Baltimore Assembly Plant's History
|Assembling automobiles and trucks is not new to the Baltimore
area. On October 16, 1934, Baltimore's Mayor Jackson and Chevrolet representative
E. A. Nimnicht broke ground for a new Chevrolet and Fisher Body assembly
plant on Broening Highway in the southeast section of Baltimore. The plant
was designed to produce 80,000 cars and trucks a year.
This enormous undertaking was completed in record time. On March 11, 1935, the first day of truck production, three trucks were built. On March 26, 1935, 12 passenger cars were built. The new plant produced a total of 24,885 passenger cars and 6,627 trucks during its first model year. About 2,500 people, many of whom had worked on the construction of the plant, were employed during the first year of operation.
The original plant site covered 45.7 acres and consisted of five buildings, six railroad sidings, driveways, walks, test roads, and a parking lot for employees' cars. The principal unit was the assembly building, which covered 13.5 acres of floor space. Chevrolet occupied two-thirds of the building, and Fisher Body one-third.
Car and truck production was interrupted in early 1942, when the plant was converted to wartime activities. The Chevrolet portion of the plant operated as a military parts depot where parts were received, processed, and packaged for shipment around the world. The Fisher Body plant became part of the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors Corporation and was assigned the task of assembling fuselages for Grumman carrier-based aircraft.
In August 1945, immediately following the end of the war, the plant was reconverted to automobile and truck production. By 1949, after 11 years of car and truck production, one million units had been assembled at the Baltimore plant.
Although Chevrolet cars and trucks have represented the largest portion of the Baltimore plant's production, other car lines have also been manufactured. The versatility of the plant was tested in 1964 when Buicks, Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs were assembled one after another on the same passenger car line. In the ensuing years, the number of car lines produced has changed several times. GMC Truck and Coach Division shared Baltimore's truck production as early as the 1947 model year.
A major change occurred in 1968 when the Baltimore plant's two separate General Motors units, Fisher Body Division and Chevrolet Motor Division, were unified under the administration of the General Motors Assembly Division.
On May 24, 1978, with many of Baltimore's business and civic leaders present, Robert K. Bates, plant manager, and Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer drove the plant's eight-millionth vehicle off the assembly line.
By 1979, the Baltimore General Motors Assembly Division plant site had increased to more than 160 acres with nearly 2.5 million square feet of building floor space. The plant employed nearly 7,000 employees at this point.
The Baltimore plant saw its last car produced on March 31, 1984. The plant began a retooling process in preparation for its current products, the Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari mid-size vans.
The plant was now a part of the General Motors Truck and Bus Group and began production of the new vans in August of 1984. More recently, the plant became part of the General Motors Truck Group, continuing to build Astros and Safaris.
Currently, the plant and its surrounding buildings sit on 182 acres, with 3.1 million square feet of floor space in the assembly building. Baltimore Assembly built its 12 millionth vehicle in 2000 since opening in 1935. Nearly 1,400 employees from all over the Baltimore area work today to continue the plant's 69-year tradition of building quality vehicles for its customer