by MIKE SKINNER
Photos Dan Brooks & Leggitt
Fifty-five very fortunate members of the Henry Ford Heritage Association took part in one of the last tours of the 1917 Ford Motor Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP) on a brisk but dry winter day, February 24, 2004. Before the tour, participants watched a video covering the history of the plant and the tour safety rules. Michael Joseph, DAP FCN Coordinator then we1comed the group. Mr. Joseph was presented a an autographed copy of Ford Bryan’s book, The Rouge: Pictured in its Prime. Tour participants were then split into two groups and were led through the plant by Mr. Joseph and DAP Assembly Team Member, Marcus Murphy.
The 87 year old plant closed just three months after the tour as the 6,700,000th Mustang (a red convertible) rolled off the line at the DAP. The car was completed at 1 :07 p.m. EST on Monday, May 10, 2004. A small portion of this historic plant will be converted to a conference and learning center and the rest will be demolished.
The Ford Motor Company Dearborn Assembly Plant was one of the world’s most famous automobile plants. Around 1915 Henry Ford bought almost 2000 acres along the Rouge River at this site. During WWI the “B” Building was constructed to assemble Eagle boats for the U.S. Navy. In 1927 the company began to turn “The Rouge,” as it became known, into the most fully integrated car manufacturing facility in the world. That year the company shifted final assembly from Highland Park to the Rouge. As the Model T was replaced by the Model A, the “B” Building became Dearborn Assembly.
Eventually the complex included virtually every element needed to produce a car: blast furnaces, an open hearth mill, a steel rolling mill, a glass plant, a huge power plant and, of course, an assembly plant. Over 100 miles of roads, ninety miles of railroad track and miles more of conveyor belts connected these facilities. The result was mass production of unparalleled sophistication and self-sufficiency. “By the mid-1920’s,” wrote historian David L. Lewis, “the Rouge was easily the greatest industrial domain in the world” and was “without parallel in sheer mechanical efficiency” Dearborn Assembly still operates the final assembly line on which, in addition to the Model A, other notable cars have been built, among them the 2-seat 1955-57 “Classic” Thunderbirds and the Mustang since its 1964 introduction.
Mustang production has been relocated to the Auto Alliance plant in Flat Rock Michigan .