Str8-8-Dave

1931 Buick Assembly Plant layout and production timing

Recommended Posts

This question is for someone who is knowledgeable in 30's era Buick assembly plant process if there is any such person.  In 1971 I worked at the Cadillac Clark Street Plant in Detroit assembling 1972 Cadillac cars other than the Eldorado.  In that plant the chassis was built completely from bare frame and once the frame was done it was met by a completed body at the body drop on the first floor of the plant.  Bodies came in via rail car from Fisher Body for all models except the 75 series limousine whose body came from Fleetwood.  All bodies were loaded on to line trucks on the third floor every night and put in serial number order after which they started down the body wiring line where everything that could be assembled to the body without chassis or engine went onto the build.  At the end of the body wiring line cars were put on a body drop crane to be lowered onto the chassis on the first floor.  While the body was being built up on the second floor engines came in from the engine plant, were married to transmissions and all of the engine/chassis related running gear right down to the wheels was assembled to the frame.  At the body drop the body was dropped onto the chassis, front clip and hood was installed and completed cars were driven off the end of the line to alignment and wheel balance/road test/quality control areas and finally driven out the back door to the loading dock.  The whole process took about 2 days in the assembly plant which doesn't include time to build bodies or engines.

 

So I've been working on my 1931 Buick 8-66S Special Coupe since April of 2018.  Most of the heavy work was done before I got the car, chassis and engine restored and built, body painted and installed.  Still I will spend another 2 years doing what is left of making a complete somewhat authentic car out it because I am an assembly team of one without much in the way of factory drawings, tools or fixtures.  My questions are as follows:

 

1.  Was the entire car including body and engine built in one plant or did the body and maybe the engine get built off site?

2.  How long did the assembly process take from the time a car got a job number and started final assembly to the time it was delivered for shipment? 

 

I'd be keenly interested to know if anyone in the Buick or AACA forums knows the answers or if there is a book I need to get to learn how the assembly process went on these cars in the early thirties.

 

Thanks in advance...

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Educated guess? Engine at one plant and then delivered for later assembly at another plant. Educated guess is that once assembly started then the factory had about 2 days until the unit rolled out of the plant ready for shipment to a dealer.  Yet, this is all an educated guess and based solely on the fact that I am educated. If I were not an educated person then I would be hindered on drafting a reply to this post. Was it not Jethro on the 1960s TV show "Beverly Hillbillies" that would brag about his 6th grade education? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, BucketofBolts said:

Educated guess? Engine at one plant and then delivered for later assembly at another plant. Educated guess is that once assembly started then the factory had about 2 days until the unit rolled out of the plant ready for shipment to a dealer.  Yet, this is all an educated guess and based solely on the fact that I am educated. If I were not an educated person then I would be hindered on drafting a reply to this post. Was it not Jethro on the 1960s TV show "Beverly Hillbillies" that would brag about his 6th grade education? 

Agree. Plenty of pictures of engine & transmission plants on the web so I have no doubt those components were made elsewhere and added to the cars final assembly. Guessing the same is true for seats and certainly there were literally hundreds of parts manufactured by various vendors (some GM owned - i.e. Delco) and used for final assembly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the 1930s, bodies were built by Fisher and tucked from the south side of town to the north side to The Buick. Frames were purchased, but that’s about it, as Buick had its own foundry, forge, axle, sheet metal, transmission, and engine plants. AC Spark Plug/Champion Ignition Co. was across the street. Armstrong Spring Division  was also on site and absorbed by Buick. DuPont paint was across the street from Buick as well. There were a couple of assembly plants. Engines were actually conveyed from Factory 11 across Leith Street to the assembly plants.

 

Buick was the largest GM facility in the world in the 1930s. I hope this answered your question.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kevin is the expert. 
 

When you first arrived at Flint (for me 1978) the first thing you learned to do while driving near The Buick was to stay the heck away from the Fisher Body Trucks delivering bodies from Fisher#1 to the Buick complex on the north side of town.   They had a build sequence schedule to keep and drove like madmen. 
 

Here’s a pic off google from the 50s to give you an idea. 
 

They ran every few minutes and were every half mile on the road. A huge fleet and they ran flat out. 

E616FEE9-F9A4-469D-8F34-091BDC4E0A98.jpeg

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Thanks to all of you who replied but especially Kevin and Brian.  Is there a book I should track down that describes 30's Buick production in detail with some early plant pictures?  I have a copy of The Buick published by Automobile Quarterly and it does have a few pictures and some descriptive stuff in including a chapter called Buick gets an 8 describing the last minute decision and effort to produce 4 series of basically carryover bodies with 3 straight 8's that had to fit the same space as the 1930 6's   That's a good read but I'm interested in the history and process so of course I want more.

 

The process of producing bodies in one plant, engines in another, then assembling in a 3rd plant is strikingly similar to the Cadillac approach I experienced in 1971.  There is a really good YouTube movie on the Cadillac Clark St. plant and it starts in the engine plant, shows bodies being taken from rail cars and set on line trucks and put in serial number line for assembly as well as a lot of the body wiring assembly chassis assembly and the body drop where 2 cars became 1.  It also documents the closing of the Clark St. plants and Fleetwood body by GM in 1987.  Some of the news coverage, while depressing, includes historic pictures and film clips all the way back to the opening of the plants.

 

 

Thanks...

Dave

BCA 20435

Edited by Str8-8-Dave
Add content. (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 You might want to look for this book:  "A Place Called Buick - Second Edition" by Don Bent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alfred P Sloan: My years at General Motors.

Its not specific to Buick, but does include some stories about early Buick.
Sloan's book been called a "manual for managers", but its really the complete history of GM from the very beginning.

Familiar names like  William Durant, Ransom Olds, Henry Leland, Charles Nash, Walter Chrysler, Dupont, Charles Kettering, and their roles at GM.
GM made many costly mistakes in these early years, and Sloan crafted his management rules as a clear guide for future decision making.

For every management rule, Sloan has multiple stories of mistakes made in each division, and he does describe parts of the factory operations in some detail.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The best period publication, more photos than anything, is “Buick’s Busy Acres” published in 1939. It’s hard to find an original but I think you can get a copy from the Buick Heritage Alliance (maybe)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like I have 3 books to look for.  Thanks to all for the tips...

 

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now