Factory methods of the vintage era

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No. 15: the Rugby

The Rugby was one of the Durant line of assembled automobiles made in Toronto, Canada, during the peak of the vintage years. The chassis frames were riveted up at the factory in a spacious hall equipped with floor-mounted riveting machines. The frames then went by a knee-level chain conveyor for the installation of engines, steering boxes and transmissions, components being binned beside the line and stacked under it and fitted by hand as the chassis moved along, at first inverted for the axles, etc. to be attached. Incidentally, the engines were side-valve fours and the back axles were under-slung, with 1/2-elliptic springs all round. The wheels, with tyres already on their detachable rims, were fitted at this stage, and assembled engines came to the line on man-propelled trolleys.

With the chassis almost complete but not equipped with radiator or steering wheel, it was run on its wheels from chain to floor conveyor, where the bodies were lowered onto it, radiator, mudguards and running-boards fitted and the finished chassis inspected from an illuminated pit, in which operatives could stand erect, between the conveyor tracks. The bodies were lowered through pits in the first-floor body-assembly shop.

Here, in big halls with coned circular pillars supporting the roof, a form of architecture also adopted in the final assembly shop on the ground floor, Rugby bodies were built up by carpenters as wooden frames to which the panelling was attached.

Open bodies were made in one shop, sedan and coupé bodies in another. They were then mounted on wheeled trolleys which a floor-level chain conveyor took along, rounding corners as required, to the trim and paint booths, discarded trolleys being sent back to the body assembly areas on another chain conveyor. The bodies moved, on their trolleys, through staggered spray booths in which operatives sprayed Duco paint onto them, the undercoats being rubbed down with water before the final painting took place, with batteries of overhead lamps showing up imperfections.

Although the entire business was quite leisurely, more than a hundred Rugbys would be awaiting shipment at one time and they were crated for delivery to places like Brisbane, Durban, Port Elizabeth, etc. Cars so shipped were partially dismantled, sidelamps on their scuttles but headlamps wrapped in paper as detached items, wheels and mudguards removed but spare in place, radiator cap in a linen bag tied to the radiator, etc.

In spite of a handsome radiator and oval windows in the rear quarters of the saloons, the Rugby had faded away by 1929.—W. B.