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Grace
Hagerty Employee

Watch Ford’s Willow Run plant churn out a B-24 every 55 minutes

We love watching how products are made. From bolts and headers to carburetors and sway bars, it’s fascinating to see workers transform raw materials into the parts we use on our cars and trucks every day. However, the construction of all of those speed parts and aftermarket upgrades combined pales in comparison to the scale of production at Ford’s Willow Run plant during WWII. This video from Ford about large-scale production of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber is awe-inspiring.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/watch-fords-willow-run-plant-churn-out-a-b-24-every...

13 REPLIES 13
Dale
New Driver

There’s a lot of confusion about GM’s use of the bomber plant. GM never built cars there. The auto assembly plant was north of Hydra Matic, in a separate assembly plant. In its time, Corvair, Chevy IIs, and full size Impalas were built there. My dad worked for the division, which started at the old Cadillac Riopelle plant, then called Detroit Transmission Division, then the ill fated Livonia plant, which burned down in 1953. When the move to Willow Run took place, Kaiser was still building cars and aircraft at Willow Run. At first, final transmission assembly began there, with various GM factories and suppliers were blanking and cutting gears, machining valve bodies, clutch packs and other parts through the Midwest. Eventually, the entire manufacturing operation was brought under one roof. 

JGMan
Intermediate Driver

Wow!  Impressive feat with 1941 technology.  1,225,000 perfectly machined parts assembled in 55 minutes.  So why can’t we now mass produce PPE such as simple plastic face shields, paper masks, gloves, gowns and even respirators at a speed and quantity that the world has never seen before?  And if we are why isn’t it making the 6 O’clock news?  

jadema
New Driver

Thanks for posting this, agree the technology and skill producing these planes was amazing for the time.  Too bad there are few examples left today.  My Dad served on one and would have enjoyed watching this.

merlebalke
Intermediate Driver

Very interesting. My dad and an aunt both worked at Willow Run. Hoped to catch a glimpse of them, but no luck. I found it interesting that the narrator had to specify women workers, as if that wasn't obvious. And small midget?

dakrei
Passenger

to bad the greatest generation isnt in charge of producing face masks for covid 19

Alex
New Driver

Old joke: How man rivets did it take to finish a Liberator? 

A: 1

56Tiger
Pit Crew

My father was a Navigator, based in Kunming China. 14th Air Force, 308th Bomb Group, 373rd Squadron. 44 missions. They bombed Japanese submarines, mined harbors in French Indochina and attacked targets of opportunity. These were great men- he was 22 at the time and was the oldest member of his crew.

Pete
Pit Crew

I read somewhere that similar sub-assembly techniques were used by shipyards on the West Coast to churn out complete destroyers, from the keel up, in only two days.  

Real_Life
Pit Crew

Kaiser made Liberty and the later Victory ships using the modular approach, not destroyers.  Perhaps two days is correct in final assembly.  But not from a top to bottom (or is it "bow to stern"?).  The health care system set up for the cargo ships built by Henry J. Kaiser's firm (ring a bell, car buffs?) became Kaiser Permanente, the health care insurer.

Historian
Detailer

My mom worked at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City during WW2.  She was 17, and it was her first job.  They built B-25's.  Today, the site of that plant is now GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant.  Mom was a riveter, and developed pulmonary fibrosis from breathing in the asbestos dust while working there.  Still, she was proud of doing her part for the war effort.  Her middle name was Rose, so I used to teasingly call her "Rosie the Riveter".  May she rest in peace.

lweb19
Hagerty Employee

Wow, your must have heard some stories. Thanks for sharing
Real_Life
Pit Crew

My name is John Zajac, and I am Secretary for the Yankee Air Museum Foundation.  I want to thank Hagerty for this feature.  The community of the Yankee Air Museum now own and plan to make the remaining 145,000 sq. ft. of this plant the new home to the Yankee Air Museum.  First, the building that houses our "flyables", the B-17 Yankee Lady, the B-25 Yankee Warrior, the C-47 Hairless Joe, and a Waco biplane must be replaced.  I hope that once our "Aeronautics Center" (new hanger) is complete, we return to the task of finishing the new home for the Museum, the home of Rose Will Monroe, part of the legend of "Rosie the Riveter".  I would like to thank Hagerty for its support for our "Wings and Wheels" events (the original can be seen on the link to the right of this story".  Our "Save the Bomber Plant" inquiries are being redirected to raise funds for the Aeronautics Center.  I hope that can be completed quickly, so that our efforts can be directed to remember the Liberators that were built, the crews than maintained and flew them, and the incredible women and man who built. them.

lweb19
Hagerty Employee

BTW, there's a restaurant near the plant called "The Bomber" and it is still open. I think, but am not sure, that it was open when the plant was building bombers and used to produce pack lunches for the workers. In any case, it's a greasy spoon kind of place with lots of memorabilia..