The DeSoto-Warren Plant of Chrysler Corporation (and Graham-Paige)

helldiver stampingDeSoto’s complex at 8505 West Warren Avenue, Detroit, was built around 1920-1922 to make Paige-Detroit and (a year later) Paige Motors cars. The 1924 Sanborn was also made there, presumably in leased space.

The plant was the manufacturing center for the Jewett Motors division of Paige Motors, named after financer Harry Jewett, while that division lasted. Later, after Graham merged with Paige, the plant made cars for Graham-Paige.

In 1940, the plant started making a car created as part of a joint venture with Hupp (of Huppmobile fame), with the Graham-Paige version called the Hollywood and the Hupp called the Skylark. The car was a failure, Hupp bowed out and went bankrupt, and the plant closed.

Chrysler, seeing a future need for aircraft components, acted on its own initiative to lease the huge, empty plant, which was assigned to the DeSoto division (after the war, it produced DeSoto bodies and engines until 1959). Not long afterwards, Chrysler was assigned sections of the B-26 (the nose and center fuselage), building them despite size constraints on Warren Avenue.

DeSoto-Warren finished its first fuselage sections in May, 1942, and was ahead of schedule when, in July, the Air Force asked the plant to restrict production to only 65 sets a month. The Army also changed the wing flaps and moved them to DeSoto-Warren. Then, in mid-1943, with 1,200 planes done, the plants changed to the new B-29 Superfortress. The Air Force moved the B-29 from GM’s Fisher Body, in Cleveland, and assigned to Chrysler the pressurized nose section, leading edges, and engine cowlings. The Superfortress nose was too large for the plant; DeSoto had to remove some of the bracing from the roof girders and dug trenches in the floor, and even then, the nose had to stay between the roof girders.

b26 nose section

In addition, in 1942, Curtiss-Wright Company asked Chrysler to build the foundation structure of the Navy's fastest and strongest dive bomber, the Helldiver. The right half was assigned to DeSoto, the left to Chrysler Division; that part was stamped in Highland Park with machining by Plymouth. Dodge Aluminum Forge provided many of the forgings. Wings were being shipped by mid-1943.

wing flaps

B29 building

In 1946, Chrysler finally bought the facility from Graham, and assigned it to DeSoto for assembly, opening a body plant in 1950 and an engine plant (requiring an expansion) in 1951. In model-year 1959, Warren switched to Imperial, taking one building (on McGraw Avenue) and using it to make glass; after Imperial production moved back to Jefferson, the plant was used for small parts production for a few years, with the main building becoming a center for Chrysler export operations in the 1960s (actually Chrysler is somewhat vague in their histories, with one line in the same history claiming this, and another saying that the plant was sold in 1962).

desoto coronado

  • World War II: aircraft components
  • DeSoto 1947 [possibly earlier]-1958
  • Imperial 1959-1961
  • Small parts production and export operations, 1961-196? (Chrysler claims mid-60s and 1962, alternatively)

b-29 bomb bay

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