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   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by 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   GMC   GMI   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 and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Caterpillar   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Seagrave Fire Apparatus   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 11-15-2017.

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:  (354) M5 Stuarts from August-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. 

Author's Note:  Some sources credit the M5 and M5A1 Stuart tanks built by the Southern California Division of General Motors at South Gate, CA to the Cadillac Division of GM.  This is incorrect, as the Southern California Division of GM was its own entity within the GM corporate family.  The Southern California's War Division's "War Production History" shown on this page shows that it was a contractor to Army Ordnance, and was not a part of or being managed by Cadillac Division.

The table below provides production information on the M5/M5A1 series tanks produced during WWII by the Southern California Division of General Motors.  This information has been painstaking researched and gathered by Joe DeMarco.  We thank Joe for allowing this website to use this information.

The M5 and M5A1 Stuart tank information provided by Joe includes monthly production figures, serial and registration numbers, and the purchase order numbers.  This information is almost non-existent in the literature or on websites.

The Southern California Division of GM M5/M5A1 Production Information
 Courtesy of Joe DeMarco
This section added 10-24-2017.

Model Date Monthly Production Serial numbers USA Registration Numbers Purchase Order
M5 8-1942 21 2268 - 2288 3045702 - 3045722  T-3159-2
  9-1942 51 2289 - 2339 3045723 - 3045773  
  10-1942 78 2340 - 2417 3045774 - 3045851  
  11-1942 105 2418 - 2522 3045852 - 3045956  
  12-1942 99 2523 - 2621 3045957 - 3046055  
Total M5   354      
M5A1 12-1942 73 2622 - 2694 3046056 - 3046128  
  1-1943 125 2695 - 2819 3046129 - 3046253  
  2-1943 150 2820 - 2969 3046254 - 3046403  
  3-1943 150 2970 - 3119 3046404 - 304655  
  4-1943 125 3120 - 3244 3046534 - 3046678  
  5-1943 23 3245 - 3267 3046679 - 3046701  
  5-1943 77 8118 - 8194 3051229 - 3051305 T-3578-2
  6-1943 123 8195 - 8317 3051306 - 3051428  
  7-1943 159 8318 - 8476 3051429 - 3051587  
  8-1943 191 8477 - 8667 3051588 - 3051778  
Total M5A1   1,196      
Grand Total   1,550      

This Southern California Division built M5 is located at an automotive salvage yard in Akron, OH.  Serial number 2295 came off the assembly line in September 1942.  Author's photo added 11-15-2017.

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.  Author's photo added 11-15-2017.

Author's photo added 11-15-2017.

This M5A1 on display at the Virginia Military Museum in Newport News, VA is the tenth M5A1 built by the Southern California Division.  It is serial number 2632 and was built in December 1942.  Author's photo added 10-25-2017.

Author's photo added 10-25-2017.

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-Harris, and American Car and Foundry.

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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