Ford Richmond Assembly Plant - Jeep Assembly at Richmond

At the Richmond plant, Ford dedicated 142,000 square feet of space on the first floor to jeep assembly. The functions of the Ordnance Department's tank depot (here) occupied 105,162 square feet on the first floor and 71,714 square feet on the second. Ford retained 92,460 square feet on the first floor and 71,411 square feet on the second for its own operations. Even though American automakers were no longer allowed to produce civilian autos, the government recognized that it was important to keep the nation's existing fleet of private cars and trucks in running order to transport workers to and from work and to transport materials. Therefore, the government allowed the automakers to keep their service parts networks operating. During the war, the Richmond plant continued to serve as a distribution point for Ford parts, not only for Richmond's service area but for those of the Long Beach and Seattle branches as well. In December 1942, about 140 workers staffed the Service Stock Department at the Richmond branch, and it handled a volume of parts about twice that of any other Ford service branch in the U.S. The remaining 16,778 square feet on the first floor and 8,875 square feet on the second served what Ford classified as mixed uses. These areas included toilet facilities and general offices that served the entire building.

When the Quartermaster Corps granted Ford the contract to assemble jeeps at Richmond, it transferred George U. McFadden there to supervise the contract. A civilian, McFadden had been posted at one of the General Motors plants in Oakland, from where he managed a large Quartermaster Corps contract with GM for trucks as well as supervising all other Quartermaster procurement contracts on the West Coast. After the army transferred procurement of motor transport vehicles from the Quartermaster Corps to Ordnance, McFadden transferred to Ordnance as well. For most of the duration of the war, his title in the Ordnance hierarchy at Richmond was chief resident inspector. Richmond's contract to assembly jeeps actually was implemented in several phases:

Jeeps Assembled at Richmond under Ordnance Contracts by contract no. and date of contract
W-374-Ord-2734 2-18-42 2,500 jeeps
W-374-Ord-2742 4-10-4210,941
W-374-Ord-2798 11-10-42 5,410
W-374-Ord-2862 3-10-44 24,951
W-20-018-Ord-4920 2-20-45 4,423 (8,097 in original order)
Total49,225 jeeps

As the above table suggests, the last contract was originally for 8,097 jeeps, but when the contract was terminated on 28 July 1945, the last several thousand jeeps were cancelled along with the contract. Of the jeeps assembled at Richmond, roughly 70 percent were boxed for shipment overseas and the remainder were delivered to the army on wheels.

Assembly of jeeps at Richmond was a fairly simple process. The plant received most components from Dearborn, including the frames, which had already received a first coat of paint there. Workers placed a frame on the assembly-line conveyor and then attached springs and front and rear axle assemblies. Then they gave the entire chassis a second coat of paint. Next they installed the engine, steering gear, transmission, transfer case, battery, wheels, radiator, body, gasoline, oil, and coolant. A Ford inspector then started the jeep for the first time and took it for a 5-mile test drive, noting deficiencies that were rectified upon return to the plant. Then Ford turned the jeep over to Ordnance for inspection and acceptance. Ordnance inspected every jeep with at least a 1-mile road test. Ten percent of the jeeps received a 5-mile test, and 1 percent received a 100-mile test. Once accepted. Ordnance returned each jeep to Ford, where it was sent it to a screen room for a radio suppression test under the supervision of an Ordnance inspector. Then Ford took the jeep to the disassembly line where it was prepared for boxing. Boxed jeeps were loaded onto railroad cars for shipment to a Port of Embarkation elsewhere in the country or delivered to the Stockton Ordnance Depot, where they awaited shipment back to the San Francisco Port of Embarkation. In April 1944, McFadden received an award of $250 from the War Department for suggesting that the Stockton Depot establish a sub-depot at the Richmond Tank Depot for jeeps eventually headed to the San Francisco Port, thus obviating a needless shipment of jeeps to Stockton and back to the Bay. In early 1945, by which time it was calculated his idea had saved about $200,000, the War Department awarded him an additional $560.

The Richmond Independent and local radio stations reported on 10 May 1945 that the Ford Motor Company's contract to produce jeeps would end July 31st, after which Willys-Overland would be the nation's only jeep manufacturer. Yet the Richmond Tank Depot did not receive official notice of the contract termination until May 23rd. The last jeep rolled off the Richmond assembly line on July 26th, it was boxed and ready for shipment at 3:00 pm on the 28th, at which time Ford's jeep assembly contract with Ordnance terminated. By that time, the reconversion to civilian production was well underway, and Ford announced it would begin producing civilian trucks at the Richmond branch on August 1st (see section on reconversion). The company intended to produce 1,000 trucks of the same type it had been making when civilian production ceased on 24 March 1942.