Romeo Engine Plant Employees Share the Plant’s Legacy and Look to the Future

Paul Wilhelm and Carrie Booth, the builders of the final 5.2L Predator engine built at Romeo Engine Plant.

“It was tough to say goodbye,” Paul Wilhelm, Niche Line Engine Assembly Associate, Romeo Engine Plant, said. “It’s been a long time but looking back, I think about all the people who assembled engines before me and what they taught me. Now, it’s a new chapter and I hope those who come after me are able to find the same passion and joy that I did.”

In 1973, the Romeo Engine Plant opened its doors building tractors and in 1988 it idled when the company sold the tractor division. In 1990, the plant reopened as an engine plant that assembled engines and components for iconic vehicles including the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Ford Super Duty, Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental.

Wilhelm and Carrie Booth, a two-person team with the longest tenure on the Niche Line, helped assemble the plant’s final Predator 5.2 Liter engine in October. The plant remained open and continued reduced production through December 2022.  

“It marks the end of an era,” Wilhelm said. “Every engine was built with pride. This was a fun job and I looked forward to going to work every day. Working here was part of my DNA.”

In 2019, the plant closure was included in the UAW Ford Collective Bargaining Agreement. After the 2019 UAW Contract was finalized, Romeo Engine employees were given priority for job postings within Ford manufacturing. Romeo Engine hourly employees were also given the opportunity to transfer to a local Ford facility and eligible hourly employees were offered a buyout.

Wilhelm and Booth both took buyouts.

“I spent 28 years at this plant,” Wilhelm said. “These people aren’t just my coworkers; they feel more like family and friends. Every day, I spent more time with them than my own family, so you grow close, and you share stories. I kept Carrie laughing and she kept me in line.”

Now that Wilhelm is done assembling engines, his new hobby is assembling a 1,500-piece LEGO® Ford Shelby Mustang model and will be traveling to Montana and Utah in his RV to see his son.

The Niche Line has built legendary engines including the 390-horsepower, 4.6-liter Terminator Cobra engine, the 550-horsepower, 5.4-liter first-gen Ford GT engine, the 662-horsepower, 5.8-liter Trinity engine and the 760-horsepower, 5.2-liter Predator engine powering the latest Shelby GT500.

“You felt like a celebrity working on this line,” Booth said, “Every builder stamped their name on the engine, so you made sure each was built with care and quality. I’d get ‘thank you’ messages on Facebook by someone who saw my name and knew that I built their motor. I always loved it when people toured the plant. They’d come up to us and want photos and autographs. It was really cool and something I’ll never forget.”

Booth worked for Ford for 29 years, 14 of those at Romeo Engine Plant, but she’s not the only Ford employee in her family. Her mother worked at Chesterfield Trim, and Booth’s daughter worked with her at Romeo Engine Plant and will soon be transferring to a different local Ford facility.

Following building the final Predator engine, Booth said goodbye to her team and started enjoying her retirement life. She plans on spending more time with her family, grandkids and dog and visiting their up north home more often.

“There are so many good times, fond memories and stories I could share from all my years, but Ford and the UAW have been great to me and my family,” Booth said. “My advice for employees transferring is, keep your head up because this will benefit you. It’s a good job and you have the opportunity to help build the future.”

When Romeo Engine ended production, the 5.2L engine line, which goes into the Ford F-150 Raptor R and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and GT350, was moved to Dearborn Engine Plant.

Carrie Booth and Paul Wilhelm lowering the final 5.2L Predator engine onto a pallet to prepare it for shipment to Flat Rock where it will be installed in a Shelby GT500.
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