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You are here: Home Photo Galleries 1967 Assembly Plant Paint Booth Gallery
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1967 Assembly Plant Paint Booth Gallery


Webmaster's Note: The pictures on this page were posted to Facebook in September 2018 by Marlon Reid and are hosted here with his permission. His father Ross Reid was a University of Waterloo engineering student and these are his pictures. As a student, they rotated him through all areas of the assembly plant to give him a well-rounded experience. Though Ross worked in other areas besides paint, these are the only pictures he took during his time there. Marlon sat down with his father and 'interviewed' him for the following article.


My Dad’s Ford Experiences

I worked at the Ford plant in Oakville, Ontario for 2 work terms from the University of Waterloo where I was a Mechanical Engineering student in the Co-Op program.

Fig. 01

My first work term was in 1967, during which I worked on the production line and tried to work on optimization and improvements, most of which were intended to reduce rework or failed inspections.

In 1968, I worked in the paint and body line where I was made responsible for quality control.

The plant made both cars and the F-series truck and employed 7000 people, with 2500 being on the truck line. The plant was virtually brand new and 1967 state of the art when I worked there. It was a pretty huge set of buildings and was quite fun riding around on my bicycle.

Q: Did you ever see any emergencies or injuries?
A: No, no actual injuries or serious accidents. A few near-misses. There were panic buttons on every column and that would shut the line down. It was a last resort though and if someone pressed it, chances are the disaster would have already happened. I never saw it though. Each guy at his position had less than 2 minutes per vehicle to complete his specific task. They were turning out 33 units (finished trucks) per hour. I saw things like air tool lines getting caught in the chain drive that moved the line forward. Say for example a guy on the chassis line was riveting structural members on the chassis and his hose slumped into the chain. There’d be yelling “hose caught, hose caught!” None of the other guys could help, and a supervisor would come running with a new air hose and tool, the caught one would just go and get sucked up and destroyed. Sometimes the guy could get the tool off the hose and just lose the hose back to the manifold, but you get the idea. Stopping the line for such an incident was not done.

Fig. 02

Fig. 03

Fig. 04

What type of optimization would a student be involved in?
A: Well, lots of things. They wanted us to understand the whole line, so it was good thorough experience. But what the hell did I know? I was a 22 year old kid. A lot of the time, it was small stuff. For example, they would set the toe-in at a specific machine, but by the time the steering wheel and column were installed, the chassis had been flipped a few times, things had moved, etc. The steering might have moved a bit and so when the column was installed, the steering wheel would not be straight relative to the wheels themselves. Eventually, I recommended adding a step to the toe-in, which was painting an alignment mark when the wheels were straight. I’d do other motion studies and come up with things like changing the sequences slightly to save on actual body movements etc. We were always trying to claw seconds out of the timeline. I was always a pain in the ass with my clipboards. One time when I wasn’t looking, someone put a capacitor on my clipboard. I didn’t see who did it, but I wondered if it might be charged. Nobody was looking, where did it come from? I thought it would be like picking up a knife, one just has to do it safely. So, I carefully picked it up and man, that thing bit me in the ass so fast. Bam! Big shock. Everyone laughing.

During this Toe-in study, I was responsible for driving those trucks off the line and out into a test track. I was the first person to drive a lot of trucks. I’ll tell you, some of them didn’t start first try!

Q: How long did it take to make a truck?
A: We were making 33 per hour, which was our target. Each truck from the first step of bucking to completion took about 2 days to make it through the entire line.

Fig. 05

Fig. 06

Fig. 07

They used the same gun for all colours and would just switch between hoses on the wall for paint, then run the gun for a few moments until it was running clean on the new colour. That's what the guy on Fig. 07 is doing.

What else did you have to do?
A: I remember they had a wrecking yard out in Hamilton. This was about 30 min away from the Oakville plant. Any parts or vehicles that were not up to snuff were sent there to be destroyed. Say for example a truck were to fall during loading of a train, or just have too much damage to repair, it would be destroyed. They didn’t want it to make its way to market and impact Ford’s reputation or worse, be a safety liability. The same was true of parts that were deemed not up to snuff. My name came up and it was my turn to go to this scrapper and witness the destruction. So, I took one of the cars and followed this truck of stuff out. I had a clipboard, itemized to the load and was supposed to sign off. I learned that this was because they were fearful of a black market in defective parts passing through the wrecker’s hands. The cars and trucks were easy to wreck – put them in a machine and they get crushed Goldfinger style and come out as a little cube. The parts though – transmissions, rear ends, major sub-assemblies – well they had to be individually destroyed on a big shear. That was time consuming. The guys kept saying that I should just sign and go enjoy an afternoon off, but I was young and keen, so I watched it all, which did not seem to thrill them. I was too naïve to realize that I was messing up their scam.

I also had to participate in the year-end changeover. Everyone would be sent on vacation for 2 weeks and those that stayed would be responsible for adjusting and stocking the line in their absence. All the old parts and tools that didn’t apply to the new model year were removed and replaced. This included all the paint supplies, etc. 67 to 68 wasn’t a radical change in body style, but there were enough things that we had a lot to do. Maybe the truck fans you told me about can figure out what they were, it’s been a while.

Fig. 08

Fig. 09

Fig. 10

Fig. 08 has what's called "special colours" - the real one-off vehicles would have a very small batch of paint made just for it. You can see the cans hanging on the wall just behind the painter's head. If you look closely at Fig 13, you can see each of those cans has its own colour of paint. A special colour would come as a 4 gallon can and then get split into smaller cans that were installed along the paint line at several locations so that each guy in the process had it in his gun. He said it took much less than 4 gallons to paint a truck, but they didn't want to run out and that that was a minimum type batch size.

How about the paint line?
A: The paint line was my second term. As you know, I’m colour blind, but what the hell. They had 12 standard colours and then non-standard colours and also special colours. All told, the guys were painting something like 24 different colours. [Marlon’s note: I will annotate some of the photos to show you what he meant]. I was responsible for quality control. It got to where if I saw a truck out in town, I could tell who had built it by the way the caulking was daubed on. Each guy had his own signature like a wireless operator in WWII.

The white bumpers, mirrors, grilles and rims were painted at the car plant across the alley.

Fig. 11

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

There were 12 guys to paint a truck. They worked on opposite sides, painting up to the centerline. The best painters were at the end of the process. The colour code would be written on the firewall early in the build with a bleedable grease pencil. That way the painters could see it coming down the line and get ready without reading the build sheet itself. [Marlon’s note: his 1967 report deals with how the build sheets are made, how the VIN plates and ID tags are made and associated with each vehicle, when they’re installed, etc]. The bleedable pencil would show up through the primer. They used the same guns for every colour, just would switch and run the new colour through it for a few seconds before applying it to the truck.

The most hated job was being in “the pit”. It wasn’t called a punishment position, but it really was. If someone had been late a few times or screwed up, they’d get rotated to that job. They had to go in a pit like it sounds under the line and paint the primer on the underside parts of everything as it came over top. Miserable hazy, awful.

I was responsible for quality at different levels and was moved around so I could see what it took to do a good job. The guys would say, “oh, you think it’s so easy, why don’t you take a try?”, and hand me the gun.

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

Did you paint some trucks?
A: Yeah, I screwed up a few units.

It was interesting how quality would slip as the day went on and quotas would be in danger. It really is true that you want your vehicle built around 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Definitely not late in the day on Friday. Guys would be begging inspectors to pass their stuff, promising to send them out to dinner on them, etc. They’d also sneak the speed on the line a little faster to try and make up for any slippage. It was a constant battle between the union and the management over that issue.

There was inspection at every step, and they’d assign extra inspection to units that they knew had been purchased by employees. The build sheet would be specially marked and nobody would cut any corners on one of those units.

One time, I was inspecting on afternoon shift [started late afternoon, went until late at night]. This was a bad shift because guys with drinking problems would drink all day and then come to work drunk. One of our painters was drunk this one day and his skills were down. He was causing reject after reject and it was my job to send him home, which was the right thing to do. However, it wasn’t the “correct” thing to do. The contract with the union was nearing renewal and negotiations were a little tense. It turned out this guy was the job steward, and my sending him home caused a mass walk off. That was the only time I saw the line stop, actually. The bosses chased the workers out into the parking lot and begged them to come back. The actual “correct” answer would have been to send him off to some flunky job like counting inventory where he couldn’t hurt anything, just to keep the union happy. I didn’t know that at the time though.

Fig. 18

Fig. 19

Fig. 20

What did you do with the rejects?
A: They were sent for repair by diverting them down the tu-tone line where more paint was to be applied anyway. If they failed after that, there was a 3rd chance for paint repairs with air-cured paints, but that was an inferior product compared to baked enamel of the main line and was not desirable.

Q: What type of inspections were there?
A: Runs or sags and the opposite – inadequate coverage. Debris in paint. Adhesion.

Q: How did you test adhesion?
A: that was done on completed vehicles. They’d go out to the parking lot and in a low profile place, like below the hinge in the door jamb, they’d take a boxcutter knife and scratch a grid. They’d put tape over that grid and pull it away. If they couldn’t pull up any squares, it was good adhesion.

Q: What if they failed at that point?
A: Hmm, I don’t know!

That’s about all I have from my dad. He was tickled that you guys liked his photos so much. I remember that as a student ostensibly in a management role, he had a labcoat (not coveralls) and his pants and shoes were glazed by the end of a workterm. He tried to wear the same pants every day to avoid wrecking extra clothes. They were hard and shiny from the knees down. I wish he'd saved those, it would be neat to see. I have his reports too, which are the kind of dry reading you’d expect from an engineering student, but also pretty interesting.


Webmaster's Notes - 03/10/19: I am in contact with Marlon about the reports he mentioned his dad had and they'll be posted here shortly.

Today the Oakville plant produces Edge, Nautilus, Flex and MKT.


This 1966 Oakville Truck Plant brochure goes into more detail about how the assembly line and paint booth worked. While it's showing 1966 trucks being assembled, you can see the production line proceeding through the same paint booth pictured above with the 1967 models.


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