Let me introduce my friend "Captain" Morgan - some of you may know him from his "CoolJet" Mk2 Jetta project (seen here at Treffen year before last):
His build thread - http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=2680323
He goes by the vortex username "cooljet", so if you've got specific questions, go right to the source and IM him.
Well, Morgan was employed in the paint & body assembly areas of Westmoreland from early 1977 until the mid '80s. Here's a couple shots of him in a local paper from the official plant opening:
See the guy at the bottom right that looks like he's tilting that Rabbit shell on it's side? That's Morgan. See the guy in the upper right in the dark jacket discussing something with Mr. Tie? That's Morgan too. Note the paper's date of March 1978 too.
See the guy in the hard hat standing in front of a Rabbit shell? That was the first body shell assembled completely by the Westmoreland plant. That'll be important later on in our story.
Here's a shot of the sign-off stamp he used to OK a car to go on to the next level of assembly:
I wanted to try to put together a more firm timeline as to when cars were actually produced in the Westmoreland plant, as it seems like all the official "print" sources have been wrong compared to what I've always heard from the guys who actually worked there. Morgan just happens to have kept a lot of the memorabilia from his time there that'll either clear or cloud the waters, I guess...
Anyway - exhibit #1 - here's the plaque that rode down the line with the first Rabbit shell assembled completely in the Westmoreland plant on December 8th, 1977:
According to Morgan, the first cars assembled at the plant were "MKD" or Middle Knock Down kits - the bodies had already been assembled / painted in Germany, and the cars were sent to the US as knocked-down "kit cars" that were run down the line simply to train employees and troubleshoot the assembly process. The body would come in one crate and another crate would have all the other pieces needed to build one complete car. These cars were 2 and 4 door base level Rabbits, ALL white exterior with a thin maroon pinstripe. ALL were round-light cars, as the shells were being built in Germany using the german stampings. ALL would have 6/77 to 3/78 build dates on their VIN tag as well as having Westmoreland as the build location. 250 of these cars were built between June 1977 to April 1978 and sold to the general public, which makes them the rarest of the Westy rare.
This sign rode down the the line on the first non-MKD shell, or more specifically, the first shell assembled in the body/welding shop. At this time, Westmoreland was getting body panels from Germany, Canada and West Virginia, but this car represented the first WV stamped / PA built car, which was a huge milestone for VWoA.
Here's a VIN plate from one of the pieces of large equipment VW sent from Germany for the Westmoreland plant:
Exhibit #2 - here's a VW employee newsletter from January 1978 (same year slats was hired) that proclaims that the stamping plant is now fully operational:
Now the plant could start building bodies here instead of shipping them over from Germany. This is important - this is the split from the round headlight rabbits (which is what the MKD kit cars were) to the early square "westy" light setups, as this new stamping plant only made the square light fender setups. Since the diesels were still being made only in Germany, they retained the round lights. Remember the picture from the paper showing the hard-hat guy standing in front of the Rabbit shell? Here's where it fits in - the stamping plant goes online, paint line starts operation soon after that, so no need for the MKD kits anymore (but the MKD kits were still going down the assembly line until April of 1978, mixed in with the Westmoreland fab'd shells).
Exhibit #3 - Here's a nice letter from the plant manager dated April 29th, 1978 thanking the employees for the "successful, timely opening of the Volkswagen Westmoreland facility":
They passed out neat little tokens to commemorate the event, like these paperweights:
|Quote, originally posted by slats »|
|Back in the 70s and early 80s VW was Volkswagen,Porsche,Audi headquartered in N.J.With the development of US Manufacturing a new company was created called Volkswagen Manufacturing based in Michigan.|
That explains this belt buckle - I always wondered where the VWMOA came from:
He's also got commemorative Rabbit Truck belt buckles from when the first ones went down the assembly line, but I didn't get pics of them today. I'll have Morgan sift through his memory stash to see if he can't uncover any more gems...
Modified by buzbomb4 at 8:15 PM 3-7-2010