“Hey man, I know it’s late notice - but how does your 10am look?” a representative from Ford Motor Company texted me on Sunday night. FoMoCo wanted to show me the exciting new Ford Bronco being assembled at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. I wasn’t about to miss out.
I entered the north entrance of the former Ford C-Max and Ford Focus plant, and watched as the Bronco and its platform mate, the Ranger, slowly skated along the enormous factory’s moving floor. The press event was informal and small; Ford just wanted a few journalists to see that the exciting new Bronco was finally rolling off the line, as the brand planned to announce the start of production the following morning (today).
It was awesome. Assembly plants are magical places, filled with diverse workforces, incredibly specialized tools, strictly-followed (and fascinating) processes, and an unbelievable number of cars and car parts that are all in precise motion, ultimately heading towards the exit.
Here’s a look at what I saw during my short visit. These freshly-painted body shells are beautiful. I love that specialized jig that holds the gas filler door in the driver’s window opening:
The bodies — each mounted on large longitudinal stand-in frames — drop down via an elevator, then slide forward, and then progress laterally in a big line of bodies.
Here are some Broncos undergoing what appeared to be some sort of electrical systems test. I watched as techs interacted with a screen while windows, lights and wipers activated.
This blue Bronco was undergoing some sort of four-wheel dynamometer test, presumably to test the powertrain and drivetrain:
Doors, held by special orange rigging, marched along the elevated catwalk:
Here’s an operator holding what looks like a calibrated torque wrench meant to precisely snug down threaded fasteners:
Note the fender protector that allows for assembly while keeping the bodywork in tip-top shape:
A conveyor belt brought this seat to its vehicle at precisely the right time. Modern manufacturing plants rarely have stockpiles of parts sitting at each station. The components arrive when they’re needed.
Here’s a plant employee, Kirt, who owns roughly a dozen old Ford Broncos, and who — of course — has a new one on order. Ford made him available to journalists as a way to highlight that employees “walk the walk” and are passionate about the products they build. It’s a classic PR move, but I’m glad I got to talk with him. I could tell immediately that Kirt is a wrenching machine, and as one myself (no doubt much less skilled than Kirt), I’ve got respect for his ability to keep so many old Broncos on the road.
Here are some Broncos going through the final inspection station:
And here are some completed builds. The two door looks amazing:
And here are a few other random shots from my brief, but fun plant tour:
I’ll be driving the Bronco later this month. I’m beyond excited. The only time I’ve been this amped about driving a vehicle for the first time was before reviewing the 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL, and I helped engineer that thing.