Serial Numbers

The serial number gives the build number and date of manufacture of each Carlight caravan produced at the Church Lane factory. Various methods of allocating serial numbers were used over the years as shown below:

From 1932 to 1959 inclusive

A serial number of between two and six digits was allocated to each caravan, the first one or two digits being the build number – these ran from 1 up to 99 before starting again at 1.

The build numbers originally ran through one model (e.g. Continentals ran through from 1 to 99, and Coronets the same), so it was possible to have two different models but both with the same serial number in the factory at the same time (e.g. Coronet number 3 and Continental number 3). So this system was changed in the 1960s and build numbers ran from 1 to 99, irrespective of model type.

Build numbers are not related to any particular time period (e.g. caravan number 1 is not necessarily the first caravan built in a particular year). The build numbers are simply to help distinguish each caravan whilst it is being built. For the first few years of production, this build number was the only form of identification.

However, for the late 1940s another two to four digits were added. Of these extra digits, the second 1 and 2 digits provide the month of manufacture and the last two digits provide the year of manufacture. So, for instance, caravan number 1249 would be van number 1, built in February 1949, and number 721158 would be van number 72 built in November 1958. To save confusion, from the late 1950s the months up to and including September were prefixed with a ‘0’ and the build numbers from 1 to 9 were prefixed with a ‘0’ (e.g. 020959 would be van number 2 built in September 1959).

From 1960 to 1991 inclusive

In 1960 the numbering system changed slightly to give a coded year of manufacture. For caravans built from 1960 to 1991 inclusive, the build number is shown as the last two digits and the month of manufacture is given by the middle two digits. The year of manufacture is coded, but can be quickly worked out by deducting the last digit of the serial number from the number which is made up of the first two digits at the front of the serial number.

Take, for instance, number 860979. This would be build number 79 (last two digits) built in September (middle two digits) 1977 (first two digits 86 minus the last digit 9 = 77). It is important to stress this gives the approximate date of manufacture and not necessarily the model year, as the some of the new year’s models could have been made in the previous year.

Up to the mid-1980s, model years tended to coincide with calendar years. To prevent confusion over model years, from 1988 a new alphanumeric four-figure prefix was added to the usual six-figure serial number: this included a manufacturer’s code (CL), together with the model year – for instance, CL90960827 would be build number 27, built in August 1989, and it would be a 1990 model. This alphanumeric prefix was stamped with either letters or numbers leading the code, e.g. CL90 or 90CL.

From the mid-1980s, model years ran from August/September, so a 1988 model year caravan could have been built anytime between August/September 1987 through to August/September 1988 (caravans built for shows, exhibitions or publicity purposes, such as brochure photography etc, may have been built earlier and therefore have an earlier date of manufacture, but these caravans would not be released from the factory until the new model year officially started).

From 1992 onwards

As almost every manufacturer had a different numbering system, and to try to combat the growing number of caravan thefts, the caravan industry decided to adopt a universal numbering system. The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) system has been employed from 1992 onwards.

The VIN system is a 17-character international standard that specifies the content and structure of a vehicle identification number in order to establish, on a worldwide basis, a uniform identification numbering system for road vehicles and their trailers.

Where to find the serial/VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

Serial numbers are normally found stamped on the caravan (and on later models the VIN is etched on the caravan windows) in the following positions:

  • From 1932 to 1991, the serial number was stamped on a small plate fixed to the exterior side panel immediately behind the main entrance door (on two-door caravans, behind the nearside door).
  • From 1960 to 1986, the number was also often (but not always) stamped on the A frame beneath the A frame cover. The usual position was either on the nearside leg (on the outside face) of the A frame or at the head of the A frame where the two legs were joined by a flat steel plate.
  • From 1987 until 1991, the serial number was stamped on the nearside leg of the A frame (on the outside face) immediately to the rear of the A frame cover (so that it was visible with the A frame cover still in place, unlike the earlier numbers that required the A frame cover to be removed).
  • From 1992 onwards, the VIN was etched on the bottom right (when viewed externally) corner of all of the windows and stamped on the offside of the A frame, and a window was cut into the A frame cover to highlight the position of the number (on some 1992 models the old system was still employed, so the serial number was stamped immediately to the rear of the A frame cover).

The VIN is not stamped on the plate behind the entrance door, but the caravan continued to carry an identification plate in this position with a build number and weight details etc.

If the identification plate is missing, it is sometimes possible to find a build number written in pencil under one of the drawers. This can then sometimes be matched to the build records to determine the serial number.