July 13 2013

2013 Norwood Plant Reunion

2013 Norwood Plant Reunion


GM’s Norwood Assembly- The 2013 All Plant Reunion and Gathering

The GM Alumni Club and UAW Local 674 representing the Former GM Norwood Ohio Assembly Plant reunited this past July with another “All Plant Reunion” again making history in the process- being the second time members of any GM former management team and a  UAW Local came together to recall a shared history-this time with the former employer  (GM) in attendance–in a celebration of the shared heritage of automotive assembly history.

The Norwood Ohio plant perhaps best known best for the high performance Chevrolet Camaro’s and Pontiac Firebirds produced there also built a variety of other cars over the years starting in 1923 with the Chevrolet Superior known as a “B” Body.  Later Norwood Production included the 1955-1957 Chevy “B” body  “Shoeboxes”  the Chevy II Nova, the Mid 1960’s  Super Sport Impala and for one year- even the Buick Apollo.

To properly plan the reunion the retirees called upon Norwood researcher/historian Phil Borris to again locate a select assemblage of 35 cars originally built at the plant and ask the owners to bring the cars to the reunion for a special invitational display-the highlight being a mid-day parade of cars.  Said Borris; “the cars selected to attend were a cross section of significant cars made at Norwood before, and during the halcyon era of automotive production”.

To highlight the event for the car participants Borris arranged for a pre reunion event at the host Hotel with a special evening video presentation highlighting production techniques and the making of the cars during the 1970’s.

Like the previous reunion held in 2012 GM alumni Club member Jim Seim assisted in getting a panel discussion group together consisting of  Norwood production personnel to entertain questions from the car owners where the owners got to ask questions directly to the panel about all things “assembly”.

Both the participants and the panel of retirees got a collective chuckle from a nagging question posed by one of the car owners pertaining to “how far the trunk overspray goes up the back panel in a 1969 Norwood built Camaro to be factory correct”.  Smiling the panel members answered the question in reply; “well it depends on how long the guy’s arms were who was spraying the paint-if the guy who was spraying the paint had longer arms then the paint went higher on the panel”.  Both the Panel and the owners had a great experience.

For the day of the reunion having the event in a park or a non- descript banquet hall would have been easy enough but in a nod to tradition the old GM garage at the original plant site was again chosen for the event site with the request to use the entire 6th floor again granted by its current owners.

Many recollections of what it was like to build cars were shared throughout the day by an estimated 600 attendees.    Notable was the 1969 experience of UAW Local 674 retiree LG Martin who was quickly surrounded by a crowd in the vehicle showcase area when he recalled his now infamous Firebird Convertible “flight and crash” at the rail load out building.

As the car participants hung on every word Martin told them about a day in 1969 like any other- when he was assigned the task of loading new 1969 “F” cars on to rail cars via an adjustable height ramp system to the third level of a rail car that went terribly wrong.  Said Martin; “so I go to my next car (a firebird HO convertible) and the battery is dead, so I then wait for a utility man to get me jump started”.   Finally when the car is running I am driving to the rail load out building out to catch the rail car the Firebird  is supposed to be shipped on, so I am driving and when I get to the ramp a bunch of guys are waving to me –so I simply waved back and entered the ramp”.

Little did Martin  know that they were trying to wave him off since the rail car was full and the warning cone on the ramp entrance had not been placed to mark the ramp as closed.

Martin continued; “not only was the rail car full but the train was already pulling the rail car away from the ramp, so unaware of what was happening I drove up the ramp to load but when I reached the top of the ramp I observed that the rail car had already pulled away about 40 feet out- and by then I was going too fast to stop-so there I was off the edge of the ramp flying 25 feet in the air and the next thing I saw was the rails coming up fast just before I hit front end first.  My head hit the convertible top  and somehow I did not get hurt but the car was very totaled”.

The factory where the cars were made is long gone and the City of Norwood has recovered to become a vibrant neighbor to the city of Cincinnati Ohio.  The GM Norwood workers are older now but they still remember the sights and sounds of building some of the best and fastest cars made by the “General”.

Download the PDF files:
MCR Story
Plant Reunion Info