• Dec 27th 2010 at 10:00AM
  • 26
General Motors' enormous Willow Run plant built B24 Liberators that helped win World War II, but after 68 years, the historic facility has hit the end of its run. Willow Run built its last automatic transmission on December 15th. The site was originally set up by Henry Ford on a piece of his farmland, but has been owned by General Motors since the company purchased it from Kaiser-Frazer.

Importantly, Willow Run's owner is currently Motors Liquidation Corporation; "Old GM." While other historic auto industry sites have been razed, Willow Run was named a Michigan historic site in 1980, and ownership will default to a trust if a new owner is not found by the end of 2010. Such large facilities are never easy to sell, but with southeast Michigan's economic troubles even deeper than the challenges facing the national economy, finding a new owner looks to be a particularly challenging task.

[Source: AutoWeek | Image: Bill Pugliano/Getty]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      agp3075
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was a supervisor at Willow Run in my last years at GM. I am proud to have been a part of history. I can not believe that they sold off all the war time machinery that was still there from the big war. The manufacturing capacity of that facility should have been preserved by the US government for the sake of war time production if nothing else. It was and is hard to understand how big that plant is until you have to navigate it every day. 1.2 miles long and 0.6 miles wide under one roof with several levels of floor space. The cranes in the ceilings that used to move the aircraft assemblies where still in place and maintained to operational standards while I was there in the early 2000's. The sub-terrain levels in some areas where filled with removable fill that was to seal the old PCB containing area's. There was still machines that where used in the war effort stored there into the time frame when I retired from there in the 2000's. What a reality check to see our manufacturing abilities go away that this plant showed. This plant at one time was the largest building under one roof in the world.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As a long retired small business owner, I would like to see the business case for shutting it down.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I see a big F1 track; a motorsports venue like the Monticello Motor Club. Maybe not. A NASCAR track....
      • 4 Years Ago
      Goodbye old friend. I'll remember your cobbled wooden floors, the deafening thumps from the bank of multi-ton stamping presses as it hammered 5+mm steel into torque converter housings, the heavy taste and smell of machining fluids that would fog the plant on hot days, and finally the sight of the heat treatment furnances blurching its flames. Willow Run, when standing near your furances and feeling its radiative roar of fire, you were the earthly incarnation of hell.

      Rosie the Riveter graced your floors and you have been transformed many times in your 70+ year history. It's a shame that your future viability will be difficult as you transition into a brownfield site.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I find it interesting, that once upon a time, what GM owns now, was once owned by Ford.
      This factory, probably some others, GM HQ in Detroit.
      Could one say, that Off the shoulders of Ford, GM has become so big? Probably not, but just a thought that occurred to me. . ..
      • 4 Years Ago
      Reminds me of General Eisenhower's statement of Detroit being the arsenal of democracy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Willow Run also built many Corvairs during the '60s, including the first one and the last one. A "W" as the seventh character of a Corvair VIN indicates that it was built at Willow Run. Also, we used to have a former Willow Run assembler in our local CORSA chapter. He had some great information on Corvair assembly, from when Corvairs were built on the regular line, to when they were hand-built in an off-line area near the end of production in 1969, by workers who volunteered for the task (rather than work on the Nova line at Willow Run).

      Another interesting thing about Willow Run is that the building takes a 90% turn to avoid running into neighboring county; Henry Ford's way of avoiding the higher taxes there.

      It's sad seeing that sign with the "General Motors" sign cut off of the top. The site has already lost one historic gem, when the big WWII hangar at the Willow Run airport burned down several years ago.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I know you are nasty when you want, the problem is that you can be also nasty when you don't think you should . . . thus the chuckle. It is probably a Boston thing . . . catholicism, guilt . . .LOL

      In any case if you think I went overboard I apologize for the tone, but not for the content. Like I said before I don't think that history is tiny, quite the contrary.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Eh, it's slow at work today.

      Thx for the psychoanalysis, but you're wrong. If I want to be nasty, I'll be nasty - it's easier that way.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Black&Blue: I wonder whose vision is more clouded? GM didn't buy the plant from Ford, they bought it from Kaiser Fraiser. No where did Dan Roth wrote that they bought it from Ford. What cloud made you read such thing?

      Blind hate . . . funny. I am actually very glad that the government kept GM alive and I congratulate the president and Mr. Ratner for having had the balls to make the decision, save American jobs and a giant American institution. Other than GM recent failure, why else would anyone hate them for?

      What I hate is historical inaccuracies and poorly conveyed information.
      • 4 Years Ago
      No more like:

      "that's soooo stuuuupid, hehe" . . . "that's so dumb hehe" The chuckle at the end is just like the one my grandmother uses when she wants to be nasty but not so much . . . you know to balance it out. New flash, it makes it worse . . .

      I may even agree with you many of the times, but you make the otherwise fantastic podcast hard to sallow . . .

      BTW, you know you should have dropped this a while ago.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have to concede that the tone wasn't too nice. And since you asked I guess it merits an explanation.

      Roth's constant whining in the podcast is the reason I quit listening and this post is so half assed (and half aasdness is one of the thing that Roth is less than tolerant with) I saw an opportunity to let him have a spoonfull of his own medicine.

      that's all there is, not a biggie.

      I find funny that you extrapolate from that response that I hate GM. Quite the contrary I love them, I love what they are doing and they way the swiftly pulled out of their mess. They just didn't build Willow Run or built B-24 bombers in there.
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