By Patrick Smith
In Part One, we delved into the origins of the build sheet from the coach building era and early mass production of cars. Simplicity and bespoke construction were of two different schools and it seemed the twain would never meet. When America embarked on a post war car building spree unlike anything seen before, simple but specific instructions for mass producing cars was needed more than ever before. The build sheet as we know it today emerged. In Part Two, we examine the build sheets of the 1960s to 1970s.
By Any Other Name: The manufacturers had different names for them; Ford called them ROT sheets, Chrysler Corporation used the term broadcast sheets, International Harvester called them Line Tickets, GM called them Production Broadcasts or Productions Manifests. The generic name for these papers wound up being build sheets. The basic idea behind all of them was the same. These were assembly orders for putting together a car with the standard and optional ordered equipment. By the end of the 1950s, a lot had changed in the American auto industry. Major investment in post war plants, purchases of auto body plants brought station wagon production in house by the big three. As the 1960s started, more options, body styles and drive trains were in production. The variety of choice was greater than ever before. In addition, some assembly plants made more than two models of cars. A system was vital to make sure the right cars with the right options were built.
First, we should address what a build sheet is. I bring this up because I've seen a number of car-documents-for-sale ads for build sheets that were are something else. The most common error I see relates to ads for Pontiac vehicle documents where the seller states he has the build sheet as ordered from Pontiac Historic Services (PHS). The documents PHS actually sells are shipping invoices used for billing dealerships as inventory arrives. These invoices do have a number of critical details found on build sheets such as the VIN, color, trim, drivetrain and major optional equipment sold along with the dealership name and address. There are no details on individual parts that make up the car, no machine code for same and the regular production options are listed along with price of options along with selling price and any manufacturer reductions or markdowns for cars used in promotional or service work prior to sale.
While shipping invoices are valuable and document a lot of the crucial information about a car once it was manufactured, it isn't what the assembly line used to build that car. Likewise, a Kevin Marti Report is a shipping invoice from Ford showing the same information. You can get documents from GM Vintage Vehicle Services in Oshawa for Canadian sold cars and they are usually two to three page documents showing major options, selling dealer, colors and drive train combination along with the sales total of that car for Canada. Depending on the year and model, the vintage vehicle service report varies in details and size.
Other companies that supply such documents include the Sloan Museum for Buicks, and Cadillac Division in Detroit for their cars.
By the mid-1960s, investment in new computers for handling sales orders and processing them for production led to the development of the build sheet. There was a fair bit of variety in styles of sheets as different companies went about formulating sheets for manufacturer's needs. Moore Business forms and IBM were two of the big players in that field. Moore's Formaliner was used for Ford and Mercury products from 1965 onwards. A simple document based on Ford's own part number system and the use of paint daub codes for certain items such as driveshaft identification, speedometer gears, shocks and springs made for an easy-to-read-at-a-glance document for the line worker at his station, able to grab the right part and install within seconds. The Formaliner sheet was adaptable to unibody and chassis cars alike with just a change required to certain fields for identifying the relevant parts. These ROT sheets, as Ford enthusiasts call them, were used on Thunderbirds, Mustangs, Cougars, Galaxies and LTDs. An example of a late sixties Mustang build sheet is shown here to illustrate the format.
The Ford ROT sheet was a Moore Formaliner sheet which was adaptable for unibody or chassis car applications and appeared in widespread use by 1965.The same system was used right up to 1991 Ford Crown Victorias. Click photo larger view.