Are there any discernible exterior features that are different for a Cessna 172 vs 172M?

If a Cessna 172 was made in 1974, is it an "M" series?

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    $\begingroup$ Does this Wikipedia page answer the question? $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Nov 9, 2021 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! As a general suggestion, if you want as much detail as possible on the differences between specific models then the definitive reference is the Type Certificate Data Sheet. Although it might not help much with exterior features, considering that factory options, avionics upgrades, STCs and so on can all change an aircraft's appearance. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Nov 9, 2021 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


Yes any 1974 172 is an M. Cessna changed the letter designation with each significant design change. Through the 60s and early 70s, this was annually, so each year relates to a letter. The M however was a configuration that lasted 4 years, '73 to '76.

The follow-on N was also built for several years in the late 70s, but suffered from the H2AD engine fiasco. The M being 4 years of production, and coinciding with the big GA boom of the mid to late 70s, it's probably the most plentiful of the older 172s and is considered by some to be the best used version to purchase from a features vs price perspective, having most of the major improvements in the basic design (cuffed leading edges, tubular gear, etc.). An N is also in that category if it's had its engine replaced by a different Lycoming model.


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