numbers question

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Jul 16, 2004
My '75 Commando has a plain metal plate riveted to the steering head that has the engine number and 12 74 stamped onto it and nothing else. The engine number seems to have no relation to the VIN.

Is this normal for a '75?

Thanks for your help,

My '75 Commando has a red colored aluminum tag riveted to the steering head with the engine number and date steel stamped on the tag.

If there is any relationship between the engine number and VIN, I don't know what it is. I assume you found the VIN number; it's steel stamped to the steering head on the right-hand side.


Hey Jason,

Thanks for the info - that's a relief!!

Ride safe,

John and Jason,
The VIN number on the red tag attached to the headstock should be the same as your engine number stamped on the primary side of the cases. For a '75 these should be 32XXX or 33XXX. If they do not match, either the frame or the engine has been changed.
There is a frame number (ex. F12001) stamped into the steering head of the '75 frames. This is usually not used by the motor vehicle bureau as the VIN.
The 12 74 means the bike was assembled at the factory in December of 1974.

The number on the tag on my 75 Commando matches the engine number stamped on the primary (left-hand) side of the engine case, just below the cylinder block.

The number that is steel stamped into the steering head is identical to the number shown on the motor vehicle title. I suspect that John's numbering system is identical to mine.

In my mind, it makes sense that the number stamped into the steering head is used for the VIN number as it is far more permanent than the flimsy aluminum tag number. What other number would you use for a VIN?


The 12 74 indicates the date of manufacture. You should also have a 6 digit VIN number that is the same on the engine case and on the transmission case. The VIN should start with 325xxx.

Jason, what you say makes sense, but we are dealing with governments!! Since when do they care about making sense??
Since Norton only had frame numbers on Commandos in 1975, the engine number was always stamped into the frame tag. This is what was used as a VIN for all pre-75 models. It is really up to the motor vehicle department of the original licensing state (and to some extent the dealer supplying the VIN and Bill of Sale) what number is used to title. All the Mk III titles I have had or seen (Mich, Ohio, PA, KY) did not use the frame number as a VIN.
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