By on September 22, 2012


Today, GM and its Chinese joint venture partner SAIC opened what GM China President Kevin Wale called “China’s largest proving ground.“ The test track west of Shanghai did cost about $252.5 million, Reuters says. Automakers are busy turning China into test track central, but Milford may be passed by a German track.

The 1,400-acre (560-hectare) project in Guangde County, Anhui province, is part of the $1.5 billion GM invests annually in China. While China’s largest, the track is dwarfed by GM’s more than 4,000-acre proving ground in Milford, Michigan.

The FAW-Volkswagen joint venture is building a test track in Changchunin northeastChina’sJilinprovince. When finished in 2014, this track will be the largest of its kind in China, says China Daily. It is expected to be twice the size of GM’s track near Shanghai. According to Beijing rumors, the track will be larger than Volkswagen’s gigantic home track in Ehra-Lessien near Wolfsburg. Ehra may not be eclipsed for long by its Chinese cousin. Volkswagen laid its eyes on the neighboring 4,200 acre military proving ground, currently used by the German army. All Volkswagen has to do is tear the fence down that separates its proving ground from the much larger military installation. The army will move by the end of 2013.

Meanwhile in the U.S.A., an only slightly used test track owned by Honda in the Mojave Desert went on sale in 2011. Last we checked, it had found no buyer.

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13 Comments on “World’s Largest Test Tracks: The Race Is On...”

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Germany has an army?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      A very good one, part of NATO, and they always bring beer.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Germany has an army.

      When I was in the USArmy in Mannhein, Germany, in 1967-69, my German-army counterparts were right “next door”, and kept a low profile. But in joint exercises, their operations ran like a well-oiled machine, while we often argued and fumbled about in typical American style. Even German drivers of officers would never omit backing their vehicles into parking spaces to be able to exit instantly, if needed. They were efficient and impressive.


  • avatar

    When I was about 8 years old in 1956 my Dad took me on a road trip to visit the Detroit area in the M-Benz 300 SL Gull wing he had bought the previous year.

    We visited a WW II Army buddy of his that was then working at Studebaker-Packard and he got us into the old Packard Test Track.

    Where Dad’s car was a big hit with some of the engineers… in exchange for letting them drive the Gullwing we got to go around the place in a variety of different cars of several makes as well as put the pedal down in the 300 SL.

    I wish I could remember more about the trip… But I do recall being impressed with a photo taken from the air of the place with PACKARD spelled out by a large grove of trees… In fact my memory of the visit to the Henry Ford Greenfield Village is clearer than my recall of the visit to the track!

    Test Tracks by Auto Manufactures seem to have a very long history but given the way Dazzle painted test cars are spotted in places like Finland and the American Southwest these days; I was wondering when this real roads sort of auto testing started…. I do not recall such photos from my youth when I think most testing was confined to the test tracks.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove the Packard track, then owned by Ford, in the 1980’s, as part of the annual Shelby club meet & drive event. The concrete was disintegrating, the back side of the track ran through shipping containers piled one story high by the adjacent ford plant. The track is but just a memory now, with the majority of the land sold for residential development. The main entry and X-garages as well as a short section of track survive and have been rehabilitated and now serve as a Packard museum.

      Re the trees: never heard of this at the Packard track, but studebaker definitely did this at their Indiana track, one can still see the trees in the google earth sat pics; this track is still in use, first by Bendix, then later by others but don’t recall who.

      The City of Detroit in 1958 was at its peak, wow. I envy you, having only seen it in the early 1970’s after it had begun its slide into incompetence, corruption, decrepitude and irrelevance.

      What happened to your father’s SL?

      • 0 avatar

        Memories from that far in the past can be suspect so it could have been a shrubbery rather than trees or even another location. But I do recall a car name spelled out in a huge planting from that trip.

        The 300 SL was owned by my dad till 1976. In 75 he fell off a ladder hanging shutters and broke his neck. Mobility problems forced him to sell it. It was in silver with a hint of green metallic paint and red leather interior.

        The first few years he had it I was small enough to curl up on the shelf behind the seats when he and Mom would take me out to dinner. In 1964 my older sister had it when she started her masters degree at MIT and she joked it was the worlds worst city car it caused her to have a left leg much bigger than her right due to the heavy clutch. She got a Volvo 122 station wagon after only 3 months! I started driving it at 16 and it was wonderful.

        Many happy memories. If not driven hard it suffered from gasoline dilution of the oil and the dry sump system would be drained and changed for fresh Quaker state oil in as little as 1200 to 1500 miles. From age 13 this was my job. The full belly pans made a lot of work on the car rather time consuming such as hitting the dozens of grease points every 3 months… Thank goodness my grandparents had a full size grease pit in their garage.

        As you might expect I have tons of stories about our family’s 20 years with it.

      • 0 avatar

        The Packard Motor Car Foundation (an adjunct of the Packard club) owns what remains of the Packard Proving Grounds, they’ve gotten it on the national register of historic places and they are restoring the original buildings, all of which still stand, designed by Albert Kahn. About 500 feet of the track adjacent to the buildings and driveway, including the timing stand and some guard railing, is still intact. From Google’s satellite view, there’s probably still some concrete left from other parts of the 2.5 mile oval. The PPG sponsors a car show every summer and their fall open house will be Sunday, October 21, 2012. I have video of vintage Packards driving on what remains of the test track over at Cars In Depth.

        I’ve done a little research about test tracks and to my knowledge there was nothing spelling out Packard at their proving grounds. I can’t find any historical photos showing that. There are decorative gates at the PPG with the Packard crest for the tree lined driveways leading past the buildings to the test track.

        The trees are outside of South Bend and still spell out Studebaker. The track and facility are still there but I don’t know how much is still used and how much is a public park.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Does Tire Rack use an old Studebaker test track in South Bend, IN?

  • avatar

    You never know where there’s going to be a test track. I was driving down Plymouth Road in Livonia and as I was going by the Ford transmission plant, I noticed there was some banking. When I got home I checked the satellite view and sure enough there’s a paper clip shaped oval track that’s about 4500 ft long.

    Then there are the rooftop test tracks. Fiat had one in Italy, Chrysler had one in Argentina and Imperia had one in Belgium. Apparently they’re building an auto mall in Istanbule with a rooftop test track.

  • avatar

    Ronnie, when did the camouflaged testing of future models on public roads start.

    I do not mean the use of test mules of putting the next models running gear under the current body which I guess has gone on almost from the birth of the industry . Rather the practice of covering prototype or preproduction items with a covering that makes working out what it will realy look like rather difficult .

    They say the memory is the second thing to go……..

    • 0 avatar

      I have no idea, you’d have to ask someone like Jim Dunne or Brenda Priddy, car spy photographers. I see camo’d cars in my neighborhood all the time because the car companies and vendors test them for radio frequency interference because of all the tv and radio towers in the area.

      Actually, the other day on 696 I saw a very lightly covered Alfa Romeo CUV. They didn’t even bother covering up the Alfa grille.

  • avatar

    I read from engrish auto mag that FIAT used to have a roof top track on top of its factory building.
    anybody can elaborate on that?
    is all here.

    I guess most car manufacturers are really betting heavy in middle kingdom.

    • 0 avatar

      Fiat had a roof top track in Italy (it’s still there, they just don’t use it). The assembly line worked its way up the building and then they tested them on the roof.

      Chrysler had one in Argentina. The building is there but the track has been taken down.

      Imperia had one in Belgium that was half at ground level and half on the roof. The rooftop section is still there, the factory is long abandoned.

      More here:

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