Packards are the main vehicles featured at the annual Packard Proving Grounds and Cruise-in Car Show, but  other collector cars are welcome to participate.  The event will take place Oct. 17 this year.

Packards are the main vehicles featured at the annual Packard Proving Grounds and Cruise-in Car Show, but other collector cars are welcome to participate. The event will take place Oct. 17 this year.

Photo provided by Roy Rodgers

Historic Packard Proving Grounds fall open house returns for 16th year

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 4, 2021


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Historic Packard Proving Grounds will be hosting its annual Fall Open House and Cruise-in Car Show once again from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 17, rain or shine, in Shelby Township.

The event is family-friendly and free with donations accepted to benefit the renovation of the grounds. Donations will be accepted at the registration desk.

The primary attraction is the cars, and the event has no judging or registration fees. Packards are the main vehicles being featured, but all collector cars are welcome.

Some activities this year will include viewing the historic buildings, the car show, live music, a variety of vendors and food trucks, rides in historic Packards and Gar Woods’ 38-foot Miss America X race boat.

The live music will be performed by the Belgian American Association Band.

The Shelby Township Fire and Police departments also will be attending. “Taxi” rides in a Packard will be available, weather permitting.

Plenty of free public parking for the event is available on-site.  

In 2019, the Fall Open House attracted more than 425 cars and well over 1,500 spectators. Historic Packards were well represented, with 23 examples arranged in the courtyard.

Tom Mitchell, the open house coordinator, said the Packard Proving Grounds Open House has been a time-honored tradition since 2005, when it was a smaller, Packard-centric event.

“Since then, it has grown into a larger, community outreach and fundraising event that includes a car show featuring Packards but including all types of interesting cars and trucks from all brands and decades. The car show has no entry fees, judging or trophies, but it is a low-key friendly event where many car enthusiasts bring out their show-worthy collector vehicles for one last outing before putting them away for winter,” he said in an email interview.  

He said that many local residents visit year after year to see the results of ongoing restoration efforts and improvements on the historic site.  

“Buildings worth visiting are the Repair Garage (now a reception hall and popular wedding venue) and the Tank Building, current home of the 38-foot Miss America X race boat, powered by four Packard V12 engines. Examples of other Packard marine engines are also on display there, along with several of our historic Packard cars, including a firetruck, a concept car from the 1950s and Henry Joy’s personal car, on loan from the Detroit Historical Museum. Many Packard displays and artifacts are on view there, as well,” he said.

He said that, in addition to the other activities, a few more fun stops will be the bake sale and the gift shop, where people can buy a variety of Packard merchandise.

The gift shop has new items for purchase such as T-shirts, caps, glassware and collectables.

“Assorted vendors will also be represented, along with representatives and equipment from the Shelby Township Police and Fire departments. If you get a little hungry or thirsty, a food truck will be there to provide for those needs. You can enjoy a ride in a fine Packard automobile if weather permits. Other planned features are a display of wooden model boats and a hand-built 1934 Packard pedal car any kid would have loved to have as their own back in the day,” Bruce Webster, a member of the Packard Proving Grounds Board of Trustees, said in an email interview.

All afternoon, music will fill the air, provided by the Belgian American Association Band. Past events featured the music of the Johnny Trudell Orchestra. Trudell died in May at the age of 82.

“This year, we mourn the loss of our long-time band because of the loss of leader Johnny Trudell. The Trudell band was loved by all. The band excelled in performing music from the Packard era,” said Webster.

The Packard Proving Grounds started as a testing site for the Packard Motor Co. and encompassed about 560 acres. It was dedicated in 1928 and active from 1928 to 1956. During World War II, it was an Arsenal of Democracy site used for testing tanks.

“The first open house was in October 2005. The attraction was apple cider and doughnuts at a cost of $98. We were lucky to have a beautiful fall day, which brought out a couple of Packard cars. The attendees were our volunteers, and their families and numbered about 40. The cars were primarily from the Motor City Packards members who are still very supportive of the Proving Grounds,” said Webster.

He said the small but enthusiastic group was glad to see that the historic site was being cared for and steadily improved. The event resulted in a few more local volunteers who were helpful for years.

“The open house has been a tradition ever since this first effort. We have only missed during the COVID year of 2020,” said Webster.

The event will be at the Historic Packard Proving Grounds, which is located at 49965 Van Dyke Ave. in Shelby Township.

For questions, call the Packard Proving Grounds at (586) 739-4800.