Page 1 of 1

Obituary: Bob Oloman 1932-2011

Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:33 am
In Memory of Robert W. OLOMAN: 1932 - 2011

I was saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Bob Oloman in mid-October. In the years since I became a student of all things related to the history of the Ford Motor Company it has been my pleasure to get to know retired Ford of Canada employee Bob Oloman. Bob has put me up in his Oakville, Ontario home and shared many stories with me of his career with Ford of Canada as well as the many photographs he took during his life as a Ford Man. Bob's life is closely tied to the history of the Ford Motor Company (even sharing a birthday -- June 16th). Below is a revised article that I wrote about Bob in 2004. It's time to tell his story again.

Originally from the Newcastle-on-Tyne area in the North East of England, Bob emigrated to Canada with his family in 1948. Settling in Windsor, Ontario, his letters to potential employers paid off with a reply from Ford suggesting that he sit their examination for a place in their trade school. Bob passed that test and started his four-year course of studies in August 1949. Despite the heavy load of homework involved in the Automotive Technology course, Bob found the time to court his future bride, Margaret, herself employed in Ford of Canada's Head Office. They married in 1952. On graduation, Bob's first salaried job was that of draftsman, in the Tool Engineering Dept. in that same Head Office Building, overlooking the Detroit River. In the next year or two, Bob frequently crossed the river, making business calls at the Rouge and Highland Park plants of the parent company.

Meanwhile, Ford of Canada's new plant in Oakville, Ontario opened in 1953. Bob was moved there in 1955 in connection with the set-up of Station Wagon and Light Truck production. In those days the plant produced Ford, Meteor, Mercury and Monarch cars, with subsequent additions of Edsel, Falcon, Frontenac, Comet and Fairlane -- all routed down one final assembly line -- and there were parallel facilities for Light Trucks, Econolines, Medium & Heavy trucks and School Bus Chassis'.

Gaining experience from this complex operation, Bob was called on to assist in the opening of Ford of Canada's new assembly plant in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1961. Following that successful launch, in 1962, Ford International sent Bob to the Boca Plant in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to help resolve some technical concerns in the production of Falcon cars and F- Series trucks. Bob wrote an article on his time in Rhodesia that I published as a three part series in The Universal Car. There were plans to follow up with a story on his adventure in Argentina, but it never happened.

On returning home, Bob did some intensive work in new plant planning which culminated in the passing of the US/Canada Auto Trade Pact and, in Oakville, the opening of the new Ontario Truck Plant (OTP) in 1965. Appointed to management in the new truck plant, Bob was responsible for plant layout, material handling, and the processing, methods, tooling and equipment involved in the production of light and medium trucks and bus chassis'. These were busy years at OTP during which saw several stages of plant expansion and product line changes.

A career change in the 70s took Bob into the sales and service end of the business, in which he held responsibility for Light, Medium and Heavy Truck service operations in the Service Engineering Dept. at Ford of Canada's Head Office (COB, now CHQ). This job involved solving problems for customers and fleets, from the iron mines of Labrador to lumbering activities in the fjords of British Columbia. An important, and enjoyable, aspect of this job was working in close liaison with Design Engineering and the Ford Parts and Service Division in Dearborn. While in this position, Bob initiated the requirement for heavy truck sales and service personnel to obtain a Heavy Truck Driving Licenses.

Bob took his retirement in 1987 and in that year travelled with his friend Herm Smith, Ford of Canada's archivist, to meet Lord Montagu at Palace House, Beaulieu and to visit his famous National Motor Museum. They also were able to meet Ford of England's then archivist, David Burgess-Wise, and to take part in the London to Brighton Vintage Car Run.
In retirement Bob maintained contact with friends and former colleagues through the two Oakville area retirees groups. Bob was a EFONA member for many years kept his 1967 Cortina (bought new) in good shape for Sunday drives and local car shows. When I last visited Bob, his daily driver was a 1996 Lincoln Continental which he maintained in immaculate condition. He told me that he stayed up-to-date with automotive technology through the SAE journal and 'out-of-date' (in a sense) through his membership in the Newcomen Society - for the history of Engineering and Technology.

Bob was married to his beloved Margaret for nearly 59 years, and is also survived by their children Nancy and James, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Donations to the ALS Society, or a charity of your choice in memory of Bob would be greatly appreciated. Email condolences may be made through


Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 4:07 am

Here is a photo from 2004. I'm standing next to Bob and his Cortina at the Ford of Canada's annual All-Ford show.