Ford factory home to special memories

LAST week's announcement of the closure of manufacturing of Ford vehicles in Australia brought back a fair few memories.

Many, many years ago, one of the perks of a job I had then was a free trip to Wellington - about a two-hour trip from the city I lived in - to collect brand spanking new Ford cars from the factory and drive them back.

I worked for a Ford dealer in Palmerston North and the trip to Seaview was one that most blokes sought after.

Back in the 1960s and 70s the words "workplace health and safety" had not been heard.

After we had been to the main office on a Saturday morning, where we'd be given some documents about the cars we were to pick up, and a little plastic bag containing the cigarette lighter and driver's manual, we'd walk through the assembly plant and watch cars being built.

We would stop and watch the spray of sparks from the spot welders as they glued pieces of bodywork together, marvel at the skills of the blokes in the paint shop and then watch the already painted body lowered onto the running gear.

It was a fascinating experience and one that I will never forget.

These days, to get anywhere near a manufacturing or assembly plant like that you'd have to jump a thousand hoops, know the right people, wear the right clothes and maybe, just maybe you would be allowed to stand a fair few metres off and watch from a distance.

Not back in those days. We would wander up to the blokes assembling the cars and chat to them for a while as they fitted their pieces of the puzzle that made up a motor vehicle.

After our tour through the plant we'd head off out the back door and search for our cars in the sea of vehicles awaiting us.

Then we'd stop at the nearby service station, fill up with petrol, and off we'd go on our trip home.

A great day out.

It was a sad day when Ford decided to bring in all of its vehicles as complete units, and no doubt there will be similar feelings when the plants close in Victoria.

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