LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. on Tuesday pleaded no contest to one count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of an employee who was overcome by fumes while driving a tank.

The plea, stemming from the death of Harvey James Lee on Nov. 15, 1983, was entered before Macomb County Circuit Judge Peter J. Maceroni.

Lee, a driver and mechanic at the company's Center Line tank plant, was overcome by Genosolv D, commonly known as freon, which was used to clean the vehicle.

A no contest plea is treated as a guilty plea for the purposes of sentencing. The company faces a maximum penalty of $7,500.

General Dynamics spokesman Don Gilleland said the company was not admitting guilt with the plea.

''We simply believe that no useful purpose would be served by dragging the case out any further,'' he said. ''We would never willingly place the lives of our employees in jeopardy, but the outcome of litigation is very uncertain.''

Lee entered a tank that had been flushed with 15 gallons of the solvent and died of cardiac arrhythmia following contact with the chemical.

Attorney General Frank Kelley filed a criminal charge against the company in July 1984 but it was dismissed by the district court. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to Macomb County for trial.

General Dynamics Land Systems is a division of General Dynamics Corp.