Ford Engine Plant

Description

In the late 1940s, the Ford Motor Company decided to expand its engine production facilities. Ford intended to build more manufacturing plants outside of the Detroit area, with this project calling for a new engine plant and foundry. Five states and hundreds of communities attempted to attract the project. In the end, Ford decided that a 204 acre site in the Village of Brook Park, Ohio would be the ideal place. The site lies along the main line of the New York Central Railroad which certainly made it attractive. The clinching argument, however, was that the nearby city of Cleveland was a port city on the Great Lakes, making it even more convenient to import raw materials into the plant and sending finished products out of it.

Therefore, In 1951, Ford built the Cleveland Engine plant, which was the first Ford engine plant in Ohio. The plant was the center of production for Ford's first overhead valve engine, the Lincoln V8. The engine foundry opened in 1952 to produce cast iron engine blocks. Also, in 1955, Ford built engine plant number two on the site. Plant 2 was opened to produce the Y-block V8 for the Ford Thunderbird. Indeed, the plants have produced a wide variety of V6 and V8 engines throughout the years. The engines were used in cars, including everything from the Edsel to the Mustang, and in trucks like the F-100 and the F-150. By 1955, the Brook Park facility was the second largest Ford complex in the world behind only the River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan. Over 34 million engines have been built in Brook Park since 1951.

The plant has gone through a variety of changes in the nearly 60 years it has been in operation. During the 1960s the plant employed over 15,000 workers. Of that number over 10,000 worked in the casting plant's foundry. Markets, economies, and techniques change with time though, and the foundry closed in late October 2010, leading to the loss of a number of jobs. The plant was no longer needed since most of Ford's engine blocks are now made of aluminum. The few iron engine blocks that Ford currently uses are produced by a company in Mexico.

Also, engine plant one was idled in 2007 and for a time employed only 72 workers. However, after a $350 million investment by Ford in 2009, the plant rebounded and currently employs 800 people building the new Eco Boost engine. In 2011, the plant was producing about 900 engines per day during its two shifts.

Audio Show

"It's In Your Blood"

John Phillips, a supervisor at the Ford Engine Plant in Brook Park, reflects on why he began working for Ford over 30 years ago.

Changes

John Phillips, a supervisor at the Ford Engine Plant in Brook Park, talks about the changes he's seen at the plant since the 1970s.

Long Hours

John Phillips, a supervisor at the Ford Engine Plant in Brook Park, discusses the least favorite part of his job.

Union Relations

John Phillips, a supervisor at the Ford Engine Plant in Brook Park, discusses how the company's relations with the auto unions has changed since the late 1970s.

Photos Show

Casting Plant

An exterior view of Ford Motor Company's Brook Park casting plant facility. This particular foundry has produced engine blocks, bearing main caps, and crankshafts. The plant features examples of mid-century modern design by architect H.A. Ferguson and has a plaque on the face of the building stating that it was "Designated by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce as the best factory building erected in Cuyahoga County in the year 1952." After 58 years of operation, the casting plant closed in 2010.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Engine Assembly

Workers at the Engine Plant No. 1 assembly line at Ford Motor Company's Brook Park facility. Each employee on the assembly line was assigned a different task to complete on each engine and repeated the task for the entirety of their work shift. The plant was idled in May 2007 and reopened in May 2008. The plant currently produces Duratec 30 and Duratec 35 engines.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Job Applicants, 1976

Job applicants waiting to apply for a position at Ford Motor Company in Brook Park on March 10, 1976. Hundreds of people began waiting in line at 3am in hopes of finding employment at the Brook Park Plant. This was the first time the plant began hiring after laying off more than 1,500 workers the previous year.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

UAW Strike, 1976

Employees on strike stand in front of the Engle Road side of the Ford Engine plant in Brook Park. The employees initiated the strike of 1976 in hopes of resolving worker safety issues within the facility, but primarily wanted to reduce pollution output at the plant by replacing existing smoke stacks with less environmentally damaging ones. Among Brook Park's three plants (one casting plant and two engine plants), approximately 10,000 workers were affected by the strike. On October 20, 1976 the Brook Park UAW ratified a new contract with Ford Motor Company, ending the strike.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Plant Closing, 1980

An employee outside Ford Motor Company's Brook Park plant reads a Cleveland Press article about plans to close one of the facility's two engine plants. Although the plant did not close in 1980, there were mass layoffs within the year that left over 1,200 Brook Park workers without a job. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act was passed, with the help of Senator Howard Metzenbaum, as a result of the plant-closing scare in Brook Park. The WARN Act required companies like Ford to provide at least 60 days of notification in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Cite this Page

“Ford Engine Plant,” Cleveland Historical, accessed December 22, 2014, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​268.​
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