50 years at GM Lordstown: A look at the plant’s history


LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – From labor disputes to new products rolling off the line, there have been a lot of ups and downs in the first 50 years of General Motors Lordstown Complex.

The first car, a 1966 Chevrolet Impala sport sedan, was produced at the plant on April 28, 1966, and since the plant’s opening, it has been a major economic driver for the region. Here is a look at some of GM Lordstown Complex’s major events:

  • September 29, 1964: General Motors breaks ground on its Lordstown Township plant, after purchasing 965 acres of land.
  • April 28, 1966: A 1966 Chevrolet Impala sport sedan is the first car produced at the plant under the joint management of the Fisher Body Division and the Chevrolet Motor Division

    GM Lordstown groundbreaking
    General Motors breaks ground on its Lordstown Township plant in 1964.
  • October 1968: Ground is broken for the Fisher Body Metal Fabricating plant.
  • September 20, 1969: Ironworker John J. Sawaska, 26, of Hubbard is shot and killed when workers try to cross a laborers’ union picket line on Ellsworth-Bailey Road. The laborers were picketing because one of their members was fired following a fight with a carpenter.
  • January 1970: Production begins in the fabricating plant with the first Vega stampings. The assembly plant is producing Chevrolet Caprices, Impalas and Bel Airs; and Lordstown is considered the most modern GM plant.
  • March 16, 1970: The first Chevy van rolls off the assembly line.
  • March 1972: Defective Vegas jam plant’s repair lot daily, and workers’ grievances top 15,000. Political infighting between two UAW shop committees negotiating for survival add to the tension, and workers strike for three weeks. A settlement resolves only the consolidation of the bargaining committees.

    First car built at GM Lordstown
    A 1966 Chevrolet Impala sport sedan is the first car produced at the plant in 1966.
  • September 1976: GM phases out the troubled Vega.
  • 1980: GM retools the plant for production of J-Cars, the Chevrolet Cavalier and the Pontiac 2000 Sunbird.
  • 1984: Under GM reorganization, Lordstown’s three plants are assigned to the new Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group when GMAD disbands and Fisher Body becomes Fisher Guide division.
  • February 1990: GM announces layoffs of more than 4,200 workers from its North American operations and proposes the adoption of a two-shift, three-crew schedule.
  • July 2, 1991: GM says Lordstown’s J-Car plant will absorb 1,700 van plant workers in 1992 as it switches to a three-crew, seven-day schedule to produce the 1993 models of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird.
  • March 20, 1992: The van plant produces its last van, almost 22 years to the day after production began. Plant workers are shifted to the car plant.

    The first Chevy van rolls off the assembly line.
    The first Chevy van rolls off the assembly line.
  • August 1994: Lordstown begins producing the dramatically redesigned Cavaliers and Sunfires.
  • June 1, 2009: General Motors files for bankruptcy, begins restructuring plant.
  • June 2, 2009: GM sells off Hummer brand.
  • September 15, 2009: President Barack Obama visits plant.
  • June 24, 2010: Last Chevy Cobalt is built at Lordstown plant.
  • September 8, 2010: The complex officially launches and starts shipping the Chevrolet Cruze, which is today among the world’s best-selling vehicles.
  • October 1, 2010: After 33 years with GM, Plant Manager John Donahoe retires. Bob Parcell takes his place.

    The Chevy Cavalier is one of GM's top-selling cars.
    The Chevy Cavalier is one of GM’s top-selling cars.
  • October 21, 2014: General Motors begins installation of new 2.2 megawatt ground-mounted solar array – GM’s largest solar installation in the Western Hemisphere.
  • August 4, 2014: Steve Notar Donato takes over as manager of Lordstown plant, replacing Bob Parcell, who was promoted to a GM job in Singapore.

Watch the entire First News special, “Farms to Fastlane: 50 years of GM Lordstown,” on WKBN.com.

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