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Packard Proving Grounds

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We could not have asked for a better day. Warm, but not hot, partly-sunny, and just a slight breeze. That was the environment when twenty-four JAGM members arrived at the Packard Proving Grounds Historic Site, the morning of Saturday, June 6th. Three docents aided us in parking our cars in the grass along both sides of the north boulevard in front of their Lodge building.

Our tour started outside as the lead docent informed us of the history and layout of the now historic site. In 1925, the Packard Motor Car Company realized that testing its products on the streets of Detroit had its limitations. So they engaged renowned industrial architect Albert Kahn to design and oversee construction of a grand showplace, befitting one of the most prestigious and successful auto companies of the golden era of car production. Today, sadly, only about 480 feet of the original 2.5-mile oval track remains. The rest has deteriorated beyond repair or is now located on private property.

The docents broke us up into three groups. We toured the Tudor-revival styled Lodge, where the proving grounds manager and his family lived. Next was the Repair Garage which originally contained experimental and engineering laboratories but now is the main area for weddings and other types of celebrations or gatherings. The third was the Engineering Building, where the historic cars are now on display. Many of the cars on display there are owned by the Packard Motor Car Foundation, and some are on loan from third-party owners. We also saw a very long, flat bottomed Gar Wood racing boat powered by four Packard V-12 engines. The boat is privately owned and capable of speeds of about 134 mph.

Packard also used the site for the development and testing of aircraft and marine engines. That building is not part of the public tours but the docents briefly touched on Packard’s contribution to providing engines for warplanes and war boats.

After the tour, we picnicked on the grounds outside of the Lodge building, enjoying a variety of sandwiches from Jimmy John's and several types of cookies and chips.

We learned something about this historic site and met some new people. That was a great start to a nice day.

Phil Crutchfield

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