5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Dream Factories: Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 Production, Start to Finish
We followed the GT 500 from its start on the Romeo Engine Niche Line to its finish at the Auto Alliance International assembly plant--and tried not to drool
In a scene that could be from a Terminator movie, the sheetmetal parts are fork-lifted to the line where robots pick them up, hold them in place, and weld them together. Sparks fly and Mustangs are born. It's a sight to behold. This is one section of the plant where the Mustangs and Mazda 6s are separate, with only Mustangs welded together here.
After the welding is done, people take over to fit the hoods, doors, and trunk lids before the bodies go into the paint line. This is the first time we could distinguish the GT 500s from their Mustang brethren, but the paperwork that follows the cars ensures the workers and robots know the difference between a V-6, a GT, a Mazda 6, and a GT 500. It's an amazing feat of logistics and technology that allow this complex operation to produce cars with much greater quality than their predecessors.
Once the bodies are assembled, they're moved down an automated paint line to receive a few coats of Ford's finest. Then they move to the line for the subassemblies, wiring, and convertible tops, if so optioned. That paperwork hanging from the hood details the options. As this cradle moves down the line, it tilts to ease the installation of fuel and brake lines.
In an interesting step, the doors come off, which not only eases the installing parts into the cockpit, but allows for a narrower assembly line. Though the tolerances are much tighter on the latest Mustangs, Ford still pulls five bodies off the line each day to make sure the tolerances are within spec. By the way, those form-fitting fender covers are cool. Ford should sell those for the rest of us.
As we said, the doors come off the car, but they don't just lie around. The doors go down their own assembly line where they receive speakers, wiring, glass, and other needed parts. More impressive yet, the doors rejoin the exact car they were removed from.
The coolest point on the assembly line is seeing most of the drivetrain--engine, K-member, brakes, transmission, and rearend-installed simultaneously as they're hydraulically lifted into the chassis and bolted in. If only we could put our project cars together this fast.
Once the car is fully assembled, it goes through this rain room to ensure there are no leaks, then it runs on rollers while a worker views the car from underneath to ensure there are no exhaust or other leaks. Then it's off to the lot for shipping. In the case of GT 500s, they're then sent for striping, if it's ordered. During our visit in mid-December 2006, the striping was added at a nearby subcontractor. By the time you read this, the stripes will be applied at Auto Alliance International.