all who wander are not lost

The Packard Motor Car Company Proving Grounds.

Whats left of them, anyway. Fortunately the main Lodge and a few of the other buildings have been saved along with the signature water tower. The rest………… condos and new home builds.

Heres the standard data from the Michigan Historical marker:

In 1899 brothers James Ward and William Doud Packard founded the Ohio Automobile Company in Warren, Ohio. In 1902 Detroiter Henry Joy and several other local investors purchased the company, moved it to Detroit and renamed it the Packard Motor Car Company. During the 1920s and 1930s, Packard set the standard for luxury and design. Under the direction of chief engineer Jesse G. Vincent, Packard, known as “America’s Master Motor Builder,” also made advances in aviation technology. Vincent contributed to the development of the Liberty aircraft engine during World War I and predicted the growth of commercial aviation. He considered a proving ground to be essential to high quality.

The Packard Motor Car Company began building a proving ground on this site in 1926. Packard, like its competitors, had previously tested cars on city streets. Architect Albert Kahn designed the principal buildings. By 1929 the complex included the Gate Lodge, warehouses, laboratories, a high-speed test track, and twelve miles of roads simulating the worst conditions of the day. During World War II (1941-1945) Packard built aircraft and marine engines while leasing the grounds to Chrysler for tank testing. Packard ceased production in 1958, and the Ford Motor Company purchased the site in 1961. In 2000 Ford and the Packard Motor Car Foundation began working to preserve the design complex portion of the site.

From 1920’s brochure

And now.

From the Shelby History website:

Packard dedicated the million-dollar Proving Grounds in 1927 and began a rigorous testing program. The planted area between two driveways was shaped like the famous Packard radiator grille and the driveways led to grand wrought-iron gates that opened onto lavishly landscaped grounds, rich with flowering trees, roses, and other ornamental landscaping.

The Lodge was home to the Proving Grounds manager and family and featured three fireplaces, nine bedrooms, four bathrooms, hardwood floors, dormitories for test drivers, and garage space for eight cars.

The garage building across the driveway from the Lodge contained experimental and engineering laboratories allowing the testing of engines, chassis, electrical components, fuels, and lubricants under a variety of conditions.

During World War II, Chrysler Defense Engineering leased the entire Proving Grounds to test tanks and other armored vehicles and added a building next to the Garage building.

This is an old photo showing entire proving grounds, with the lounge structure and driveway in the bottom center of the photo.

3 Responses to Packard Proving Grounds

  • sweet. i love Packard stuff.

  • i live around there and i parked at the packard grill saturday night to see if i could get into anything although there is barbed wire around the watertower and nobody could reach that ladder

  • Cool. I’m from Shelby and have always taken interest in this site. Something else neat, is that Charles Lindberg had flown into that site back in the day. Shelby may just be an suburb of Detroit, but I think its pretty dang cool. I think the plant looks more like a nice house than a… plant. Growing up there, it did not always look that nice. Like the blog states, their foundation took over in 2000 and massive improvements followed. Last I heard, they had plans to add a museum in the plant. And now ,of course, businesses (The Packard Grille, more?) and neighborhoods are joining the site.

    Good work Dfunk