To be a fly on the wall—or a bolt on the ground—at a modern automotive assembly line is the kind of experience that prompts some heady thinking about our general progress; the silent precision and the cold acrobatics of robotic arms can be a bit disturbing in their lack of imperfection, and in between the rhythms of efficient work being done one would be forgiven for making Terminator jokes. Automating certain tasks once done with human hands or brains is inevitable, but as we move further into the future, some of the good things are jettisoned off on the way. One such “good thing” is the romanticism of old car factories and these tableaus we’ll never see again.
The clinical perfection of today’s manufacturing plants is something we marvel at in a sort of trance-state aligned to the beats of spot welds and bursts of compressed air, but the rudimentary steps we made toward these places make up the haphazardly beautiful photos in the collection gathered here. The great swinging cranes and rollercoaster-esque facilities in the VW Hannover plant, a Countach on the jig, a Skittles palette of 105-Series Alfas, a row of 512s ready for homologation inspection—these are the kinds of production line tours I wish were plausible. So then, if you could go back and linger in one of these scenes, which would it be? Want to tell Günther he messed up the panel gaps on your 901? Prefer a walk amongst a row of half-Miuras patiently waiting for their V12s assembled nearby? What’s your persuasion?