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1958 Dodge: Photos and a Video of the Chrysler Engineering Proving Grounds

Today’s lead image includes a fleet of 1958 Dodge’s at speed passing a stationary 1958 Dodge Royal sedan parked in the middle of the Chrysler Engineering Proving Grounds track located in Chelsea, MI. Construction of the facility began in 1953, and the grand opening ceremonies were held on June 16, 1954. As a part of the event, the following day, a Chrysler New Yorker completed a 24-hour endurance run after covering 2,836 miles at an average speed of 118.18 mph.

  • The 1958 Dodge line-up on the Proving Grounds track.

The video (below) “Building the Chrysler Proving Grounds” filmed over the winter of 1953-’54 covers the story of how the facility was constructed, shows the garage, the engineering labs, and how the track and roadways were used at the time. When we return more 1958 Dodge photos courtesy, of the National Automotive History Collection will be included. Learn more details about and view more period photos of the Chrysler Engineering Proving Grounds here. 

 

15 responses to “1958 Dodge: Photos and a Video of the Chrysler Engineering Proving Grounds

  1. The trucks around the 6 minute mark, are ’55 or ’56 Dodge ( natch) H series and are grossly overloaded. I don’t see a “V” on the front, indicating a hemi, so they must have been the old flathead 6. Good grief. I’ve done off road jobs like that, incredibly boring, and I hope those cars on the track had radios, looks like another incredibly boring job. No need for test tracks today, our highways are the test track.

    • “…our highways are the rest track.”

      And all too often, buyers are the test drivers!

      Yes GM, I’m looking at you.

      In central Texas, I used to see tire testing on the various freeways. Don’t or five identical cars would be in a convoy, each with a temporary stick-on CB antenna (this was in the 80s).
      Goodyear had a large test track and the DOT did testing on the closed runways at an Air Force Base.

      • I can attest to seeing these convoys of Manufacturer Plated cars/trucks/SUV-Crossover on the roads of Michigan, sometimes camouflaged and sometimes not. I work for the State of Michigan and drive about 30,000 miles a year all over the state for work and see lots of interesting stuff on the roads. I’ll never forget the time (in the past five years or so) I came upon one of the old GM futuristic buss like vehicles used for the Tour of Progress (that used to carry the futuristic show cars) back in the late 30’s, on the highway w/ a car load of coworkers. They did not believe my story concerning what it was until they got back to the office and googled it, from then on, I was known as the automotive guru of the office!

        I believe the GM proving grounds in Milford and the Chrysler proving grounds in Chelsea, as well as the Ford proving grounds in Dearborn are still operational and used. Up until just a few years ago I knew people who worked at the GM and Chrysler proving grounds and heard daily stories of what they were doing each shift. I have no reason to believe these activities have changed in the recent past. I heard stories just like what was explained in this video concerning the modern day testing going on at these facilities.

        Concerning these jobs at test tracks, I can tell you that I love the driving aspect of my job (which is not the purpose of my work, just an added benefit), but I can assume that not being on open roads where unexpected conditions are always a possibility, would make this kind of driving boring. I’d always prefer open road testing to closed course testing, unless I was pushing the limits of a performance car, but I think they leave that kind of testing to the real race car drivers.

    • Except for the truck at 6:20, they’re all 1954 C1 series trucks. One year only design with that windshield. They do all appear to have six cylinders, but that was the first year for V8s in their trucks.

    • Good chance those trucks have the 413 flathead truck six engine. In the not too distant past I remember reading about them. They were replaced by a truck spec hemi v8 in maybe 57?
      Searching I found a photo of one with 2 carb intake and air brake compressor.

  2. FIRST PICTURE: Very clever of the photographer to have the other cars moving so that they are blurred, while the Dodge is highlighted by standing still in sharp focus.

  3. In the video, a reference is made to Belgian blocks. Sometimes these are called cobblestones. If they’re laid correctly, they’re not bad to drive on, but if not a real pain!!

  4. Cool how they shot the stationary sedan with the other cars blasting by, some of them very close. Must have taken multiple attempts. Today it would be done in Photoshop.

    Most manufacturers still have such tracks. In fact, someone should write a history of manufacturer test tracks: Packard, Studebaker (South Bend), Mercedes-Benz (Stuttgart, Nardo), Porsche (Weissach), Fiat (on the roof of the factory), GM (Arizona), MIRA in England, and more. Even Mercury Marine had a lake in Florida for testing their outboard motors.

    • Hi Frank, don’t forget the Nash proving grounds in Burlington, Wis. located about 25 miles west of Kenosha built in the late 40’s. It became part of Chrysler in the 80’s and was sold to a company named MGA research, and still uses the facility to this day.

  5. An interesting video to watch. I am amazed however that Chrysler built its proving grounds so late in automotive history, as I know for a fact that General Motors built the first proving grounds at Milford in 1924, and that Ford followed suit the following year by building one at Dearborn, as did Packard at Utica. Eventually all of the major car companies would build proving grounds to test their cars except for Hudson, which used the local streets. Does anyone know if Chrysler had an earlier, and I would assume smaller proving grounds, before they built their major one in Chelsea, Michigan?

  6. Chrysler took over the Maxwell Automobile plant in my home town of New Castle after buying Maxwell’s assets. (My great-grandfather was involved in getting the Maxwell plant located in New Castle.) Later, the new high school was named Walter P. Chrysler High School. After Chrysler left town, my alma mater was renamed New Castle High School. (Perfect Circle closed, as the the Firestone plant.) The cornerstone and a partial brick wall of the original Maxwell plant remain. The Henry County Historical Society in New Castle has a room dedicated the the Maxwell history and an original photo of my great grandfather and other US Motor Company representatives, taken at a 1910 meeting at Cedar Point.

  7. What has always got me is that new models are tested to death in the arctic, the desert and on proving grounds then grandma buys one and all manner of previously unseen defects emerge. The manufacturers use expert, sympathetic drivers which many of the customers aren’t!

  8. In the late ’30s, Chrysler had some smaller test tracks near some plants (and did some testing on public roads) but the decision to build a GM- and Packard-style proving grounds made in ’38 led to the purchase of over 3,800 acres (bought as over 50 separate parcels) of farmland during and after the war. Chelsea’s 60,000 square foot garage and office were completed in ’52; roads and tracks built in ’53; dedication was 6/16/54.
    Additions and improvements were made from the ’60s into the ’80s (when the Jeep “Rubicon Trail” was built) and ’00s. The high-speed oval was repaved in ’07 (by grinding and reusing the original concrete…) and AZ proving ground in Yucca (Mopar’s second in AZ; Wittman was its first…) built in the ’50s by Ford was bought by Chrysler LLC (just under Cerberus) in ’07 also.

    That said, Dodge had had a testing facility that was built from mid- ’10s into mid-’20s — and it included both a hill climb and a nearly quarter-mile oval track. Dodge wasn’t a Chrysler make before the late ’20s, of course, but the old DB Hamtramck facility was in use until “Dodge Main” closed. In 1980.

    If you’re into old car history you can read more:

    dodgemotorcar/factories/hamtramck/photos

    Or read Cliff Notes and do an Old Motor ID:

    classics.autotrader/articles/old-factories-dodge-s-main-assembly-plant

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