Friday, March 21, 2008

Hammering away on the Nissan GTR Assembly Line

62 miles north of Tokyo, at Nissan’s Tochigi plant, the GTR takes shape. The facility was established in 1968 and has produced cars since 1971. It’s ringed by a high-speed four mile banked oval with the Nissan logo spelled out in shrubbery that you pass under while entering. The GTR is assembled along the same line as the Skyline coupe and sedan. I wasn’t allowed into the stamping shop or the area where some of the die-cast pieces are fitted into the body, but did get to wander through the actual assembly line inside a giant tin clad building.

On the assembly line itself, GTR’s are interspersed randomly among Skyline coupes, sedans, and US bound G35’s and G37’s with about six meters of space between them. Robots do most of the heavy lifting, as the line is 83% automated.

There are fewer of the musical robotic delivery carts than in the regular engine assembly areas (in Yokohama, GTR engines are built in a clean room, separated from the giant automated 4-cylinder MR assembly line full of robot delivery carts rolling along the aisles) but they’re present and belting out high-pitched happy songs (like Mary Had A Little Lamb and It’s a Small World in pitches that could double as mobile phone ring tones) as the cars snake along and workers at different stations install their guts.

After the components are installed along the 900-meter long line, the cars are driven to a four-wheel dyno station that automatically shortens or lengthens itself for the next car. At the front of the dyno station, several monitors display camera images of the front and rear of the car so the operator can test headlight and taillight functions, and a central screen depicts the rolling road speed on the dyno for checking speedometer calibration.

Assuming there are no problems on the dyno, the cars were driven forward to a final quality inspection lineup under a sea of intense flourescent lights. Workers crawl around the car and checking panel fit and finish of the interiors. It's amazingly bright!