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General Motors 1961: Olds, Buick, and Pontiac Final Assembly Line

Just a short post today and a preview of coming attractions due a busy weekend of work here in the shop. This image provides a view of a Buick and Pontiac Plant final assembly line filled with 1961 Buicks and Pontiacs. The name and the location of this GM assembly plant at this point are not known, although we are hopeful our readers will be able to identify it.

Next week we will begin to feature a set of images showing various assembly operations along the line. Share with us what you find of interest in this photo courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.

32 responses to “General Motors 1961: Olds, Buick, and Pontiac Final Assembly Line

  1. It appears to be a Pontiac, Buick and Olds assembly plant, as there are at least two ’61 olds in the photo. And up front, if the 98 (possible 6-window sedan) came off this line that would mean they possibly assembled both B and C-body Oldmobiles…’61 was the first year Olds 98s used the GM C-body in over a decade. I wonder whether they also assembled C-body Buick Electras.

  2. Nice picture !!

    On the far right is a 1961 OLDSMOBILE Classic 98 Town Sedan and behind the PONTIAC is a 1961 OLDSMOBILE, either a Dynamic or Super 88 Holiday Coupé.

    • The PONTIAC in the center of the photograph is a 1961 Catalina Sedan [non-hardtop].

      The BUICK in the left foreground is a 1961 LeSabre Sedan [non-hardtop].

  3. I don’t know, but I think this was a staged photo, as I can’t find where all three of these cars came from the same plant. Also, I believe the last year for wide whitewalls. I read, ’62 Pontiac had thin whitewalls.

    • Some 1961 cars had shrunk the full whitwall for a thinner ‘intermediate ‘
      width before the thin whitewalls of te mid-’60s cars. Thev1961 Continental for example.

    • Some 1961 cars had shrunk the full whitwall for a thinner ‘intermediate ‘
      width before the thin whitewalls of te mid-’60s cars. The 1961 Continental for example.

    • Some 1961 cars used a thinner wide white before going to the thinnest whitwall of the mid ’60s. The 1961 Continental for example.

      • Hi Greg, thanks, also, be advised, David does this by himself, so it takes a while for comments to be viewed. The multiple posting must be a software glitch.

  4. I would not have guessed that Buick, Olds and Pontiac (BOP) shared assembly plants at that time, but according to a post on the AACA forum, while they each had their “home” assembly plants (Lansing for Olds, Pontiac for Pontiac, and Flint for Buick) accounting for just under half their total production, they shared half a dozen additional plants as needed.

    • According to Wikipedia, the South Gate Assembly plant in LA that opened in 1936 to build Buick, Olds and Pontiac was the first GM assembly plant to build multiple car lines.

  5. Yes, most ’62 white walls were thin.
    But when it comes to vendor supplied items, “never say never”. I think I’ve seen ’62s with wide whites (Not to mention guys who put wife whites on ’63-64s).

    A question: I’ve read several references where B-O-P shared bodies and systems. Was B-O-P a formal Sub-group of GM?
    Did they share assembly plants, or would a mid-sized body production line make everyone’s, including Chevys?

    If so, why wasn’t it B-O- Cadillac since they represented the higher price cars and let Chevy-Pontiac…The lower prices cars have their group?

    • Cadillacs were assembled in Linden, NJ–then at least and into the 70s. Not sure where else. I was going to guess this was possibly the Arlington TX plant, which switched to truck assemblies sometime in the 80s I think?

  6. No surprise. The same early-60s UAW cultivator mechanics assmbled everything. And continued to – remember the GM 350 diesels?

  7. Howard, I have to agree…it seems like it would’ve been quite a challenge to the plant logistics and to the workers to deal with cars with such a variety of engines and, transmissions…to say nothing of the vast variety in interior appointments and paint colors.

    You’re right about the whitewalls. Apart from the Corvair Monza in early ’60, the ’61 Buick Special line and the Falcon Futura, Comet S-22, Olds F-85 Cutlass and Olds Starfire in early to mid-year ’61 (and yes, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in ’57) the narrow line whitewalls arrived for all other makes in ’62…though they were delayed a while on the ’62 Tempest line with their odd 6.00 or 6.50 x 15” tire size…and delayed considerably, if available at all, on the ’62 Studebakers. Only the ’63 Avanti, introduced in late April of ’62 but not delivered till June, got them. Even the ’62 Lark Indianapolis 500 Pace Car still had wides on the pre-race promo cars…though switched to the narrows on those used during the race.

  8. I’m gonna have to guess that this photo was taken at the B-O-P (Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac) Assembly Plant in the Leeds District of Kansas City, Missouri. Many of us as school children in the KC Metro area toured this plant. It closed as an assembly facility in 1987 but was reopened later as a warehousing area.

    • David, my school class toured that plant too; it was an optional excursion set up during the summer after school got out when I was in fourth grade. Moms came along to act as chaperones (mine did). I got to watch 1970 model Chevys & Buicks come down the line!
      When the tour was over, I was given a red `70 Impala cvt. promotional model as a gift!! I still have it in it’s original box!

      • The original Fairfax assembly plant was located next to Fairfax Airport which was the former location of the North American Bomber Production Plant where the B-25 Mitchell was manufactured during World War II. After the war GM purchased the building and converted it to an automobile assembly plant, and was under the management of GM’s newly created Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac Assembly Division created in 1945. In 1952, alongside car production, the plant produced F-84F jet-powered fighters. The original Fairfax plant ceased production in 1986, and production was moved to Fairfax II. Fairfax II is located on the former Fairfax airport. They build some Chevys there now.

  9. GM Introduced the Buick Special, Olds F85 and Pontiac Tempest in 1961, I believe. They were such nice looking cars, light in appearance after those awful sleds from 1958. GM introduced an aluminum V8 for all three and Pontiac came out with the slant 4 and a transaxle. Typical GM – innovation and, then abandonment of the concept e.g. Corvair, Fiero, Solstice. That nice little V8 was sold to Rover and appeared in the Triumph TR8, the MGB V8, the Rover V8 and, I believe, the Morgan +8. I think it’s still being produced but, of course, not by GM.

  10. I’ve forwarded the above photo to a friend who is retired from G.M. but went to work at the Wilmington, Delaware assembly plant in 1962. If the photo was taken at that plant or if my friend recognizes the man from one of the other GM plants with which he is familiar then we may be able to identify the location where the photograph was taken. I think it may have been a promotional photograph with some of the cars brought in from other plants which could readily have been accomplished.

    • No luck, my friend isn’t able to ID the man in the photo. That being said, since the photo is being held by the Hagley Museum in Wilmington there remains the possibility that the photo was taken at the nearby assembly plant. My friend told me that as late as 1996 the Wilmington plant was still called BOP and made all three models. I’m hopeful that we may still be able to ID the supervisor in the photo; my old pal told me he’ll ask around.

        • Final correction: my old pal just wrote to tell me he’s sorry he’s been confused with the dates he’s given us and the correct date is actually March of 1963 when he first arrived at the Wilmington G.M. assembly plant; at that time it was still referred to as “BOP” and assembled all three brands.

  11. While I can’t positively identify this as Arlington Assembly, it sure looks like it could be. I was there for almost twenty years, but not in the 60s.
    Arlington switched to truck production in 1997. Before that they built many things. All 1994-96 Impala SS’s were built in Arlington. ’68-’70 GTOs. Cadillacs starting in 1988.
    In 1961 Arlington Assembly was building the Buick Electra, Invicta, and Le Sabre, Olds 88 and 98, as well as Pontiac Catalina, Ventura, and Bonneville.
    Hope that helps!

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