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In a Different Time – Autoworkers on the Factory Floor

Photos of automakers assembly lines, and of workers on the plant floor performing their part of the manufacturing process, are always of great interest. Not only does one get an idea of how a car is built, but also of some of the processes involved in the making of various components.

The Imp Cyclecar was designed by William B. Stout, and it was manufactured in Auburn, Indiana. A cyclecar is a small, lightweight one or two passenger vehicle built during a craze for them between the years of 1912 and 1914. Usually, the little cars were powered by V-twin air cooled engines bought from motorcycle manufacturers or engine building companies.

The lead photo was taken in the inspection area of the Imp plant, and one of the V-twin engines and the framework for the engine and friction drive assembly are being examined.

You can view more assembly line images here. The photos are courtesy of the Detroit Public Library.

Cyclecar Engine Assembly

  • The image above shows the assembly line for the power train, friction drive and the belt drive jackshaft.
  • .
  • Workers below are dipping components into the japan black varnish tanks. On the right, front axle assemblies are lowered into the tank and then placed in a drip tray before going into the drying oven.

Dipping Parts in Japan Tank at Imp Cycle Car Factory

9 responses to “In a Different Time – Autoworkers on the Factory Floor

  1. Interesting.

    I rent time in a state of the art down draft spray booth, wearing a $1500. fresh air supply respirator, spraying with a $600 HVLP gun, to duplicate the finish that came out of a bath tub……….


  2. I noticed the style of clothing and the wearing of hats have changed and we no longer use the hand cranked drills, but the bench vices remain the same.

    I gues you just can’t improve on some items.

    • Back in the day when lockout/tagout meant what the wife did to you after a night at the saloon with the boys and Mabel, and what happened when you didn’t have the brand name of your overalls tucked in.

  3. Bill Stout was the nation’s most prolific promoter of the cyclecar concept. Although he designed the Imp in 1913, he advised against its production until improvements could be made. He had tested the prototype on the roads in and around Auburn and after only 25 miles, he noticed excessive wear on the steering yoke. He recommended replacing the cast bronze steering knuckles with steel. But developer W.H. McIntyre would not be convinced; the Imp went into production at the rate of 10 cars per month. A year later, output had risen to 10 cars per week in passenger and commercial body styles. In an effort to complete construction of 20,000 cars on backorder, McIntyre added a night shift in the three-story assembly plant. Meanwhile, Stout built a prototype of his own design financed by Pierce-Arrow dealer Henry Paulman and a former Otis Elevator Company official. He put several thousand miles on it to ensure a quality product. However, the American cyclecar craze ended in 1915 before Stout could secure production financing, and McIntyre ended Imp production to concentrate on full-size automobiles. Industry experts blamed the rapid fall of the cyclecar industry on poor engineering, something Stout had recognized at the onset.

  4. If they were to build those cycle cars today, there would be virtually no people in the pictures, just smart machines.

  5. The Cyclecar motor was made by Perry E. Mack not Spacke which has a distinctive and easily identifiable configuration on the timing chest. These motors were sometimes referred to as a “Mack” motor, sometimes as a “P.E.M” motor which are the initials of the manufacturer’s name.

  6. Dark as hell in them places.As usual, management is stingy with the lighting cuz electricity bills cut into profits.
    Some things never change.

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