Ford Made Miracle- The B-24 Liberator

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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. 

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Source: YouTube

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7 responses to “Ford Made Miracle- The B-24 Liberator”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    I read years ago about the B-24, and the huge effort Ford went to, to take something that was like a handbuilt, one-at-a-time item, and re-engineer it into something that could be built by mass production on an assembly line.

  2. craigsu Avatar

    I presume an airport was built in conjunction with Willow Run, or one was added just before bomber production started, else the planes would have to be ferried to an airport. Also, there must be an awful lot of dummy bombs at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      Why, yes there was. Strangely enough, it was named Willow Run Airport.

  3. Toxic Avenger Avatar
    Toxic Avenger

    How adaptable we were in our time of need. So many skilled Tradesmen . Be real difficult to put together a work force like that these days.

  4. GianniB Avatar

    Interesting that of the 18,400 24's made, there is only one left that flies:

    1. TrueBlue315 Avatar

      Only one flying B-24J – there is Diamond Lil, a B-24A of the CAF that is still airworthy. I saw her a number of years ago at the Geneseo Air Show when she was under the name Ol' 927.
      Interestingly there is one other B-24J that was airworthy at time of storage – literally "ran when parked" but has not flown since 1997 or so.

    2. zsvdkhnorc Avatar

      Three. Well, two and a half.
      There's also an airworthy B-24A, which is also the only surviving B-24A whatsoever. There is another supposidly-airworthy B-24, though it's a case of 'flew-when-parked'. It hasn't flown since 1997.

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