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General Motors: Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac Assembly Line Images

For the last installment of the General Motors Assembly Line Images series this post begins with two photos of Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac cars on a unidentified assembly line during the 1959 model year.

The lead photo contains a pair of Buicks and a Pontiac being run on the test “rolls” at the end of the assembly line. A picture from this set of exists which was taken from the driver’s side of the Pontiac that shows the speedometer registering sixty mph while the vehicle was being operated. In addition to the drive train test, the lifters and camshaft were being broken in while the engine was being run at moderate speeds.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photos courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.

  • The 1959 Buick on the right is posed in front of other 1959 GM models at the end of the assembly line.

  • A 1962 Pontiac being tested on the “rolls” at the end of the Wilmington, Delaware assembly line.

  • Assembly line workers install trim around the windows, and (below) the coachwork onto the chassis at the body drop station.

25 responses to “General Motors: Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac Assembly Line Images

  1. In the 2nd picture [1st expandable photograph], in the right foreground, is a ’59 BUICK Invicta sedan [non-hard-top].

  2. The 1962 Pontiac with the hood open, notice how crooked the hood insulation pad was installed.
    Is the worker possibly charging an A/C system with Freon?
    Great pictures. I always wonder if any of these cars have survived until today?
    I also wonder what adventures the owners had with these cars and how excited they were when they first saw and drove them.

    • Well, Art, Imwas vey proud of my 59 Electra when I got it in 67. It was a 2 door hardtop with a bubble roof. Had power windows and seat, and factory air. It was great with the kids In high school. Had lots of fun in it. Trips down the shore, and the best looking car at the prom.
      I also had a 62 Catalina, which I got in 73 when I got out of the Army. Got a lot of use out of it. I had trouble starting it, till I got a dwell meter, and set the point dwell through the little door in the distributor. Spun that engine nice after that. I took it to Camp Drum in upstate NY for summer camp, and even to Montreal for the weekend while there. Great ride with the wide track. Miss both of them.

    • Bottom edge of insulation is even. The pattern is cut for clearance at the front edge. Not a quality issue.

  3. Item 2 of 4 shows a ‘62 Catalina with only a Catalina script on the front fender and side trim beginning in the mid-door cove.

    Item 3 of 4 is a ’61 Olds interior and dash with its oval instrument pods and the angled trim ahead of the armrest and attachment clips for rocker panel trim of a Super 88.

    Item 4 of 4 is a ’61 Catalina Sport Sedan with no side trim ahead of the Catalina insignia on the door and without rocker panel molding.

  4. In my mind’s eye the 1959 Buick four door is Shalimar Blue in color as was the new one Dad bought near the end of that model year. Our Buick was sans power steering and trying to parallel park it resulted in my 17 year old carcass being just about lifted off the driver’s seat as I cranked the steering wheel.

  5. These photos remind me of a story a friend told me about his experience working at GM assembly plant in Detroit in the early 60’s. Every so often a car was pulled off the line for some “self inflicted” body repairs. This kept a couple workers employed repairing same. All with the union insistence and GM approval during
    contract and wage discussions.

  6. So what your’re saying is that cars were deliberately damaged in order to provide workers with employment in repairing them all with the tacit approval of the UAW and GM.Well that makes perfect sense,doesnt it?Does to me.

    • Which explains:
      -The rise of the imports
      -And how GM, once the largest automaker in the world, could go broke and need a government bailout.

    • Keeping those couple of employees busy repairing imperfections was part of the agreement between the union and GM during their negotiations. Crazy, but I believe my friend who worked hanging the interior window cranks on wires after they were cast and polished before chrome plating. Gm made most everything in house compared to today.

  7. When the ’59 Buick was introduced, it was so different from the goofy-looking , over-chromed ’58 that it caused a sensation. The styling and finned front brakes made a great impression on me and my 16-year old buddies, even though we could afford only old, worn-out flathead Fords and stovebolt Chevies.

    • Normally basic body platforms were used for a number of successive years. 1958 was different in that the 58s were only used for that model year. Work had started on the 59s in 1956. Harley Earl had gone to Europe with instructions to give him more of the 58s in the 59 designs. Some of the stylists revolted and sought the blessing of Bill Mitchell to literally scrap all work that had been done on the 59s. Mitchell agreed and told them to start over again…from scratch. Hence , the radical difference between the 58s and 59s. GM brass loved what they saw and Earl, with just a year or so away from retirement, let it rest.
      Privately he seethed though over the blatant disregard Mitchell and the design staff had demonstrated for his authority.

      • Actually Robert, the `59’s initially were supposed to carry over much of the `58’s platform & styling. It was in late summer of `56 when Hawks from GM saw Chryslers & Plymouths coming into a rail yard for shipment that Bill Mitchell basically ordered a crash program to start all over again on the `59s, and it was almost too late. Earl retired at the end of `58, although still had a strong control at GM for a period.

    • Robert, a bit of a correction… the A-body (Chevy and Pontiac) was used only in ’58. The B and C-body Cadillac, Buick and Olds had a two-year ’57-’58 run.

  8. Can anyone tell us for certain which BOP plant these photos were taken at? My BOP owned and assembled car friends would sure like to know.

  9. This is the Wilmington, DE Boxwood plant.
    It was one of the better plants for quality. Currently under demolition.

  10. Not sure where to put this or even why I should, but speaking of assembly lines reminded me of this video I saw a while back from 1944. The first part is about the first test flight of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which is a bit of self aggrandizement, but the second half is to me, an interesting look at the assembly line they built up to produce a fleet of these new naval aircraft. Pretty fascinating with techniques I never knew about and a good look at the skills of the labor provided by a plethora of women and men deemed important enough to stay out of the service. Go to YouTube and look for GRUMMAN F6F HELLCAT FIGHTER AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION LINE 1944 , a late release probably due to the secrecy of the production process earlier. In relation to the Old Motor, after the war a lot of these skills and production processes and design theories went in to peacetime automotive manufacturing, probably turning up beginning in the late 40’s.

  11. I once taught a high school auto class in Normal, IL. You may recognize that town as the home of the Mitsubishi Motors plant. One year I was lucky and was able to take a class of students on a plant tour. In one area I asked our tour guide what a plant worker was doing. The man was working on one of the cars in what appeared to be a repair area. Next to the car was six or seven engines in a what I would later know as a shipping rack. The guide explained that the man was just checking the car. Several years later I left teaching and at one point worked for an organization in Michigan that did work for GM.
    In 1996 GM introduced a new fuel system on their pickup trucks and I found myself traveling to several truck plants to support diagnostics and repair of that system. Suddenly I was in heaven, or what was the repair area after the Rolls test. And one night in the (now closed ) GM truck plant in Janesville, Wisconsin I learned what that man at the Mitsubishi may have been doing. And that would be replacing a defective engine. I was amazed at the number of engines that went back to the engine plant for tear down and inspection.
    I’m 68 and retired. I was a mechanic for eight years, a teacher for eleven, worked for a brake parts manufacturer for two, worked for a GM supplier for two, and finally worked for a vehicle manufacturer for 18 wonderful years .

      • Thank you. I got interested in cars when my parents moved to the small town of Rochester, IL. We had a barber in town that had car magazines for reading material in his little shop. That material got me interested and drove me to learn as much as possible about cars, especially the engine. What created that life was sticking with the automobile , and it took me for quite a ride.

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