AKA: Northrop Corporation, B-2 Bomber Production Plant, Pico Rivera, CA; Northrop Grumman, Manufacturing Facility, Pico Rivera, CA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1954-1956, demolished 2000

total floor area: 1,300,000 sq. ft.

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8900 East Washington Boulevard
Pico Rivera, CA 90660

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The Ford Motor Company plant in Pico Rivera stood near the intersection of East Washington Boulevard and Rosemead Boulevard


The Ford Motor Company located an automobile assembly plant in this section of Los Angeles County one year before the two communities of Pico and Rivera merged and incorporated in 1958. The plant eventually grew to cover 157 acres, and produced Ford Falcon and Thuderbird models in the 1960s and 1970s. Following Ford's closure of the facility in 1980, the defense contractor, Northrop Corporation, utilized the space to produce B-2 Stealth Bombers beginning in 1982. At its height of production, about 12,000 people worked in the highly secure facility. (The Grumman Aerospace Corporation subsequently consolidated with Northrop Aircraft in 1992.) The new entity, Northrop-Grumman, maintained operations in the old Ford plant until 1999. (See Los Angeles Times.com, "Pico Rivera Wal-Mart closure a worry for city," published 04/26/2015, accessed 11/05/2015.) In 1995, the factory employed 4,700 people. (See Los Angeles Times.com, "Pico Rivera B-2 Plant to Stay Open Past '97; Aerospace: Northrop Grumman says its composite and software equipment will be needed longer than expected," published 12/19/1995, accessed 11/05/2015.) With the financial assistance of the City of Pico Rivera, the site of the Ford/Northrop Grumman facility was redeveloped into Pico Rivera Towne Center, which opened in 2002.

Building History

In the mid-1950s, the Ford Motor Company revised its production strategies in California. It closed older, less-efficient assembly plants in Long Beach and Richmond, and opened new ones in Pico Rivera (1956) and Milpitas, near San Jose (1955). For two years after first opening in 1956, Ford produced only Edsel and Mercury cars at Pico Rivera. A report by Lynn Rogers in the Los Angeles Times stated: "As part of Ford's facilities modernization, the company announced last July it was transferring production of Ford cars to the company's new Pico Rivera plant which also will continue to assemble Mercury passenger cars. Because of demand for the '59 Ford, production at the Ford Long Beach plant will continue until late in the first quarter of 1959. When the consolidation at Los Angeles is complete, employment will total about 2000 persons, about twice its present employment." (See Lynn Rogers, Automotive Hightlights," Los Angeles Times, 12/14/1958, p. A22.) Donald J. Bastian became plant manager of the Pico Rivera plant in 12/1958, transferring from his manufacturing operations manager position in Dearborn, MI. He had worked for Ford for 24 years. The previous manager of Mercury production at Pico Rivera, O.F. Marsal, would act as his assistant.

In 1959, Ford, GM and Chrysler maintained five auto plants in Los Angeles, employing approximately 11,600 people. GM had a Chevrolet plant in Van Nuys (employing 2,000), a Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac plan in South Gate (2,400), and a Fisher Body plant in Van Nuys (2,300). Chrysler operated a Maywood facility employing 2,500 workers. The Ford Pico Rivera plant assembled Ford and Mercury vehicles and employed 2,400. The Los Angeles Times remarked in 11/1959: "Ford employment here in the first nine months was at an all-time high, K.D. Cassidy, vice-president, announced with hourly employees earning a record $9,530,952 through September." (See "Steel Shortage Hits Ford Plant," Los Angeles Times, 11/05/1959, p. 24.) In October-November 1959, Ford had to slow production at Pico Rivera because a national steel strike had cut the number of component parts available for assembly. Employment figures given for the Ford plant in 1959 varied from 2,650 to 2,400. (See the above article and "Jobs Get Precarious in Local Auto Plants," Los Angeles Times, 10/21/1959, p. 10.)

According to Joseph F. Clift, a Logistics Engineer for the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the Ford models built at the Pico Rivera plant included the Falcon, Custom, Galaxie 500, Thunderbird and LTD. During the 1970s, the factory produced LTD Brougham wagons. According to a Los Angeles Herald Examiner photograph of the last auto (a Ford "Panther Platform" 1979 LTD) to roll off the Pico Rivera line, 1,419,498 cars were produced here. (See Los Angeles Public Library, "The last hurrah at Ford's Pico Rivera plant," photograph in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Collection, Item #LAPL 00085947.)

Following the property's sale to Northrop, the Pico Rivera facility was reorganized to produce components of the B-2 bomber program. Clift stated in an email to the author: "Most of the major components for the B-2 Spirit bomber (then known as the Advanced Technology Bomber, or ATB) were designed, fabricated, and shipped for final assembly from Pico Rivera to Northrop’s Palmdale facility through 1995. In 1986, the plant housed close to 12,000 employees. By 1995, the number you correctly stated at 4,700 were there to manage the remaining spares and contract materials to finish the last of 21 airframes. The plant was closed down in 1999 and demolished, replaced by the Pico Rivera Towne Center shopping mall." (See email from Joseph F. Clift to the author, 11/14/2017.)

Building Notes

The Ford Falcon was produced at Pico Rivera, and was billed as "...the first of America's new-size cars, [that] represents a breakthrough in automotive design that may alter [the] industry's future. The Falcon Fourdoor is more than 2 ft. shorter and three-quarters of a ton lighter than a standard 1959 model. It is a six-passenger car with roomy interior." (See "Pico Rivera Plant Reopened by Ford," Los Angeles Times, 09/09/2959, p. B2.) The influx of small European cars, most notably the VW Beetle, prompted American auto companies to respond with smaller, more economical and fuel-efficient vehicles themselves.

The plant's VIN production prefix was "J."


This Ford-Mercury/Northrop factory was demolished c. 2000 to make way for a mall.

PCAD id: 19856