This could be probably be “counted” many ways – but here are the 18 we count! A tremendous variety!
Medium Duty Trucks
Amphibian Tracked Truck
Johnny Cash worked at Pontiac Car Assembly for a short period of time. It is believed to be the inspiration for his song “One Piece At a Time” (YouTube link) where he takes home a different part each day and tries to build a car!
Contemporary folks remember Cash sitting on the front porch of the house where he rented a room, playing his guitar. The house remains, just north of Howard Street on Saginaw.
5. You have probably seen this image, and know this is Chief Pontiac – but what is this portrait all about?
The City of Pontiac blossomed economically with the growth of the Pontiac brand in the late 20s and early 30s. The City commissioned renowned artist Jerry Farnsworth to do this portrait, and presented it to Pontiac Motor Division as a token of appreciation in 1935. It has remained an iconic painting, with copies hung in many schools and municipal buildings throughout the city.
The GMC Motorhome was exceedingly innovative. Built in Pontiac from 1974 to 1979, it is a front wheel drive Oldsmobile V8 with dual rear wheel “trucks”. It allowed standing height inside a remarkably low roofline and center of gravity. People actively restore them today as arguably this same configuration has not been matched.
The other guy in this picture is William Knudsen. After successfully serving as Pontiac General Manager in the 1920’s and later running all of GM’s manufacturing operations, FDR “drafted” him as a General to direct the military supply operations of WWII. Many historians view the astounding transition of US private manufacturers to wartime production as the linchpin of Allied success in WWII.
Pontiac “know-how “built Flanders Electrics as early as 1912, and GMC Electric Trucks starting in 1914 as well.
One hundred years later, the acclaimed 238 mile range electric Chevrolet Volt is built 5 miles north of Pontiac at the Orion Assembly Plant, with its electric driveline engineered on Pontiac’s Joslyn Avenue.
Standard Vehicle was one of the largest carriage producers in the US (Pontiac and Flint controlled 25% of US market). Their building still stands east of Woodard on Osmun street.
This is the Standard Vehicle Carriage being restored by the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society. The Standard Vehicle factory, where the carriage was built, stands in the background.
It is the M1 Concourse, which sits on “hallowed ground”. This corner of Woodward and South Boulevard was home to several manufacturing plants with different property owners over time, among them the Rapid Truck Company, Yellow Truck and Manufacturing Company, Flanders Electric, the Wilson Foundry and Machine Company, and finally General Motors.
Rapid Truck, arguably the world’s first significant truck manufacturer was started in 1903 on this site.
The site later incorporated Wilson Foundry operations (the world’s largest grey iron foundry for many years) and grew to the GM Truck and Coach West Assembly plant, known later as GM Truck Validation Center. The plant built medium and heavy duty trucks.
A view of the Rapid Truck assembly plant after the plant was renamed to General Motors Truck. This was Plant 1, located at 25 Rapid Street. The powerhouse (with the chimney) remains, and was most recently in use as a climbing gym.
A view of the Flanders Group factory, south of Plant 1, which fronted on Woodward at the corner of South Boulevard.
The Flanders Group was very short lived (it was absorbed by Studebaker) and by 1919 the Wilson Foundry and Machine Company was operating on the site. Wilson Foundry was the largest foundry of its type at the time, making engine components for Willys-Jeep-Overland for a number of years.
In the 1930’s, General Motors (through its subsidiary Yellow Truck Manufacturing) began purchasing the Wilson Foundry plants, and in 1943 renamed the company General Motors Truck and Coach.
Over the decades, these plants employed tens of thousands of automotive workers, and the factories that operated there are well remembered.