The Rouge Confession

Every 52 seconds, another Ford F-150 rolls off the line at The Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, making it the world’s best selling truck, and generating over $28 million in daily revenue. The Henry Ford Museum offers an elective tour of the Rouge as part of its a la carte admission package.

For Leah and me, it was never a consideration. We elected to take the tour to see how our beloved truck was assembled.

F-150 Raptor chasis

The self-guided tour consists of five parts:

The Legacy Theater, offering a short film charting the Rouge’s 100-year history–from Model A to present.

The Manufacturing Innovation Theater, a special effects homage to Ford’s F-150 truck, from vision to conception;

The Observation Deck Tour, with views of Ford’s 10-acre living roof of sedum and associated rainwater reclamation system, which provides a cost-savings of $50 million in annual maintenance.

sedum (2)

The Assembly Walking Plant Tour, which carries observers along a catwalk above the production floor for a birds-eye view of the final assembly of an F-150;

Assembly line process

Line 1

Line 3

Line 2

Line 7

Line 4

Line 8

Line 6

and, The Legacy Gallery, which showcases some of the legendary cars manufactured at the Rouge.

Model A


49 Coupe




To be clear, there is a strict no photography policy during the film presentations and assembly plant portion of the tour. However, being the renegade that I am, I was determined to capture a few frames as I walked the perimeter of the production walkway…but in a covert fashion.

The line never stopped moving with the exception of lunch at noon. It was an industrial pas de deux of human labor and robotic engineering, with components arriving from overhead conveyors and snatched for assembly.

My camera hung casually around my neck as I moved from station to station, where I’d stealthly point my lens in a general direction, always avoiding factory workers, yet hoping to record this dynamic performance. Along the way, I was mindful of patrolling docents, who were fountains of statistical information, but also doubled as picture police.

While I admit to taking a foolish risk, I also confess to the challenge of shooting blindly with the notion that something sublime might materialize.


Somehow, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who sneaks a shot or two! You out there, you know who you are, and you know what I’m talking about.

Nevertheless, I’ll surrender my digital files if I have to, but I will not surrender my ride.




24 thoughts on “The Rouge Confession

  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s amazing how the Ford trucks & cars are made. Would love to see this for myself. You may not know this, but back in 1982 the American Car very nearly lost their grip on the American market. Ford, as well as other car manufacturers, were not paying close attention to the American consumer as well as they should have. The influx of Japanese cars that were better built and cheaper almost killed the American car. They had to do something real fast. This was probably the result of years of planning.

    Reference from “How the Big Three Lost their grip on the American Car Market.” written by Micheline Maynard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting. Ford seems to have a leg up on the competition regarding strategic planning and innovation. They invented integrated manufacturing, created a flexible Dearborn facility, and resisted government bailout $$ during the Great Recession while GM and Chrysler took a bath.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this and sneaking a few photos. I have visited the Henry Ford a few time but never taken the factory tour. If you are still in the area you might want to check out Stahl”s Automotive Museum. Though they have very limited hours of operation if you can fit it into your schedule I don’t think you will regret it.

    Liked by 1 person

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