December of 1968 to install the correct Talladega rocker panels. It is also assumed the car was then put back on the assembly line in January of 1969 and finished less the Talladega front end. Remember, the France car is considered a Prototype and the factory was not yet installing the long nose on the cars on the assembly line therefore it would have then been taken by Holman and Moody to Kar Kraft where they put the Talladega front end on.
So now what is the true “Build Date” of this car? Was it when the car was Bucked? When it came off the Assembly line or when it got its proper fenders at Kar Kraft or was it some other time? The Deluxe Marti Report says it was January 13, 1969 and that is the date we use.