In this video from Shmee 150, we get a tour of one of America’s largest and most unique factories: Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in the beating heart of the Motor City. Apart from its sheer immensity, FRAP’s most notable feature is its on-site sheetmetal stamping facility. Normally, automobiles are produced in bits and pieces all over, and assembled in a central location. Not here. At FRAP, Mustangs and Fusions ("Mondeos" overseas) come in as massive rolls of sheet steel, and roll out as running automobiles. Massive presses and robots do the majority of work up till final assembly. That’s where you’ll find the rest of FRAP’s 1,700 or so employees, delicately going through the process of putting all those parts together into a flawless whole. That much is in the video — but it’s the history of the factory itself and the two cars it produces that makes the greater statement.
Read on past the jump.
FRAP was born into hard times. Originally planned in the heyday of the musclecars as a casting plant for V-8 engines, FRAP was a marvel of clean and modern production. However, by the time it opened its doors in 1972, the era of the big-blocks was past and efficient little gas-sippers were the hot ticket. The factory closed its doors in 1981, and sat sadly collecting dust until 1985. That year, Ford and Mazda joined forces and reopened it to produce the Mazda MX-6 and Ford Probe. In 2012, the Ford-Mazda marriage dissolved, and the last of the Mazda 6’s rolled off the line.
But nobody was sorry to see them go. Partly because in 2005, Ford made FRAP the re-born Mustang’s home stable, bringing this American icon back to its Motor City roots. But the bigger (if subtler) statement came when the Fusion/Mondeo arrived to replace its Japanese predecessor. The Mondeo has been a global best-seller for Ford for decades now, second only to the Mustang itself in recognition and popularity. That makes two American global icons, built on the same line from the same rolls of steel, right back in the city that started it all.