John Grace, manufacturing engineering manager at the Dearborn Paint Plant, took us on a tour. Because the paint plant is hospital clean, we had to don coveralls and wear a hairnet [We'd love to see those pictures-Ed.] to minimize fallout that can contaminate a Mustang's new finish. It was like being in an episode of ER. Environmentally controlled segments of the paint shop, such as E-Coat and the paint booths, must be kept closed to keep out unwanted contaminants. This tightly controlled environment yields the best paint quality in Ford history.
Trim & ChassisAfter painted Mustang bodies pass Ford's tough paint standards, they go through a long, dark tunnel back to D.A.P. to begin a 24-hour journey through Trim & Chassis, which begins on the second floor. Every component you can imagine (and even some you can't) is fastened to the body as it makes its way down the trim and chassis line. At first, it's a lot of little stuff: trunk lock, nut plates, fasteners, heating and air conditioning, wiring, automatic shifter, brake and clutch-pedal assembly, and so on.
Once many of the things you don't see are installed, the things you do see are installed, such as the instrument panel, engine and transmission, suspension, headlights and taillights, and rear axle. It's a long process performed by dozens of people, each one experienced at a specific task.
When we arrived at Trim & Chassis, we were introduced to Dan Klebe, launch manager at the new Dearborn Truck Plant. Dan's job was to make sure Trim & Chassis ran smoothly for Mustang Balance Out. Dan introduced us to Tom Sea and Tommy Demeester, two guys who are familiar with Dearborn Assembly. These gentlemen and Dan were our sidekicks for the next couple of days as we documented the building of Mustang Last.
A Note Of ThanksWe want to thank everyone at Ford Motor Company who made this article possible: John Coletti, Rob Webber, Will Cowell, Dan Klebe, Tommy Demeester, Tom Sea, Anne Marie Gattari, Art Cairo, Alan C. Honeycutt, John F. Grace, and the dozens of Dearborn Assembly Plant associates who grabbed the ball and ran with it those last days at this legendary facility.
D.A.P. HistoryMost of us think of Dearborn Assembly for Mustangs, Cougars, Falcons, and two-seat Thunderbirds, but these nameplates represent less than half of the plant's 86-year history. When Dearborn Assembly opened in 1918 as a three-story factory building, it was constructed to produce Eagle boats, known as submarine chasers, for World War I.
After the war, Dearborn became home to the production of Fordson tractors and Model T parts. By 1927, Dearborn was building the highly successful Model A. Some 10 years later, in 1937, Dearborn was producing Ford trucks. In 1939, Ford added a line at Dearborn for the new Mercury Division.
When World War II broke out, Dearborn went to war as well, building tanks, staff cars, and Jeeps. When the war ended in 1945, Dearborn went back to the business of building automobiles for a bustling post-war economy. If you visited Dearborn Assembly during the '50s, you saw Fords of all kinds moving down the line, including the '55-'57 Thunderbirds.
In the fall of 1961, Dearborn turned its attention to smaller cars, like the new '62 Fairlane, a nice fit between big Fords and smallish Falcons. If you're thinking Falcon at Dearborn, that didn't happen until 1966, the only year Mustang and Falcon shared a line at Dearborn. When Ford began developing the Mustang in the early '60s, Dearborn was the targeted plant for Job 1.
When Mustang assembly began at Dearborn early in 1964, no one would have believed the nameplate would still be in production at the plant four decades later. Mustang and Fairlane shared the Dearborn line for a few months in 1964 until Fairlane production was moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in June. Mustang and Cougar were built bumper to bumper at Dearborn from 1967 to 1973. From 1974 to 1978, Dearborn became one of two birthplaces for the Mustang II.