Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Birthday weekend also a homecoming at Lordstown GM plant

Monday, July 03, 2006
Birthday weekend also a homecoming at Lordstown GM plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio -- A General Motors plant in northeast Ohio marked its 40th anniversary this weekend with a car show of more than 600 vehicles, including many that were built at the factory.

Cars from across the country converged on the site, including the first Chevrolet Vega -- in baby blue -- produced at the plant in 1970, on loan from a museum in Detroit.

James Hallamek of Minnesota joined in the celebration Saturday by towing his 1973 Vega more than 800 miles to the factory where it was born.

"She loves it," Hallamek said, referring to the car. "She likes being around her brothers and sisters."

Tim and Sandy Wagner of Brook Park took their yellow, Lordstown-built 1971 Vega to the event. Tim Wagner said he wanted to show that the plant did a good job building the car.

"It's still running," he said.

General Motors Corp. plans to get rid of the overnight shift this summer at the plant, about 15 miles northwest of Youngstown. About 1,600 of Lordstown's 5,300 hourly workers are among the roughly 35,000 GM employees who agreed last week to retire early or accept a buyout offer to help the troubled automaker trim costs, GM said.

William Sywy of Austintown was one of the first hired to work at the factory, helping build Vegas, Pontiac Firebirds, Oldsmobile Firenzas, Buicks and Cadillacs, and retired in 2004 after 38 years. The plant helped keep the Youngstown area afloat, he said.

"Even with the problems going on with the various corporations, this is still one of the best plants going," Sywy said. "I'm just hoping it will be going for another 40 years."

Proceeds from the car show and other anniversary events will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said Jim Bumgardner, materials manager at the plant.

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