There was a goodbye party at the General Motors Complex in Lordstown for the J-Car and a celebration of the birth of the Cobalt. Hello, Cobalt And farewell, Cavalier
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
RITTANY EADS ISN'T PLEASED that General Motors will no longer be making the Cavalier.
"I'm very sad," said the 21-year old bartender from Dayton who is also a student at Wright State University.
Eads said she was "heartbroken" when she learned the popular J-Car would no longer be manufactured at the GM plant in Lordstown after October.
The term J-Car refers to the particular body style of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire.
She was one of hundreds of people, many of them current or former GM employees, who turned out at the plant Saturday for a daylong celebration of the life of the J-Car and a welcome to its successor, the Cobalt.
The Eads family is very fond of the Cavalier in general, she said, noting her first car was a Cavalier and she has a 1999 model now. Her father and stepmother own Cavaliers as well.
"That's my baby," she said, referring to the black Cavalier she drove new off a car dealer's lot for $10,400.
Takes it to shows
She's put about $5,000 more into it and frequently takes it to car shows.
"It's the way I express myself," she said of her car, adding, "I love Cavaliers."
Eads said she plans to keep this one for shows and is in the market for another used one for everyday travel.
Travel meant little to a group of 12 Cavalier and Sunfire owners from St. Louis, Mo., who made the 15-hour drive to Lordstown to be part of the celebration. They were among about 500 entries into the all-day car show in the plant parking lot.
"This is the J-Bash," said Patrick Fossell, 19, of St. Louis. "You can't miss the J-Bash."
The caravan of cars had a little mishap near Columbus during rush-hour traffic Thursday as they made their way to Lordstown. Four were involved in a minor chain-reaction collision, Fossell said, but all still made it to the show and were busy cleaning their cars Saturday morning after a day of racing Friday at a nearby drag strip.
About a dozen GM and labor officials as well as elected officials took the festival stage to address the crowd.
Most, such as Gov. Bob Taft, had high praise for the combined efforts of the company, labor, the state and others who worked together to bring the project to Lordstown.
It means retention of 6,500 good-paying jobs, he said.
Taft said keeping GM at Lordstown was his No. 1 economic priority when he took office and former Gov. George Voinovich, now U.S. Sen. Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the "world-class workers" at the plant helped GM make it a "world-class facility."
Voinovich recalled that as governor in 1991, he offered the state's help to the company to keep the plant running and GM officials told him they needed a promised turnpike interchange to reduce the cost of shipping vehicles from the plant. The interchange was built in 1993 and GM probably wouldn't be here today without it, Voinovich said.
Maureen Midgley, manager of the plant complex, said the arrival of the Cobalt project showed that GM and the United Auto Workers can engineer and build "the best premium small car available on the market."
She also said Saturday's event raised $33,000 for two regional charities.
The company allowed current and former plant workers to buy chances at $5 a ticket to win the last Sunfire to come off the production line. That effort, plus admission fees charged to cars entered in the car show, raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeastern Ohio and the Paula and Anthony Rich Center for the Treatment and Study of Autism at Youngstown State University.
The winning ticket belonged to Nakita Cruse of Howland. She and her husband of just five months, Dwayne, both work in the plant's paint department.
The plant has ceased making Sunfires and will end its run of Cavaliers in the first week of October as production of the Cobalt begins.
GM is investing nearly $1 billion in the assembly and fabricating facilities here for the Cobalt project.
The investment assures that the future of the Lordstown facility is secure, Voinovich said.