Under The Hood

Peek into GM’s Fairfax, Kansas, plant in 1952 and ’53

Inside a GM Plant:
Fairfax, Kansas, assembly in the early 1950s

History tends to get tossed aside too regularly, but fortunately, the past has a few champions. Among them is Doug Howard, who had the foresight to save these rare views of Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile models from inside a GM plant after they were discarded.

Howard worked in maintenance at “The General’s” Fairfax, Kan., plant, located near Kansas City, and was able to occasionally save items from the trash heap. Those items included these images showing a plant that was about to become a trash heap itself.

1952 Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick two-door hardtops move down the Fairfax plant’s “final line.”

1952 Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick two-door hardtops move down the Fairfax plant’s “final line.”

Trimmed bodies in a mix of 1952 B-O-P models travel down the line at General Motors’ Fairfax, Kan., plant, waiting to be mated with chassis. The blackwalls in the foreground appear to greatly outnumber the whitewall tires.

Trimmed bodies in a mix of 1952 B-O-P models travel down the line at General Motors’ Fairfax, Kan., plant, waiting to be mated with chassis. The blackwalls in the foreground appear to greatly outnumber the whitewall tires.

 

A sea of new 1953 Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac products await loading onto the back of General Motors-based haulers, although a Dodge has crept into the mix. The March 20, 1953, photo reflects a strong model year in sales for all three makes with Buick and Pontiac, in particular, each recording their second-highest sales numbers in history to that point.

A sea of new 1953 Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac products await loading onto the back of General Motors-based haulers, although a Dodge has crept into the mix. The March 20, 1953, photo reflects a strong model year in sales for all three makes with Buick and Pontiac, in particular, each recording their second-highest sales numbers in history to that point.

 

Completed Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick automobiles at the end of the line appear to be awaiting their turn on the testing apparatus at the bottom left.

Completed Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick automobiles at the end of the line appear to be awaiting their turn on the testing apparatus at the bottom left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Howard began working for General Motors in 1985, its Fairfax facility was in the midst of a great transition, moving from building “B-O-P” cars (Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac) in an old factory to front-wheel-drive Pontiac vehicles in an entirely new facility.

“When I went there, they were building a new plant, so they hired a bunch of new people because they were getting new technology,” Howard said. “The pictures are from the old plant. They tore it down in 1986, possibly 1987, shortly after I started. I believe it was spring 1987 when we really got into the new plant.”

Originally, the factory had been erected to build a different form of transportation for a different kind of customer — B-25 Mitchell planes for the government during World War II. After the war, General Motors purchased the plant to build automobiles for the Joneses during postwar prosperity. Alongside General Motors cars, the factory continued to build airplanes through the early 1950s, when the government needed F-84F jet-powered fighters for the Korean War. These photos show that early point — 1952 — when GM first began stamping out new Pontiac Chieftains, Oldsmobile Super 88s and Buick Specials not far from war birds.

Along with Oldsmobile and Pontiac, the original factory is now gone, but General Motors is still operating the second factory it built at the location in 1987. Howard said the first vehicle to come out of that new plant in 1987 was the Pontiac Grand Prix for the 1988 model year, and after Pontiacs ceased being built, the factory continued to crank out Buicks. The factory later added a Chevrolet model — the Malibu — to its roster of GM products built there and currently, the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu come off the line at Fairfax. Hopefully, that history is being recorded as these shots were when the Fairfax plant began building cars almost 65 years ago.

RELATED RESOURCES: Read up on Pontiac and Olds

The Standard Catalog of Pontiac Firebird eBook

The Pontiac Solstice Book

The Standard Catalog of Oldsmobile 1897-1997 CD

 

 

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