Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant Plant Improvements
As a Ford executive analyzed the company's 1947 year at the beginning of 1948, he spoke of strikes, new plants, $80 million spent in tooling, new models, and of a dynamometer building at Dearborn. The last improvement would soon come to Long Beach, At the subject plant they were building Ford-8 three-ton trucks, the largest ever assembled at Long Beach and the largest in the history of the company. In March 1948, as the plant rushed into a change over for new passenger models, the entire plant turned out only trucks. Trucks were selling at 216 percent their past volume. Thus for the first time in the plant's history during a changeover, the plant continued to operate. Old fixtures were dismantled and removed clearing 51,200 square feet of floor space for new equipment. New enamel ovens were in place, and new installations included a complete body paint system with down-draft spray booths, high temperature ovens, and floor type conveyors. Jigs in the Body Build department were replaced, and ultra-modern gun welding equipment with electronic controls was installed at a cost of $160,000.
A ten-ton readability tester was set up in its own small building outside the north end of the plant near the end of the chassis line. An entrance to it was cut through the assembly building wall so that every new Ford could be tested. This small building appears on a 1951 drawing and in an aerial view of the plant taken in 1953. A new circular track for road testing in front of the plant (north end) was also completed. At the end of the change over work, Plant Manager A.L. Edwards like other managers across the nation, held a Family Day open house to display the new model. The visitors then toured the whole plant starting on the dock, going the length of the chassis line and out through the "Hole" where final paint took place. Refreshments were served and all the children got a souvenir. Ford executives came out from Dearborn to inspect their three-quarter of a million dollar job, liked it, but cautioned that production would have to make it pay for itself. They also made a survey of a proposed dike to keep tidal waters around the plant under control. That year marked the first of many times TV covered the plant operations,
The 1949 passenger Model was a big event. It replaced the V-8 and was called the B-A during development and the Tudor when in production. With it Ford sales soared, passing up Chrysler cars in its class and placing Ford second only to General Motors. Ford Division was formed at this time to separate its operation from that of Mercury and Lincoln. Most new model parts came from Dearborn and came by rail, no longer by ship. Parts also came from California factories following a long-standing company policy of decentralization. (See Section: Impact on Community.) The first new 1949 car came off the Long Beach line on May 21, 1948. Still, every seventh unit produced was a truck. The car-truck ratio could be changed according to needs.
Improvements came steadily to Long Beach, and in July 1948 they were provided by Union Pacific Railway. The old steam engines at the dock threw off dirt and grime from the engines, and the open firebox of the engine constituted a fire hazard in the plant. The trains came into the warehouse on a depressed track and were there unloaded. Union Pacific provided diesel switch engines to handle incoming equipment. The plant averaged 425 inbound freight cars per month and 225 outbound cars. The costs to the plant were more than $450,000 a month. In addition the plant paid out $65,000 a month in truck and air freight bills. In September, a new paint oven went in designed to handle all final paint repair work on the completed cars as they came off the line. Prior to this touch up was done in the open where atmospheric dirt could get on the new paint before it was dry. Now, cars would be enclosed in a booth. The booth had several huge pumps for washing the air, showers for exhausting paint-filled air, and complete wash units.
In August 1948 the company instigated a nation-wide drive to assure accurate stock records. Prior to this, each plant closed down for an inventory that cost two days of production and a two day loss of pay for all hourly employees. Long Beach put much effort into a correction of their stock records.