Have you ever wondered what it takes to build a truck? So did we. We followed along as our new long-term truck, a 2012 F-150 Lariat 4x4 EcoBoost, was assembled at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant. The facility is loaded with Ford history. It's part of the Rouge Complex, and the company built cars at the Dearborn plant from the 1920s (the Model A) until 2004, when its last car, a Mustang, rolled off the line. The building was closed and demolished and production shifted elsewhere on the campus. The Dearborn Truck Plant, also in the Rouge Complex, opened in 2004, and the majority of F-150s are built there.
At The all-new Dearborn Truck Plant, Ford can build up to nine models from three platforms.
Since the plant was built from the ground up, the company was able to reduce the number of workstations, improve workflow, and reduce costs and the amount of time it takes to build each vehicle.
The plant also holds a Guinness World Record: It has a 10.4-acre living roof, the largest one in existence, made of drought-resistant groundcover that can absorb carbon dioxide (reducing emissions), plus 4 million gallons of rainwater each year, as part of the plant's storm-water management system. It produces oxygen and provides natural insulation overhead, reducing energy costs. It's expected to last twice as long as a regular roof.
Under this green roof, Ford built more than 344,000 F-150s in 2011, and is on pace to beat that number in 2012. Among the 2012 tally is the truck you see here. From start to finish, save for the final checklist, it takes 18-19 hours to build a single truck. We followed along, catching up with our new long-termer after the stampings were welded together and the truck was painted.
1. The truck's body, bed, roof, and floorpan are welded in place. All the exterior panels, including the doors and hood, are painted at the same time. The cab and box are separated and arrive at the final part of the line at different times. The doors are then removed and components are added on a separate assembly line. Later in the process, the same cab and bed are reunited with the frame and the doors are reinstalled.
2. The hood receives a layer of sound-deadening material early in the build process.
3. This is a shot of the bare floorpan and firewall.
4. Wiring harnesses are put into place early on. As you can see, there are quite a few of them.
5. Next along the line is the installation of the Cooling Module Assembly. This step includes the radiator, oil cooler, air-conditioning condenser, and wiring for the engine compartment.
6. Our truck has a moonroof, which goes into place at this point, sliding in through the space where the windshield will go later.
7. The pedal assembly is installed next, along with some of the structure that will end up behind the center console and steering wheel.
8. The headliner goes on. As with the moonroof, this step is much easier because the windshield isn't in the way.
9. In go the instrument panel and the steering wheel.
10. The frame has been in a separate part of the plant. It comes in from a rail car, and is loaded into the building upside down for easier installation of axles and suspension. Once these components are bolted in, the frame is turned right side up and the brakes are put on.
11. The engine (an EcoBoost in this case), driveshaft, transmission, exhaust, and fans are brought down from an upper floor at the plant and put in place.
12. After the bed sides have been preheated in preparation, all the badges and decals are added to the bed.
13. The bed and cab were divorced early in the assembly, but in what Ford calls the marriage cell, they are reunited.
14. The wheels and tires are mounted to the frame, making this a rolling chassis, and the complete body is lowered onto it.
15. The seats are installed next, followed by the battery.
16. The doors have been traveling alongside the F-150's cab during the assembly process. They are now bolted onto the body.
17. Here, the windshield washer and radiator fluid are added, the air-conditioner is charged, and the F-150 is driven off the line.
18. After passing through 4.2 miles of the plant's conveyor system, passing hundreds of robots and thousands of employees, this pickup truck is complete. It still is required to go through a detailed checklist and inspection. After that last detail, we finally get to drive it.
OFF YOU GO -- Our completed F-150 has just exited the line. In background, the statue of Henry Ford seems to be saying goodbye.