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How to decode a Porsche chassis number

Every Porsche made since 1980 has a 17 digit chassis number with a standard layout and format. (international format ISO3780) You may not realise but the chassis number can tell you more about a car than just a boring number within a sequence of millions of digits. It can tell you where the car was made (Porsche have several factories), it can tell you if it is a turbo or non turbo car, it can also tell you if its a convertible or a coupe.

Above you will see a typical options sticker as explained in our option codes page. On the option code sticker, as well as on several other locations on a Porsche (such as in the windscreen and the bulkhead) you will notice there is a number beginning in WPO. In the case of the above sticker, WPO CA2 98 O X U 6 3 5854

Bellow you will find the decoder, and explanation of each of the 17 digits within the chassis number.

1, 2 and 3 - The identity of the vehicle manufacturer.
The first digit of this code is the country of origin, in the case of Porsche this is W which is designated for Germany. The second digit is P, which has been assigned for Porsche within Germany. The third digit is for manufacturing division, which in the case of a Porsche sports car is "O" or for a SUV (Cayenne) is an "I"
4th Digit - Body region type (Only within USA and Canada)
Within the USA and Canada, this digit is to explain the body type, in the case of this chassis number a cabriolet"C". Outside of the USA and Canada this digit on a Porsche is a "Z"
5th Digit - Engine region type (Only within USA and Canada)
Within the USA and Canada this digit is to explain the engine type. In the case of this chassis number an "A" for aspirated.
6th Digit - Restraint region type (Only within the USA and Canada)
Within the USA and Canada again, this digit is to explain the restraint type. In the case of this chassis number a "2" for dual air bags.
7th and 8th Digits - First two digits of model type
These are the first two digits of the model type. In the case of a 944 it would be "94" for a Boxster as in this example, they are "98" for 986 (the factory designation of a Boxster)
9th Digit - NHTSA Checksum
This is a calculated check sum which is calculated from a mathematical formula which uses all the other digits from the chassis number to make a unique checking digit within the chassis number. This is so that anyone with the software to check a chassis number to be legitimate (such as an insurance company, Police, vehicle registrations department) can know if the checksum digit matches the rest of the chassis number. This is to avoid fraud such as someone turning a 6 into an 8. In the case of this chassis number which has been modified on purpose, this check sum of "O" is incorrect.
10th Digit - The model year
This is probably one of the most useful items of the chassis number for an owner of the car, so they can know for sure the year of manufacture of their car. If you scroll down to the end of the page, you will be able to see a chart showing each year of manufacture and the character for that year. In the case of this chassis number the model year code is "X" which translates to 1999.
11th Digit - The assembly plant
This tells you which of the Porsche factories your Porsche was made in. "S" = Stuttgart (Germany), - "N" = Neckarsulm (Germany), - "U" = Uusikaupunki (Valmet Automotive - Finland), - "O" = Weissach (Germany Motor sport), - "L" = Leipzig (Germany), - "Z" = Zuffenhausen (Stuttgart Germany), Boxsters are usually made in "L" Leipzig Germany or "U" Finland. In the case of this fake Boxster, its "U" for Finland.
12th Digit - Third digit of the model type.
In the case of this chassis number is "6" which almost completes its model type of "986" (9 and 8 were from digits 7 and 8)
13th Digit - This digit is little known as actually being the 4th digit of a model type!
Therefore in our example this digit is "3", completing this boxster as a factory line designation of "986-3" (I think this is designated depending on the model of Boxster, such as a "S" or "Cayman" etc. I will update this once I have done some more digging.
14th, 15th, 16th and 17th digit - Serial number
Because the previous 13 digits go a long way to making a unique chassis or VIN number, the manufacturer only needs 4 digits to uniquely designate that particular car. which means that for example Porsche in any one year can make 9999 Boxsters of type 3 in any one of their factories for the rest of world (ZZZ) or another 9999 for the USA and Canada. When you work out all the combinations, Porsche will not ever exceed their ability to make chassis numbers.

To assist in decoding your Chassis number, I also include a year table bellow so you can easily decode the model year of your Boxster. All you need to do is look at the 10th digit of your chassis or VIN number and then compare it with the table bellow to know your model year. I have included years prior to the production of the Boxster so this page is also of use to other Porsche owners of cars made after 1980.

1980=
A
1990=
L
2000=
Y
1981=
B
1991=
M
2001=
1
1982=
C
1992=
N
2002=
2
1983=
D
1993=
P
2003=
3
1984=
E
1994=
S
2004=
4
1985=
F
1995=
T
2005=
5
1986=
G
1996=
U
2006=
6
1987=
H
1997=
V
2007=
7
1988=
J
1998=
W
2008=
8
1989=
K
1999=
X
2009=
9
I am not sure what the plan is after 2009! Apparently it starts with A again, But I am not so sure that is going to be the whole story.

 

 

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