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Understanding chassis numbers

Good question!

Read this page to understand the mystery of Mercedes Chassis and Engine numbers. Many parts from our extensive stock list can be ordered just by giving us the model (eg: 280SE) and the year of manufacture. But to be sure of sending the correct parts all orders should be sent with both the Chassis and Engine numbers.

You will have noticed when browsing though our discount Genuine parts page that many of the part descriptions start with a chassis or engine designation (eg:W114). To help you under stand these designations read on............................

The first thing you need to know is that since 1959 all Mercedes-Benz Chassis and engine numbers have had 14 digits in the following sequence:

123 456 78 901234

Go and find your chassis and engine number and read on..........

Haven't been able to find them? Here are some clues:

- If you have the cars original books you should have the Data Card with this info.
- The chassis number should be on a small plate in front of the radiator and stamped into the body some where.
- V8's have the engine number in the block behind the l/h head.
- Early six cylinders have the number in the block below the 5th and 6th spark plug.

Chassis numbers...

The first three numbers on your chassis number are the most important. Ignore any letters! (ie: 123) These three number tell us the body style. In many cases this is all the info we need. But because nothing is simple it is always best to supply the complete chassis number. Two examples are the W111 which can be anything from a 2.2lt sedan to a 3.5lt coupe! and the W107 which can be a roadster or a coupe.

The next three numbers are needed to sort out some of these examples. To work out which W111 or W107 you have you need the next three numbers and possibly the engine number! Here is an example of all the W111 chassis models:

111 010 220b sedan
111 000 220b ambulance
111 001 220b special version
111 012 220Sb sedan
111 014 220SEb sedan
111 010 230S sedan
111 000 230S ambulance
111 001 230S special version
111 021 220SE coupe
111 023 220SE cabriolet
111 021 250SE coupe
111 023 250SE cabriolet
111 024 280SE coupe
111 025 280SE cabriolet
111 026 280SE 3.5 coupe
111 027 280SE 3.5 cabriolet

If all this hasn't dampened your enthusiasm to learn about chassis number you will have noticed that it is possible with some of the early models to have two models with the same chassis number. For example a 220b and a 230S are both 111 010, and both the 220SE and 250SE coupe share the same number 111 021. So with these models you need the engine number as well to find out which model you have.........easy.

Have you ever seen a Mercedes Ambulance? Mercedes-Benz have actually never made ambulances/hearses/panel vans/etc. But what they do is produce special versions for sale to approved body builders for conversion to these styles of vehicles. We have a 1966 230 ambulance that was bodied by Binz a body building company based in Belgium.

The next two numbers tell you where the car was made, if it is left or right hand drive and what sort of transmission it has. Here is an example:

111 012 20 ia a 220Sb RHD made in Germany with a manual transmission
111 012 22 ia a 220Sb RHD made in Germany with a auto transmission
111 012 60 is a 220Sb RHD made outside Germany with a manual transmission
111 012 62 is a 220Sb RHD made outside Germany with a auto transmission
111 012 10 is a 220Sb LHD made in Germany with a manual transmission
111 012 12 is a 220Sb LHD made in Germany with a auto transmission
111 012 50 is a 220Sb LHD made outside Germany with a manual transmission
111 012 52 is a 220Sb LHD made outside Germany with a auto transmission.

Can you see the pattern?

The above table works for all models made from mid 1959 to mid 1983. Except for the USA market where they changed the system in 1980 to a 17 digit system. Before 1959 there was no information about transmissions and production in the chassis numbers. After 1983 an numeric/alpha code was used. A table below explains these codes.

Cars made outside Germany are quite common. Mercedes-Benz have had factories in South Africa, Australia and the Philippines. These cars are made from CKD kits (Complete Knock Down) usually with some local content. The new M class that is made in Alabama in the US is made almost completely from parts soured in the US.

The next six numbers are the serial number of the vehicle. In most cases with early models the lower the number the earlier the vehicle. My 280E is 114 062 22 000860. So it is a reasonable presumption that it is the 860th 280E made. This theory doesn't work however with later models.

After August 1983 chassis numbers started to appear with a letter in the 8th digit. The new numbers looked like this:
107 042 2A 023456

This was for several reasons. Firstly the limited potential of having a serial number limited to a production run of only 999999 cars and the need to identify which factory a car came from. The solution is explained on the chart below:

SINDELFINGEN Passenger cars A,B,C,D,E
BREMEN Passenger cars F,G,H,T
WOERTH Bus/Truck I,K,L,M,N
DUSSELDORF Light Commercials P,R,S
GAGGENAU Unimog/M-B trac V,W
As soon as the serial number would reach 999999 the next letter of the letter code for the appropriate factory would be used and the serial number would start again at 000001

Engine numbers...

Engine numbers since 1959 have followed much the same pattern as the chassis numbers.

The first three numbers identify the type of engine. For example the M180 is a type of engine. But once again you will need more info to tell what it is!

The next three numbers tell you what version it is. Here are some examples in a table:

180 921 W105 219 sedan 2.2lt 6 cylinder
180 924 W180 220S sedan 2.2lt 6 cylinder
180 940 W111 220b sedan 2.2lt 6 cylinder
180 941 W111 220Sb sedan 2.2lt 6 cylinder
180 947 W111 230S sedan 2.3lt 6 cylinder
180 945 W110 230 sedan 2.3lt 6 cylinder

This is not all the M180 engines just an example to show how it works. As you can see one group of engine can have different cubic capacities.

The next two numbers work on the same rules as the chassis numbers for all engines from 1959. They tell you where the chassis the engine was originally installed in was made, if it was LHD or RHD and what sort of transmission it had. You can use the table above to work this out. The change to the 8th digit in 1983 did not apply to engine numbers.

The last six numbers are the serial number just like the chassis numbers.

Now have you understood all this so far??

There is of course some rules to follow in the sequence of the numbers used as well. I have made this a separate topic to try to make it easier. (I figure that if you have read this far you must be really interested) Here are some examples.

114 920 22 123456 A M114 series engine with carburettors.

114 980 22 123456 A M114 series engine with fuel injection.

Generally speaking an 8 as the 5th digit means fuel injection. On the carburettor models it can be 2,4 or 5.

123 183 22 123456 A W123 240D diesel station wagon.

123 083 22 123456 A W123 230 petrol station wagon.

If the fourth digit is a 1 it it is a diesel. If the fourth digit is 0 then it is a petrol.

The first three numbers for chassis numbers (body style remember!) don't seam to follow any pattern. The W123 series was replaced by the W124 series. That makes sense, but the next series to replace the W124 was the W210?????. This is common. The W116 was replaced with the W126 and then the W140?

BUT on the engines there is some pattern. All diesel engines start with the number 6. All petrol engines start with the number 1. However this is where the pattern ends. The rest of it seams to be random.

Now what do all the letters at the start mean?
To order parts you do not need to know about the letters. But if you want to know hear it is:

OM617 The OM stands for Oil Motor. (diesel)
M116 The M stand for Motor. (petrol)

W123 The W stand for Wagon (sedan in English)
T123 The T stands for Touring (station wagon, estate)
C123 The C stand for Coupe

R107 The R stand for Roadster.

As you can see from all of this there is no firm rules to be followed. It is hard to keep up with all the changes so please don't take this as all being correct and upto date. What I have posted here is correct (I hope) up till 1990.

When ordering you should also supply the year and model of your car. If you don't have these numbers available now send us a parts request and we will tell you if more information is needed.