I have a '97, 4.6 myself, and I went and did the compressor replacement.
As far as your VIN # is concerned, I second that it is the 8th digit, and I believe it has something to do with the way '97's were produced (being split in half during the year).
However, I don't believe it would affect the compressor removal, as they tend to be the same.
You had said you'd need to remove the radiator, which you should not have to do.
You do have to remove the fan shroud and get remove the fan (it makes it A LOT easier). Removing the shroud and fan itself makes it a whole lot easier to get to the tensioner...which you'll need to get at with a 1/2" wrench to loosen the serpentine belt off.
The only complication I had was holding the fan to remove the large nut which it holds itself on. But I fabricated a tool out of some flat stock which bolted to the fan clutch's 5 (or 6, i cant remember) bolts, which made it more simple to remove.
You could however, get an extra set up strong hands to hold the fan with some leather gloves. That might work just as well.
I would highly reccoment replacing the orifice tube and drier/accumulator as these guys have suggested. Ive seen the drier for under 70, and the tube for under 10.
Here in NY they charge around $125 to evacuate and refill the system.
Unless you pretty much know exactly what you're doing with 134a, its a **** to work with...especially if you dont have all the correct tools.
I'd just let a shop do it.
And please, anyone, correct me if I am wrong on any of this.