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Views of the Assembly Line at the Ford Motor Company

Today’s feature is a pair of short videos showing various scenes on the Model “A” Ford assembly line between the years of 1928 t0 ’31. Neither film is complete, but by viewing the two of them, quite a bit can be learned about the manufacturing process.

The first video below contains footage of the following: engine castings on a set of transfer lines, finished engines, clutches and transmissions at the end of the power plant assembly line, fenders passing by while another operation being preformed, engine installation in the chassis, the body drop process, and ending with finished cars being driven off of the end of the assembly line.

The second video below by British Pathe starts out at the end of the assembly line of the small 1932 8 HP Model Y British Ford. It is followed by views of the end of the Model “A” engine line, a Henry Ford Trade School class working on a drafting assignment and practicing the reading of both a very large micrometer and vernier caliper, views of the piston machining line, frame assembly and hot riveting, mounting of tires, and ending with Model “A” Ford trucks leaving the line at the end.

Tell us what you find of interest in the films. Hundreds of photos of Model “A” and “T” Fords can are viewable in earlier coverage on The Old Motor. 

13 responses to “Views of the Assembly Line at the Ford Motor Company

  1. The first film shows late 1928 cars. At 1:31 the inspection door on the bell housing is the one used on the one plate clutch which replaced the multiple disc clutch. The emergency brake handle is in front of the shift lever , a running change after the separate emergency shoes were used. At 2:16 the business coupe has the later larger rear window, another 1928 running change. The roadster at 2:18 sports outside door handles another running change. In the 2nd film the 1932 model Y Ford is the early one. Straight bumper skirtless fenders were soon replaced by a dipped bumper and skirted fenders. This was the famous “One hundred pound Ford!” Edsel liked E.T.Gregorie’s creation so they enlarged it and it became the model 40 V8 of 1933-1934, one of the classics.

  2. Wow, there’s a job for ya’, turn engine blocks all day ( or night) I worked at Briggs and Stratton in Milwaukee for 2 days. It’s why I became a truck driver, it was so nice to be able to leave these kinds of places. It ( assembly line, doesn’t matter what) is a miserable job, and it’s a good thing someone did it. Today, I’m sure that guy’s job has been replaced by a pneumatic cylinder.

    • I know. You can understand why they formed unions and struck for higher wages, weekends, and the eight hour day. The work looks awful.

  3. There’s quite a disconnect between how quickly the finished cars came out the door a the end of film 1, and how long it took those guys to rivet the chassis together – there must have been a great many chassis riveting stations to keep up with how quickly the cars were finished – contrasted to how frequently those two guy were flipping the finished engine and transmission over – that was about the speed of the finished cars…

  4. The giant micrometer they had in drafting class reminds me of the 2 giant stainless steel micrometers that were part of the Precision Metal Products company sign right beside the Belt Pkwy in Brooklyn.A landmark for many years.
    Gone now,but got pics of it somewhere.

  5. Notice as well that the workers are wearing ties…
    And, a kind of automated manual labor. What a contrast! How ever have men survived without robots on assembly lines?

    • They may have been wearing ties for the day the cameras where there.

      I noticed that a lot of them were wearing jackets. Leads me to wonder how cool things were on the line.

  6. A couple of comments on these vids. First off, these guys took a bit of pride in their work as seen by the ties and also by the efficiency of their movements. Compared to other industrial nations, the amount of shoddy work was probably pretty low, even compared to that Workers Paradise, the fledgling USSR. Next, these factories directly and indirectly employed hundreds of thousands and as seen in the first video, also gave blacks an opportunity to get out of the fields and away from Jim Crowe. Immigrants were also beneficiaries, as Ford and others sucked up those masses fleeing poverty and political/religious/ethnic persecution in Europe. Perhaps the working environment was not the greatest, but the shop floors seem clean, the lighting not so bad (early B&W film renders distant scenes a bit darker than actual conditions), no one was sweating profusely despite the ties and heavy lifting, (having worked in a plastics factory with presses running hot enough to melt the pellets, I know what a hot assembly line is like), but it was a job and Henry Ford knew if he was to sell to his employees, he had to give them a relatively decent wage. Finally, the automation teamed with the movements of the workers really show what a powerhouse the US was becoming, a fact Admiral Yamamoto noted when arguing against going to war with the US. He knew that Japan could not compete in the long run. FYI, there is an interesting vid on the development of the first Ford V8, a later iteration of these two vids, look it up if you have a chance.

  7. I note that the the workers wearing ties all seemed to be at the British Ford plant (second video) which may explain the custom. I have noted in vintage films of British/Scottish shipbuilding that ties were often worn by the craftsmen. I do wonder how many times newcomers to the plant had their noggins bashed by those pistons carried seemingly low on the overhead conveyer lines! I had a friend years ago who was a rear axle installer at the local Ford truck plant to finance his education. He often said that the most important thing he learned was “…not to be a rear-end guy any longer than he had to”! Ironically, when he ultimately received his medical degree he specialized in proctology!

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