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ROMEO, Mich. - On May 19, 1957, Ford announced the completion of the Michigan Proving Grounds, near Romeo, Mich.
The project involved the largest, privately funded earth moving project in the history of Michigan - some 4 million cubic yards of earth were moved – the equivalent of digging 13,000 average-sized home basements.
The rolling topography of the site provided just the right setting for construction of the wide variety of roads in all shapes, sizes and styles to which American motorists were subjecting their vehicles.
The Detroit Times described the 3,880 acre test facility as an auto “torture chamber,” which allowed Ford to test drivers to put in 6 million miles of testing in 1957 to help make Ford products safer, more durable and better performing.
The high-speed track, with nearly 200,000 square yards of nine-inch-thick, reinforced concrete, was used to pave the oval which was 60 feet wide and five miles long.
One of the reasons the company built the new proving ground was to provide a network of good, medium and bad roads for routine 20,000 and 60,000 mile car-endurance tests.
A total of 80,000 tons of bituminous concrete and aggregate binder were used to lay the proving grounds two paved durability roads.
The proving ground also included a 2.5 mile concrete straightaway and an eight mile rough gravel durability road.
Originally, the site was the home to one of the world’s most famous herds of Hereford cattle. The farm’s owner, Edward F. Fisher, sold the farm and auctioned the livestock, with one of the animals alone bringing in $85,000.
Fisher was an auto executive who established the farm in 1928 and named it Hi-Point Farm because it included the highest land elevation in Southeastern Michigan. From its 1,167-foot top, called Mt. Trombly, one could see boats on Lake St. Clair.
Once the site opened, the once unfamiliar sounds of brakes bringing a car to a screeching halt, engines roaring out the last bit of horsepower and the thuds of springs and shock absorbers being taxed to the limit came to the countryside.
That first year, more than 400 test drivers, mechanics and clerical workers, most of whom were transferred from the company’s Dearborn test track, took up post at the site.