View Full Version : Ford & Thunderbird History

05-26-2009, 04:01 PM
Dave ~ simplyconnected, and I have been emailing back and forth since before he joined us. I am going to start a new thread here and call it the title I have above. Dave hails from Michigan and worked in the Ford environment for many years. Hopefully, he will be able to tell us a lot more about Ford, the Ford plants, and our Thunderbirds. So Dave, if you would, anything you have to tell us about, you can put it here in this thread.:) Here is what Dave told me that he has not told you yet.

Although Wixom made our flagships, I worked at Henry's 'crown jewel'. The Rouge Area used to have seventeen plants, only one of which was Dearborn Assembly Plant. The Rouge was a city in itself with a fire department, hospital, and basic raw materials plants like the Powerhouse (big enough to light Boston), Blast Furnace, Coke Ovens, Basic Oxygen Furnace, Mold Foundry, Open Hearth Plant, Strip Mill, Electric Furnace, Dbn Iron Foundry & Dbn Specialty Foundry, ... I could go on forever.

Notice all those bolts that have "F" on the head? Yep, we cold-headed our own bolts, made our own frames, engines, stampings and subassemblies, dies, fuel tanks, radiators, and a host of other manufacturing, ALL in the Rouge. Henry built a HUGE workshop specifically for Edsel to 'learn by hands-on', right next to the Powerhouse.

Being a Ford/UAW apprenticed Industrial Electrician, I worked in all the Rouge plants during my career of over 35-yrs. The Rouge has no telephone poles. A catacombs of tunnels services each plant with, steam, coke gas, city gas, compressed air, mill water, city water, oh, and electricity. Henry even had a tunnel that went to his Highland Park Plant from the Rouge. These tunnels are fully encased in cement, with plenty of room for two men walking abreast. It is its own city.

And then this...

Hi Ray,
I appreciate your enthusiasm for our rich history at Ford Motor. After our cars leave the assembly line, we rarely see or hear from them again. I have seen many celebrities at the Rouge, people who are also fascinated by the hard work and co-ordination required to make a car per minute go out that back door. Ford tries to keep visitors 'inside the yellow lines' as a 'safety' precaution. When Heavyweight Champion, Mohammed Ali came, he walked deep into the assembly areas so all the workers could see him. The workers addressed Ali as, "The King".

Among the people I've seen:
Nelson Mandella
President, Bill Clinton. (I'm in the audience, as Ford videoed his visit. He shook everyone's hand, too.)
Vice President, George Bush Sr.
All the Governors. They had a convention here in Detroit.
Countless Hollywood stars and families, like when we did the Bullitt Mustang, McQueen's family was here to address all the workers on Steve's behalf.

Ray, please know you always have my permission to share everything I write to you. No special permission-requests are necessary for sharing my info with your forum and your personal friends.
Dave Dare

05-26-2009, 04:07 PM

I had to fight my way the the Rouge news to find out about other things so thought I would share this link...

Welcome aboard Dave!
Thanks for your words and thoughts being able to be shared here!

05-26-2009, 04:24 PM
Thanks Cathie, for posting that fascinating read of the History of the Rouge! Excellent overview of the complex and how it came about.

05-27-2009, 12:33 AM
Here are additional comments on the history of Ford by Dave ~ simplyconnected.

Oh man, where do I start? I guess I will start with random thoughts about working in the Rouge.
It's OLD, and hundreds of thousands (no exaggeration) of workers hired and retired from there. I have been in places, awe-stricken by the realization of how un-important I am with respect to the history and work that passed before me.

The synopsis of Rouge's history is good, but it doesn't touch on how life in the Rouge really was (or is). The writer clearly never worked or spent much time there.

The Rouge starts with Henry's philosophy of conservation and his idea of fairness. Everyone is familiar with, "A fair day's pay for a fair day's work" Know that Henry Ford owned EVERYTHING. His brother was the mayor of Dearborn (a closed city to blacks), he owned the Dearborn Police Dept, and he was the Wayne County Road Commissioner. Henry invested in, and developed an entire city for his black workers, Inkster, Michigan. It is still 90% black.

Foundries are most difficult to work in. At least 85% of the workers were black because they were the only men who would do dangerous and dirty foundry work. (Women were forbidden from working in the foundry as it was too dangerous.) A small group of Germans and Italians were represented in the salaried positions, but the guys pouring iron at 3,000*F, two feet from their bodies, were black. Same went for the chipping lines where men used hand-held jackhammers to chip mold flash off of 400M and 460 blocks and heads. The sound of dozens of guys with jackhammers chiseling off iron was deafening, and small hunks of iron flew around them all the time. The foundries were open to the outside because of the intense casting and summer heat. In winter, the company would place 55-gal drums around the plant floor, and burn coke.

Remember those ships that transported iron ore and limestone? If they filled all the bins and finished the 'season' early, Ford would lease those Great Lakes Freighters to grain companies like Kellogg's and Post. Since the foundries were open all year round, they were infested with wharf rats, fresh off the boats. Big ones too, with tails as big around as your finger. Sometimes, we'd see one with a limb or tail missing because they weren't fast enough around the conveyor belts that carried sand hundreds of feet away.

The reason I went through all this is to explain relationships. Henry (the Company), and the black workers had an arrangement separate from the UAW. In fact, as the UAW was organizing, Ford's security people killed and wounded many people. The guys sympathetic to the union were arrested and thrown in Dearborn's jail. So, the UAW did not have the support of black workers in the beginning. The Rouge was fraught with many volatile, simultaneous, situations, which halted Ford Motor.

The true stalemate buster was,"Henry's Greatest Supporter", Clara Bryant Ford. She had little to do with the operation of Henry's company, but Henry had the good sense to listen to Clara. "Behind every great man.", Clara was rarely in the limelight, or quoted, but she was Ford Motor Company's greatest asset, and a true humanitarian. I cannot say enough great things about Clara Ford.

05-27-2009, 02:05 PM
Here are additional comments from Dave ~ simplyconnected. Keep in mind that Dave worked in the Detroit Ford plants for years from the '70's up. His perspective is from after Ford stopped using Budd Body Co., who built the Tbird and Lincoln bodies from '55 through the '60's. In the early 70's, Ford decided to build their own body, stamping, press, die, plants. From then on, they were all built in house. That had to be a big loss of business for Budd. Here are Dave's remarks, as he comments on the Budd information that I posted.

"I worked in Dearborn Stamping Plant for six years, and Dbn Frame for five.

Budd likes to keep the press room three weeks ahead of the assembly plant. That sounds about right.

Remember, a stamping plant only has so many presses. They may make RH fenders @ ~390/hr for a week (about 14,000 pieces), then LH fenders next week, (another 14,000 pieces), then quarter panels, etc., all in the same press line. They change dies during afternoon or midnight shifts. (Back in the '50's and '60, Bob Oescher told me that they only had one shift, but that was often 10-12 hours long). How long will 14,000 pieces last? Each die set satisfied Ford's demand plus another week's supply of parts. That means this press line can make five different parts (provided there are no breakdowns) before it starts the same cycle again.

How many racks are required? WAY more than two shifts of racks.

Door skins and inner panels need to be hemmed, so we have racks for skins, inners, and finished Door Assemblies. Hoods & Deck Lids are the same story. Stamping Plants like Budd had to stockpile many thousands of parts just to keep in sync with press and labor schedules AND Ford orders.

You can imagine, someone has to have a whole lot of presses and many more dies to make a Thunderbird. There are hundreds of inner panels you never see. BTW, Ford OWNS all those dies. They were designed in Dearborn, not Philly. (It may be when Budd was making bodies for Ford that they owned the dies. That is something to find out about).

Stainless blanks wear dies much faster than drawable mild steel, but that wear can be re-worked in the Die Room. Diemakers have five weeks to build and polish wear sections before the dies are needed again.


Additional comments received today from Dave.

...A question that some have had regarding dies, is how many sets of dies did Ford or Budd have?... The production figure of 10,400 Tbirds in Aug. 1960 comes directly from the 1960 Ford Tbird production records... From YellowRose...
---End Quote---

Ray, Ford only bought one set of dies for each part. Those dies were used for as many model-years as possible. Die steel is real tough. Because dies are made in sections, each section can be removed and re-worked on a Diemaker's bench. Die Welders work on voids or chips (or deep cracks, in some extreme cases), then the Diemaker grinds by hand. A repaired section looks and works as well as brand-new.

Ford put those jobs out for bid, including Ford's own stamping plants. If Budd got the bid for specific parts, Ford bought the dies and paid for each stamping. Dearborn Tool & Die Plant made dies, so did a host of other die plants. Ford provided the prints (per Ford's design), and the die plant made the dies, and tried them out.

All parts MUST fit the gauge (including holes, contours, radiuses, etc., before QC allows Production presses to run, especially 'launch' parts.

I agree with 10,400 parts for a month. But to say Budd was three shifts behind Ford, was not so. That's cutting things way too close. As you can see from stamping press schedules, thousands of parts were on hand at all times from the last production run at Budd. Ford's five stamping plants ran the exact same way.

We didn't talk about heavy stampings, like bumpers, upper and lower "A" arms, hood & door hinges, motor mounts, etc. While Budd made some major stampings, they sure didn't make half of the total. Bumpers were stamped, polished, and plated in Monroe, Michigan. Monroe also made coil springs, sway bars, and stamped wheels. Later, they included cat converters.

Budd sent parts to Wixom for Thunderbird assembly, but so did many stamping plants with other parts. Ford can't make a Thunderbird without including ALL the parts, even the ones you can't see.
- Dave"

05-27-2009, 05:31 PM
Tooling is THE most costly portion in model change. Dies cost many millions to design, build, and try-out. A typical fender line (Eg; a left fender) has a draw die, a trim die, a pierce die (for all the holes), flange die (for the catwalk), and a restrike die. Immediately after those five (or six) presses are the welders; an upright welder for the headlight bracket, and a tabletop welder for the rear strut (and catwalk detail if it has one). In all, 45 workers man a LH fender line (including Press Operators, QC Inspectors, Metal Finishers, and Material Handlers). Oh, and one Foreman.

If Budd strikes, Ford may recall their dies because Ford OWNS them. Budd can't scrap them without Ford's ok for the same reason. Not knowing how many pieces will be made on a set of dies, Budd would never spend millions to make dies exclusive to Ford cars. Ford must keep close tabs on who has their dies and where their Genuine Ford parts are going.

05-27-2009, 07:07 PM
I'm pretty sure some of those parts got out the back door of BUDD.

05-27-2009, 07:40 PM
I'm pretty sure some of those parts got out the back door of BUDD.
And ya' know, Ford crushed 'scrap' parts just so they didn't get repaired and used (or sold). Sometimes a draw stress-crack will show in a radius. That's scrap, because Ford can't allow it to migrate. Did Budd control where their 'scrap' went? Who knows? Believe me, back in the day, Ford was very concerned and kept as much business as 'close to the vest' as possible. Business-control, was the whole idea behind operating the Rouge.