VETERAN PROTOTYP E DRIVER RECALLS THE GOOD TIMES AT PROVING GROUND
THERE may be a ‘‘cone of silence’ surrounding every facet of activities a GM-Holden’s Lang Lang proving groun cannot hide its birthday.
The hi-tech, top-secret facility celeb 50th last year.
Like Ford’s You Yangs facility near the GM-Holden Lang Lang proving gro tucked out of sight and out of mind—
In 1955, when Holden bought the h wooded land southeast of Melbourne executives had a vision of testing the real-world conditions but away from p eyes.
On August 13, 1957, when the faci opened, there was little more than a collection of rough, unsealed roads, a modest buildings and lots of wildlife.
Radio communication between car drivers was a rarity and few of the prot had heaters, making winter testing ar
Test drivers had to wear coats, sca hats to handle the cold and often the would get bogged and be out of action day or two.
Engineers and test drivers had rudi measuring equipment and the condit were worlds away from today’s hi-tech
Long-time Lang Lang veteran Allan has had a 43-year career at the ‘‘PG’’ known by staff.
Until his retirement just over 12mo
’ at nd, but it
brated its Geelong, ound is — almost. heavily e, Holden ir cars in rying
a few rs and totypes rduous. arves and cars n for a mentary ions h facility. George, , as it is
onths ago, he was assistant proving-ground manager and his knowledge is so sought after he’s often lured back to do contract work.
George vividly recalls driving FC and FB prototypes around the mostly unsealed roads when he started as a night shift driver in 1959.
‘‘The place was just a shell in those days,’’ he says.
George’s job was to test the hand-built prototypes that were worth about $500,000 and report how the cars performed.
‘‘Today it’s a lot more technical though,’’ he says. ‘‘When I started the driver’s report sheet was one page. It was simple.
‘‘Today it’s more scientific, but there’s a lot more feedback, negative and positive, about the cars that we report back to the engineers.
‘‘We also wrote our reports in layman’s terms, so everyone understood.’’
George has driven some interesting Holdens, many of which are considered classics today.
‘‘When I started we were doing FB prototypes, then the FE. The first high-speed car was an FC and it ran at 75mph (120km/h),’’ he says. The job was far from glamorous. ‘‘We had no seatbelts, no heaters and only two of the cars had radios,’’ he says. ‘‘There was always a mad scramble for the cars with the radios.’’
His favourites are the first Torana XU1, the Torana GT-X and ‘‘of course those early Monaro 327s and 350s were great’’.
However, like a CIA operative, George was unable to talk about the true nature of his work.
‘‘You’d never talk about what you did,’’ he says. ‘‘All you could say is that you worked for Holden.’’
Given his closeness to the General’s products, it’s no surprise he drives a Holden, a VE Commodore.
Since it opened, Holden test drivers and engineers have clocked up more than 120 million kilometres, evaluating prototype, pre-production and current production vehicles over 44km of sealed and unsealed roads.
In that time there have been two significant accidents but only one fatality.
The proving ground occupies 977ha 95km south-east of Melbourne on the Bass Highway. However, blink and you will miss it. In keeping with its top-secret nature, only a small roadside sign indicates that this is where Holden assesses its newest models, often years in advance of them going on sale.
Park anywhere near the facility, on any of the surrounding roads, and you’re likely to find a burly security person tapping on your window.