Blog: Graeme RobertsHow Fisher Body did it back in the day

Graeme Roberts | 29 April 2016

OK, I know I should get out more, but, as well as being a big fan of current auto manufacturing (BMW is always good for an annual show 'n' tell especially when it's something I can identify with, like making workplace life easier for old blokes), I also love clips like this (hat tip: hemmings.com) that show how 'twas done back in the day.

Decades ago, family friends were the local GM dealers and, amongst the Holdens and Vauxhalls (very hard to secure new without good connections in an import-controlled Antipodean market), would appear the odd, very rare, Canadian-made, locally-assembled (from an SKD kit) right-hand drive Chevrolet Impala or Pontiac Laurentian. And so, every time I opened a front door and glanced at the sill plate, I was reminded of 'Body by Fisher'. This builder, under contract, of body drop-ready, welded, painted, glazed, wired and trimmed B-pillar-to-tail units always got a mention in the GM divisional brochures, too.

We had similar operations here in old England. BMW nowadays presses Mini panels in a huge, former Pressed Steel (anyone remember Prestcold appliances from that side venture?) plant that once supplied completed full (monocoque, rather than body-on-frame construction) bodies to BMC and its successor companies and even built a dedicated welded, painted, wired, trimmed and glazed body-building plant alongside the then-new, Rootes Group Hillman Imp factory in Linwood, Scotland, (a predecessor of today's just-in-time, just-in-sequence component supply factories you see alongside car assembly plants). Other companies offering similar services included Fisher and Ludlow.

This video shows 1970-style techniques and how the future was already being considered and planned for. It was not much longer into that decade those 'future technology' airbags started to appear in production cars, driver's side only to start and usually only optional. From little acorns and all that. The clip also illustrates well how a lot of good ideas come around again in the autobiz (usually with changed technology and methodology) - complete bodies in line sequence is not a million miles away from today's just-in-time, line-sequenced cockpit modules and seat sets.

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