Brampton FCA: One thousand cars a day
A Challenger body shell gets attended to by robotic welders that quickly and efficiently do their business. Five hundred and fifty-one robots perform more than 10,000 welds a day, and the cycle time here is a mere 45 seconds.
Being one of only two Fiat Chrysler Automobiles facilities in North America to be equipped with panel stampers, rolls of steel weighing up to 20,000 pounds apiece sit in the eastern reaches of the sprawling FCA facility in Brampton.
They are waiting to be sliced, diced and pressed into important bits that will make up the Dodge Chargers, Dodge Challengers and Chrysler 300s that emerge from the west end of the plant — up to a thousand of them a day.
A gleaming roll heads for the Komatsu Blanker — an enormous machine that peels off a layer of steel and cuts out the silhouette of a door. It’s a crap shoot at this point where that door will end up, but this particular piece is destined for greatness. Or at least notoriety.
After being painted, trimmed and fitted with glass, this hinged portal will flank a Shadow Blue Challenger Hellcat, the most powerful production muscle car in history. It will be ready to roll in just a tick under 24 hours.
Does a hulking coupe with a tire-shredding 707-horsepower, 650 lb.-ft. 6.2L supercharged V8 under its louvered hood make any sense at all these days? Yup. As halo cars for the Dodge brand, the Challenger Hellcat and the marginally more absurd four-door 707-hp Charger Hellcat deliver the goods.
This plant was built in 1986 and there are almost 33 kilometers of conveyors within its 271,642 square meters. Currently, 3,452 employees, working in two shifts, keep things on the boil.
Our shiny door blank is about to undergo a violent transformation. It’s heading for one of the five Komatsu Transfer Presses — or stampers — that have been pounding away here for 25 years. There are 270 die sets, and today this 3000-tonne stamper, big as a three-story monster home, is pressing out Challenger door skins. Bang. Bang. Bang. Eight to twelve strokes per minute.
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Everything is to a massive scale, including the incessant pounding. Two workers who lift the door skins from a conveyor and place them on racks are dwarfed by the proceedings.
This factory has a patina. It’s not the bright, sterile environment of some more modern facilities, and the workers are not dressed in corporate overalls. The floors are a little grubby, as are the robotic fork lifts that cruise the aisles, delivering bits to and fro. They never bump into each other and politely come to a halt if confronted by an alien golf cart carrying a group of wide-eyed journalists.
Farther down the line, a Challenger body shell gets attended to by robotic welders that quickly and efficiently do their business. Five hundred and fifty-one robots perform more than 10,000 welds a day, and the cycle time here is a mere 45 seconds.
Soon it’s time for a human touch. The bare shell moves along a conveyor at floor level where an employee lifts our door from an adjacent moving rack and fits it to a Challenger body. Then it’s off to the paint shop.
With a capacity of more than a thousand cars a day, the paint shop has 246 employees and eight sealing robots, the latter applying the paint and top coats in hermetically sealed spaces. The body and door are painted together to assure consistency, and then the doors are later removed for trimming, wiring and so-on.
Our Challenger gets a blast of Shadow Blue. Is it aware of its special destiny?
Meanwhile, the Hellcat’s chassis and drivetrain are being assembled on another line. The 6.2L V8 comes fully assembled from Mexico. You can spot a Hellcat by its Tabasco-coloured valve covers, vaned supercharger on top and massive red Brembo brake calipers.
Time to consummate the marriage. So soon? Time waits for no muscle car. In keeping with the expert choreography that defines this FCA plant, our blue Challenger shell aligns itself over its betrothed assemblage of muscle car bits, and before they can blurt, “Come here often?” hydraulics press the chassis up into the body, nineteen bolts are fired home and the happy couple marches out of the chapel.
Well, not quite. The blue door, now fitted with all the necessary hardware, is reattached. The dash, seats, windows, et al get installed, and finally, 20-inch alloys complete the Hellcat picture.
Say a prayer for those poor rear 275/40ZR20 performance gumballs. Their lives will be short, violent and smoky.
Nearing the end of the line, our Shadow Blue Challenger Hellcat stands out like a shark amidst the minnows. A worker jumps in, plugs in an electronics diagnostic tool that ensures all systems are go, and then hits the starter button. The Hellcat bursts to life with an, er… hellish roar and rumbles its way to the holding area.
As the only plant building Hellcats, Brampton FCA is pretty proud. They are also proud to have won four J.D. Power quality awards in 2015 along with earning WCM (World Class Manufacturing) Bronze status.
Freelance writer Peter Bleakney is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. To reach him please email firstname.lastname@example.org and put his name in the subject line.