Jim Smart
February 1, 2003

Most of us have a passionate desire to tour the Mustang assembly plant at Dearborn, Michigan. But wanting it and getting it are two different things these days. Call Ford today for a tour, and the best you'll get is the occasional Wayne assembly-plant tour where it builds the world-beater Focus four-door sedan and wagon. Because Wayne is a state-of-the-art assembly plant, Ford is happy to show it off to tour-seekers and potential stockholders. Wayne combines the stamping and assembly processes into one facility for great efficiency and quality control.

It's virtually impossible to tour the Dearborn assembly plant today, where Ford has been building the Mustang since March 1964. So we're going to give you the next best thing: our imaginations and terrific photos from April 4, 1964. A Ford photographer walked the Dearborn line and captured different phases of assembly ranging from bucking the steel platform to quality control.

What these images from Dearborn long ago tell us is simple. Mustangs were assembled in busy factories where the human factor determined outcome. In 1964, the only automated phase of assembly was the automatic welder that fused the platform together at the beginning of the assembly. From then on, Mustang bodies were hand-assembled by humans. What's more, Mustangs weren't dipped in an electrostatic bonding process (called E-coat today) for corrosion protection. They were hand-primed with guns in a spray booth, then painted, which is why cowl vent assemblies leaked and rotted out floor pans in great numbers.

The Mustang assembly process at Dearborn is quite different today, yet the basic path from beginning to end is virtually the same. Today, robotics are used where there used to be the human touch. Engines and transmissions are installed from underneath, whereas in 1964, they were dropped in from above. In the months ahead, we will show you Mustang assembly at Dearborn in 1986 and 1994.