The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute
By David D Jackson

Overview      The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry

    Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Checker   Chrysler   Crosley   Ford   General Motors   Graham-Paige   Hudson
   Nash-Kelvinator   Packard      Studebaker    Willys-Overland

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service

Truck Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  


Southern California Division of General Motors Corporation in World War Two
South Gate, CA


This page updated on 3-16-2017.

The GM South Gate Assembly Plant was opened in 1936 as the GM's first plant west of the Mississippi River in order to have a production source close to the growing market in southern California, hence the divisional name of Southern California Division.  During the 1941 model year the plant produced 80,046 vehicles.

From July 1942 through August 1943 General Motors produced the M5 and M5A1 Stuart tanks at the plant.  It also provided a proof range for Army Ordnance to test various types of machine gun and cannon shells.  Space was also provided for Army Ordnance to modify M4 medium tanks.  When M5A1 production ceased in August 1943, the plant was leased Douglas Aircraft until the end of the war for aircraft part production.  From 1945-1982 the South Gate Assembly Plant was first part of the Buick-Olds-Pontiac Division (BOP), and then the General Motors Assembly Division (GMAD).  The plant closed in 1982 and today is the location of several schools.  At least it wasn't turned into a shopping mall! 

The GM 1942 annual report on page 46 specifically mentions that the Southern California Division was tasked by the Corporation to assemble the M5 Stuart tank. It is also the last year Southern Californian Division is mentioned in the annual reports as a Division.  Nine hundred persons worked at the plant producing tanks from 1942-1943.

GM South Gate from the front of the plant.

This aerial phtot shows the rear of the plant and the test track, which would be used to road test every Stuart tank produced at the plant.

Southern California Division of GM World War Two Production Statistics:  (304) M5 Stuarts from July-December, 1942, (1,196) M5A1 Stuarts from December, 1942 through August 1943.  A small amount of gun shields were produced for the US Navy.  Deck houses were also fabricated in small lots for the US Maritime Commission.  For two months space was provided for the modification of M4 Sherman tanks by Army Ordnance personnel.  In addition in September 1942 the plant finished construction of an on-site proof range for the San Francisco Army Ordnance Department. 

This photo and caption from the 1942 GM Annual Report gives credit to several GM Divisions, including the Southern California Division for assembling the M5 in South Gate, CA.  Photo added 2-12-2014.

The M5/M5A1 Stuart Tank Photo Collection from 2014.
Below are photos from various events I attended that featured the Stuart Tank, giving a better view of this WWII tank that was not only built not only at South Gate, but by Cadillac in Detroit, Massy-Ferguson, and American Car and Foundry.

M5 Stuart tank on display, City Park, Gas City, IN, April 2014.
The M5 was the original tank produced at South Gate.  It is distinguishable from the later M5A1 in that the turret is round.  The M5A1 has an extension on the rear of the turret for the radios.  In the M5 the radios were in the hull.

Note the round turret.  Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

Author's Photo.

Spirit of St. Louis Airshow, May 2014.
The photos below are of the M5A1, which is not nearly as rare as the M5. 

This M5A1 Stuart tank was on display with several other military vehicles.  The stairs allowed photos of the interior of the vehicle.  Looking into the tank provides a good view of many of the parts that were assembled at South Gate into the Stuart light tank.  Author's Photo.

The loader sat on the right behind the 37mm cannon and the commander on the left. Note the empty shell casings for the 37mm cannon and the .30 caliber machine gun.  Author's Photo.

Note the square hatches.  Author's Photo.

The tank commander had for voice communications between other tanks with a SCR-508 FM radio, consisting of of BC-604 transmitter to the left in the photo and two BC-604 receivers in the middle and on the right.  37mm ammunition storage can be seen at the bottom of the photo. Author's Photo.

Looking at the front of the turret.  Author's Photo.

An intercom box and canteen for the gunner on the right side of the turret.  Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

This shows the square hatch covers that folded to the back of the tank.  Author's Photo.

Here one can see the top of the engine bay which contained two Cadillac V-8 engines of 110hp each.  Author's Photo.

Military Vehicle Preservation Association National Convention, Louisville, KY, June 2014.

Setting outside at the convention were five M5A1 Stuart tanks, all of them in operating condition.  Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

Author's Photo.

 Thunder over Michigan Airshow, Belleville, MI, August 2014.

This photo shows the extension on the turret that identifies it as a M5A1.  Each year the show features a WWII battle twice a day that normally features one or two M5A1 Stuarts.  In 2014 it featured five, many of the same, if not all, that were at Louisville.  Author's Photo.

Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

After the battle I was able to stand by the taxi way as the M5A1 Stuarts came back in from the battle.  Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

 Author's Photo.

 War Production History
The Southern California Division of General Motors

Below are over 80 pages of information that the Southern Californian Division produced at the end of 1943 when it ceased tank production.  There is very good information contained on the conversion of an auto plant into a tank arsenal and an Army Proof range.  Included are rare photos of the M5 tank components and how they were assembled into a tank.  This is a fascinating document for those interested in the M5 and M5A1 Stuart tank.

Below is the history of the GM Southern California Division's World War Tank Production.

The first five M5 Stuart tanks came off the assembly line at the South Gate Tank Arsenal in July 1942.

The total number of Stuart light tanks produced by the California Division at South Gate, CA was 1,550.  This was 17.4% of the M5 and M5A1s produced.  Production of the M5A1 completely ceased at other locations in June 1944.

Below is the history of the GM Southern California Division's World War Two Proof Range.

Below are photos and maps of the GM Southern California Division's Plant at South Gate, CA.

Below are excellent photos of how the M5 and M5A1 tanks were built at South Gate, CA during World War Two.  Note that the Southern California Tank Arsenal had to weld up all of the supplied armor plate, and then assemble the rest of the components into a working tank. 


South Gate was an assembly plant.  It turned to many of its previous auto suppliers to provided the needed M5 tank components for assembly.  Note that the Southern California Tank Arsenal purchased all of the basic components.  Then it had to weld up all of the supplied armor plate, and then assemble the rest of the components into a working tank. 

Below are photos of the Proof Range at South Gate during World War Two.




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