Many people are aware that the Ford Motor Company’s prowess at efficient line production was employed by the US Government to produce a staggering number of Army Jeeps, but did you know that the company also put that skill to the test in the building of heavy bombers? Ford’s Willow Run plant opened even before Pearl Harbor, and at top clip was able to deliver a completed B-24 Liberator (dubbed the Lib) once every 55 minutes.
The Liberator was designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego California, and was used across all major theaters in WWII and by every branch of the US Armed Forces. Powered by a quartet of 14-cylinder, twin-row Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radials, the B-24’s 70,547-lb maximum takeoff weight was one of the highest of the era. That, along with the aircraft’s slab sides earned it the additional nickname: the Flying Boxcar. It was also derisively dubbed the Flying Coffin due to the only exit being in back and it being a next to impossible slog for a parachute-equipped flight crew or nose gunner to get out in the event of an emergency.
In total, more 18,400 B-24s were constructed, half of those by Ford at Willow Run, which at the time considered to be the largest factory building inn the world. The video after the jump gives the history of the merging of war and auto industries, and presents amazing imagery of a seeming unending assembly line filled with the massive bombers. While it’s a little long, it’s well worth the time spent, and brings new meaning to Built Ford Tough.
[youtube width=”720″ height=”583″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKlt6rNciTo&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]