View Full Version : Squarebird Line Production Information

04-21-2009, 02:30 AM
This might be a lengthy, but very worthy post for all of you. It should give you more insight into how our Thunderbirds, and other Ford, and Lincoln cars were processed through the Wixom plant.

But first, let me explain how this post came about. After Greg Prince ~ trim code 76, posted the information regarding his '60 Tbird possibly being and now, by all indications, the last 1960 Tbird off the line, several of us got busy trying to gather more information. We also were trying to find out how we could go about getting Ford to confirm this for us. During this time, Cathie ~ Coral, made contact with John Gunnell of "40 Years Of Thunder" and also "The Standard Catalog of Thunderbirds" fame. John Gunnell advised us to contact Phil Skinner, who he thought would be very interested in this "Last day, last car" report. Thank you, Cathie, for the great detective work!

So I contacted him regarding Greg's Tbird and sent him the web page about it. Phil Skinner, of Kelley Blue Book's Collector Car Market Editor fame, is an author, dataplate decoding and automobile production statistics guru, an Edsel owner and runs the Edsel website http://www.edsel.com/ . What he has to say will give you expert insight into how our Tbirds were processed through the Wixom production line. It should also settle some old stories that have been going around for years. The following is provided you with his permission. In fact, he might join us on Squarebirds. If he does, I am sure you will make him very welcome. He lives in southern California. This is what he has had to say.

"One word: WOW!

Thank you for contacting me. I have always found the Square Bird fascinating. My main point of interest is Edsel and I have done some extensive research into the production of these cars. In going through the archives in Dearborn, I often find production records, to a degree, for other models. A few years back I found the daily production records for Wixom’s 1960 model year run. That year both Lincolns and T-birds came off the line at the same time. I don’t have those figures in front of me, but it was something on the order of about 120-130 Lincoln/Continentals every day, and about 200-210 T-birds.

However, Lincolns did an early build-out (for extensive re-tooling for ’61 models, more likely because those canted-eyed beasts were hard to sell). After Lincoln production came to an end, T-bird production continued and daily rates were bumped up to about 250-300 cars per day.

Now one problem that this car has is its unit sequence number, 92744. Total T-bird production for 1960 was recorded at 92,798, so this car would look to be about 54 cars short of the end, right? Wrong, in automotive production, back then as it is today, cars rarely if ever come down the line in unit sequence order. I have never really been able to make a full explanation of how the production orders are planned except to say, take 300 individual numbered blocks, throw them in a bucket, mix them up, and start pulling out the numbers. In the random order they are pulled is how they come down the production line. Now in the world of automobiles, there is a lot more to it than that, but that is a short version. (As for odd unit numbers, in the world of Edsel I have two major unresolved issues, first with the 1960 Edsel, I use to have a sedan that’s unit sequence was 703194, I have a friend with a convertible, 703193. Total production for the 1960 Edsel was 2,846. So why the higher numbers? In researching I found they actually skipped over several chunks of numbers. I can give you more to ponder on this issue, but you are a T-bird kind of guy. The other problem is 1959 (Edsel) production which shows 44,891 units produced, but the highest unit number is suppose to be 44822 (according to the National Auto Theft Bureau records). Where are the missing 69 units?) BTW, this same book shows that the highest unit number for 1960 T-bird was 92843, a total of 99 units after this one.

One piece of evidence that might be located would be the “broadcast form”. This is a piece of paper, a form mind you, that had about a dozen copies produced and sent out to various areas of the assembly plant such as body build-up, chassis build up (I know T-bird was unibody at the time), dashboard build-up and soft trim. This form has the car’s serial number and all of the information from the data plate, along with items like springs, wheels, factory accessories, etc. Most importantly for the line-workers was the Rot. No., or rotation number. This is the only number a line worker cared about for it showed where this car was to be placed in the production line. There are several places this form might be located, most commonly found are in the springs of the rear seat lower cushion. Sometimes attached to the door panel. They have been found stuffed up under the dashboard and on top of the gas tank! Unfortunately, the paper used was the cheapest newsprint available and these forms get dry, brittle and can literally disintegrate. If one is found, with the ease of digital photography, I would advise capturing its image before try to extricate it from the car. (I have rescued a few of these, a wealth of information). This form may have a note that it was last car of the run.

I have talked w/production planners, the people who decided where in the run the car would go and found out there was a method to their madness. One of the tricks was to have the darker colored cars set for early in the day. This was because when being painted there was a lower amount of debris floating in the air. So lighter color cars would be kept towards the end of the day. (Gee, silver qualifies as a light color!).

I am not doubting that this may be the last 1960 T-bird. I would say those markings are very interesting, to say the least. Were these marking found anywhere else, on other interior trim items?

I know the story of the lady with the T-bird paper work. What she had was not the broadcast forms, but they were the shipping invoices retained by the company. The story goes that somewhere around 1971 or 72, Ford was cleaning out the files and tossing all the invoices for the production at Dearborn. They had gone through most of 1955 when the lady found out about what was happening and asked if she could retrieve the T-birds. Someone at Ford said yes, but that she would have to take all the production and weed out the birds by herself. Can you imagine was 100,000 invoices must have been like. Then when they started to pull the 1956 invoices she took all of them, over 250,000 (a quarter million) to sort through! Finally in 1957, another batch and another near 200,000 to sort through. With the 1957’s she also pulled out full-size Fords with the F and E engine codes.

Note by Ray: Unfortunately, the ROT or Build Sheets for the Squarebirds were lost. The company who bought the records from her family does not have the records for the Squarebirds. No one, to my knowledge, knows where they are.

Later, when Wixom started to toss their invoices, she acquired the same for the 1962-1963 Sports Roadsters and I think M-code cars in general. Unfortunately from an historian’s point of view, all the other production info was lost.

As for the placement of broadcast forms in the cars, they were left in or on the cars because it was simply easier! From existing photos of line-production work, these can be seen in the photos. I have even seen one photo that was clear enough to read the details on the form . On some assemblies like engine and chassis build-up, the form was taped to the item. At the end of the line these were torn off and tossed. The ones in the seat cushions, stuffed into the dash assemblies, on top of the gas tank, they were effectively out of sight, so they were left were they were, as it was just easier.

A couple of years ago I had an especially rare treat. A friend of mine had after-hours access to the Wixom assembly plant. We had full run of the place. The main reason we went was to visit the GT production line, which was in a building by itself. The cars were all hand assembled, and moved from station to station by hand (except for the trim out and work performed by Saleen). My friend is a “numbers” guy and when gearing up for GT production made an arrangement with the project manager to get the line sheets from each car. These were the modern incarnation of the broadcast form. It had everything on them. Today, he has kept this entire run safe and secure, when the time comes, he will have the ultimate research tool.

Anyway, while there, we walked the line where the Town Cars were being built. On that day, I spotted cars with unit numbers over 1,000 apart! Another thing we have, on the last day of production of the 2005 T-birds, my friend came in before the shift and got the VINs of the last day’s production. The only car with a production number in line properly was the last unit, and that car had been ear-marked as going to a member of the Ford Family. (We have those tucked away for posterity).

I am very interested in data plate information. I believe I saw some refer to a 1960 T-bird as having a DSO number in the patent number area of his data plate. That was a common practice for vehicles with Dealer Special Orders. (Hmmm, DSO!).

In 1962, the data plates were reconfigured and had a space for the DSO, which in that case was the District Sales Office indicator. The space was there from the start of production but it wasn’t until the Spring of ’62 that the assembly plants started to use it. The District sales office numbers were first seen on data plates in the early part of the 1957 model year often as part of the Production Code entry, which included the date and so on. (A whole different subject). After the DSO entries were used a special order would have four digits on the plate after the DSO like 721234. I have followed these and come up with some interesting finds.

Most of the special orders deal with non-catalog colors. Up to 1960, full size Fords used the letter S to indicate a custom or special mix. (I think 1960 Thunderbird had a color code S).

Phil Skinner
Collector Car Market Editor
Kelley Blue Book kbb.com"

So there you have Phil's comments. I hope that he will provide us with more historical information regarding our 1958-1966 Tbirds as we correspond. This is information you might want to save for your records.

04-21-2009, 08:44 PM
Wow.... great read. Thanks Ray and a big thanks to Phil.

trim code 76
04-21-2009, 09:27 PM
Ray, you have outdone yourself. Very interesting!!! Thank you Phil. I do not know if that finalizes anything but does lead to the fact that the numbers did not have anything to do with order coming down the line. I have looked everywhere for the ROT sheet, including seats, seat backs on the front seats, under dash with lights and mirrors, gas tank, about 1/2 of the carpet.......No sheets!! Oh well. VERY INTERESTING!!!!!!

04-22-2009, 08:38 AM
I found my ROT sheet behind the rear seat back, in the springs.

04-22-2009, 09:01 AM
GREAT JOB! Very interesting and well written. Thanks for the insight we may not have ever had.

Dan Leavens
04-22-2009, 06:48 PM
Ray I printed off your " Squarebird Line Production " thread to keep in my technical file.With Cathie's " detective work " and your follow up with Phil Skinner' knowledge, all of us are now better informed.Great work and just another example of why this squarebird site, is used all over the world on adaily basis.:D

04-25-2009, 01:35 AM
Phil Skinner has been in Detroit searching for more Edsel data for himself and 1960 Tbird line productions records for us, while he is there. This information does not give him unit VIN numbers, just totals produced. This is what he had to tell me today! This is interesting reading...

"I have just completed an exhaustive recording of daily production for the 1960 Thunderbird from start of production to the end.

I know that the current topic is the end of 1960 production. Here is what I found. The records indicate the number of cars scheduled to be built versus the number of cars actually built. It does not give unit or ID numbers, just the total produced of both hardtop and convertible models.

On August 30, 1960, Lincoln did their build out for the model year with 24,820 units produced. Towards the end of production Lincoln and Continental models averaged around 50-60 cars per day, while T-birds had been averaging about 450 units per day.

Here are the production totals at the end of production on August 31st, T-Bird prod. 10,416.

Next is the production for September 1960.
9/1------495-----493---w/31 exp
9/2------493-----489---w/24 exp
9/6------498-----499---w/13 exp
9/7------499-----501---w/3 exp
9/8------498-----331*--No export
9/9------303-----144---No export

September totals T-Bird prod. 2,507
Export for September 71 units, total export for 1960 model year: 1,006
Thunderbird build out 9/9/60 , 92,843 units produced
So, the 13W on the data plates mean little or nothing in this case."

In a follow up email he said:

"The records indicated that September 9th was indeed the last day. As you can see by the abbreviated production on the 8th, the plant shut down early that day to clean up the plant and get the last vehicles in rotation to do the build out on September 9th.

It was a Friday, not only the end of the week, but the end of an era, the era of what would be known as the Square Birds.


Let me get this straight for you. These numbers we see on our Data Plates are Scheduled Build Out dates, and not necessarily, the actual birthday of our Tbird as we have taken them to be. There was NO scheduled build out for Sept. 3-5 because that was the Labor Day weekend. There WAS a schedule build out for 9/6 through 9/13 and, apparently, parts were set up for those build outs and marked for it. The line was puming out Tbirds at or above the schedule, UNTIL the 8th. Apparently, that build out for 9/12 and 9/13 was added into the last few days production because they wanted to close down the plant, with the Lincoln run having completed, and get ready for the start up of the 1961 Bulletbird. So Greg's car was completed on 9/9 or prior to it with the parts for the 9/13 build out. I think that explains the 9/13 last day last car statement. It appears there was going to be a 9/12, Monday and a 9/13 Tuesday build out, but they were cancelled because they had either ran through their available parts supply or the order was given to shut down the plant for cleanup and stocking for the '61 Bulletbird run.. But Greg's car WAS built with the parts set aside for it, apparently. Boy, we need to find that ROT sheet. It should have the actual build date on it!

So, it seems though they had scheduled a good number more to be built the last two days, 498 and 303, they only built 331 and 144. A total of 801 scheduled, but only 475 built. A total of 326 they decided not to build. Probably because they had ran through their available parts supply. I remember Phil saying or someone that they had built and ordered only so many parts each month based on the number of orders they had or expected to have. Or, as I said, the order came down to shut down the plant for the 1961 run set up.

So there is what additional information has come from Phil as he searches the records still. You may want to save this information for your records..

04-25-2009, 10:18 PM
September 1960 Thunderbird Production Information

I have been doing some checking in John Rotella’s Tbird Registry regarding information for the month of September, 1960 on Tbirds in the Registry. According to records, there were 92,843 1960 Tbirds produced. Keep in mind when I use the word “Registry” I mean Registered in the Tbird Registry… Here is what I have found.

The first 1960 Tbird to be registered is VIN #0Y71G110390 – No Scheduled Build Date Listed.

The first one with a Scheduled Build Date Listed is: VIN #0Y71J101347 – 17J

The first Convertible to be registered is: VIN #0Y73G126010 – 13A

The last Convertible to be registered is: VIN #0Y73Y189703 – 01W

The first Sun Roof Hardtop to be registered is: VIN #0Y71G126011 – 13A

The last Sun Roof Hardtop to be registered is: VIN #0Y71Y191485 – 09W

The first 1960 2-Dr Hardtop to be registered is: VIN #0Y71G110390 – No Scheduled Build Date Listed

During the month of September, these are the cars that were registered in the Tbird Registry with a Scheduled Build Date of 13W

Note that the last car in the Registry of the 09W Scheduled Build Date was: #0Y71Y191485 that Sun Roof Hardtop listed above.

Note that VIN #0Y71Y192652 – 13V is the last entry in the Registry for August. It belongs to Squarebird member Jay Bancroft! VIN 192653 – 192656 are not registered. But VIN #192657 -13W IS. So over a months period, 13V-13W there are only three cars in that number sequence that are not registered! Now we know they built 2,507 Tbirds from 1 September to 9 September, but most of them were certainly NOT in this sequence range. They could not have been! There are only 177 cars between #192657 and 192834, the last car in this Registry. From #192657 to the last VIN #192843 is only 191 cars! That begs the question.. What models were they building in the last month, and in what number sequences were they in?

Here are the VIN #’s that were built and registered during the 13W Scheduled Build Date. Keep in mind though that there was NO cars built AFTER 09W, 9 September...

VIN #0Y71Y192657–13W First 13W entry in Registry
VIN #0Y71Y192682-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192744-13W – Greg Prince’s Tbird!
VIN #0Y71Y192746-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192747-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192785-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192811-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192812-13W
VIN #0Y71Y192834-13W Last 13W entry in Registry

VIN #’s 0Y***19835-843 have not been registered in John Rotella’s Tbird Registry yet.

This is what I have come up with so far. I need to see if any of the owners in the range of 0Y71Y192657 – 0Y71Y192834 can be contacted to see if they have their 13W ROT Sheet…

bird 60
04-25-2009, 10:59 PM
Ray, You are a very big asset to this club . I think I speak for everyone....GREAT WORK.:)

Chris....From the Land of OZ.

04-27-2009, 02:25 AM
Here is the latest information from Phil Skinner...

I pointed out that the data plates were created at the time the car was serialized and initially scheduled for production. Once the plate was created, the actual date the car was produced often changed.

For the 1958 Edsel, I have data plates with dates up to August 29, 1958, but the production schedules show the last day of production was August 26, end of story.

For the 1960 Edsel, I have data plates with dates up to November 30, 1959. History shows that on November 19, 1959, Ford announced the Edsel was being discontinued. Production records show that on November 20, 16 Edsels came off the assembly line because they were already in the rotation. The production records showed that Edsel production was scheduled for another week before Ford revised their schedules. A total of 2,846 cars were produced, total scheduled production up to the end of November 1959 was to have been a total of 2,900 even. This schedule was revised and the extra 54 cars were deleted.

For the 1960 T-bird, production was running at a good rate. With the early build-out of the 1960 Lincoln-Continental stopped, adding the production capacity of an extra 50-60 cars a day, then possibly all scheduled production was able to wrap up on Sept. 9th. All I know is that there was no production at Wixom from Sept. 9 to the middle of October. From Sept. 1 to Sept. 9, a total of 2,507 T-birds were produced. In the middle of October production at Wixom resumed. During September 1960, there was no Lincoln production. In October, 999 units were produced, and 3,229 T-birds for the 1961 model year. That is just a matter of historical record.

The Prince T-bird could be the last 1960, but it was probably built on Friday, Sept. 9, 1960.


So there you have the latest information from Phil. I am STILL trying to find out if the date on the ROT Sheet in the upper left corner is the assembled and completed date or if the SCHED Date on the form is the assembled and completed date.

trim code 76
04-27-2009, 02:52 AM
Wow, what a can of worms I opened up!!!!! So, let me see if I understand so far: There was going to be a final build out on 9/12 and 9/13, but it is a fact that the plant was shut down at the end of 9/9 (friday). Those cars built on 9/9 were built with the last of the parts set aside. So... this is where I get a little confused..... The guy who wrote 9/13 last day, last car was...anticipating it would be used on 9/13 and wrote that in anticipation on 9/9??? I'm sorry but that is a little confusing. Can anyone help me understand. Thanks!

04-27-2009, 03:16 AM
Hi Greg! NO, it is not a can of worms! It has been a very educational thing. I think we have all learned a lot from this, especially me! And I have made some very important contacts.

Yes, you have it right. There was a 9/12 and 9/13 scheduled builds to be done on those two days. 9/13 was the scheduled last day of production. Apparently, someone in upper management made the decision to shut down on Friday to start gearing up for the new 1961 production runs.

It is apparent that they ran part of the 9/12 and 9/13 production runs on the 9th probably and maybe earlier than that, because they were running at a higher capacity on the line with the Lincolns out of the way. The parts for the 9/12 and 9/13 runs were probably already set up to be pulled from. It is possible that whoever wrote that statement on your door panel did it before they started the last production run, anticipating that your serial number was going to be the last car they ran.... They were probably told that they were not going to run on the 12th and 13th, but the production run for those days might have already been set up. So when they got to your car, he grabbed the door that he had already marked before hand and put it on your car.. The last car off the line...

I am guessing about this, but I think that is probably what happened. Somewhere along the line, knowing they were going to run through a certain set of serial numbers, he marked the last door to go on the last car as such. And he grabbed it on the 9th, more than likely, and put it on your car. I dont know if that explains the shamrock under your carpeting though! Unless he put it in your car before hand, knowing your car was going to be the last car of the 13th run. Then things changed when they got the order to shut down the line after the 9ths run..

We may never know the answer to this question, UNLESS the guy who did it is still alive and sees the article that I arranged to get published in their local newspaper about this.... We can only hope...

04-29-2009, 06:01 PM
I received this last night from Phil Skinner..

"Last night I had dinner with a person who works in a very unique position with in FoMoCo production today. He is a hardcore numbers guy.

He kind of confirmed what I said about how cars are ordered, serialized, then set for production and what can really happen. I said to him that it was like numbering 1200 identical slips of paper, throwing them into a hat, mix them up and then start pulling them out one at a time. That could provide how the chassis or VIN numbers would come down the line at random. But he said it wasn't totally at random for the schedulers. They knew how to plan production to be at its optimum and the cars were arranged to go down the assembly line in a certain order, and that was their rotation, and that is the only number people on the line care about.


04-30-2009, 02:30 AM
I am still looking for anyone who has or has had a 1960 Tbird with a Schedule Date of 12W or 13W on their data plate. AND has a copy of their ROT sheet. Or has it recorded somewhere. It should also say W 12, W 13 or 12W, or 13W in the case of the ROT sheet. I want to be able to see what it has in the way of the date in the upper left corner.

Tonight, I came awful close! mercfreak has a 1960 Tbird Tbird, Registry 73 and I looked at it and the other cars listed under his name of Thomas Gunnari. He has his ROT sheet from his 1960 Tbird posted there! On it the date in the upper left corner reads 08 18. His Schedule Date is 31W! So here we have a car that was scheduled for production on the 31st of August, with a upper left date of 08 18 probably from when it was logged into the system. I wonder what the data plate tag says? Thomas, can you tell me that?

This is the closest I have come to finding a 60 Tbird scheduled for production in September, so far. His VIN # is 186610, 6,233 units away from the last car produced. They ran 10,416 Tbirds through the line in August.They built 2,457 Tbirds from 1-9 September when the line shut down. They built only 144 units on the 9th.