Ford’s You Yangs proving ground has long held a place in the hearts of many Aussie petrolheads, being the venue where some of our most iconic cars were developed. The Falcon GT-HO, the XC Cobra, the XE ESP – they were all refined and fettled on this hallowed 930 hectares of woodlands fifty klicks south-west of Melbourne. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this month, the You Yangs facility has grown over the decades and even with the end of Ford’s local manufacturing, the test facility will continue to play a part in the development of cars for the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
In fact, the Blue Oval will continue to be the largest automotive employer in Australia, although that’s probably not any great cause for celebration.
One of the first true tests of the fledgling facility was a 112,600 kilometre (70,000 mile) endurance run for the 1965 Falcon XP sedan, which set 49 Australian endurance records during the event.
Cars had to be driven flat out on the ultra-high grip surface, with tyres often lasting just 45 kilometres.
Bob Jane was quoted as saying, "the hardest circuit on a car I’ve veer driven or even seen. Bends all the way… If you make the slightest mistake you’re in trouble.” Several drivers discovered this to their costs and all but one of the five Falcons were rolled. Still, Ford claimed the record and the rest is history.
These days, the You Yangs proving ground takes care of vehicle level attributes, durability testing, crash development and emissions compliance, with development of the Ford Everest SUV and Ranger ute being recent projects. The Indian market Ford Figo was also fettled at the facility.
To celebrate the birthday, Ford chose the proving ground to showcase the 2015 Ford Mustang alongside an original 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT. The old stager was the first Australian-developed GT performance sedan engineered and tested at the proving ground. “The advertising catchphrase promoting the 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT was ‘the Mustang-bred Falcon’ so it’s appropriate to have the 1967 car as part of our celebrations,” Ford President and CEO, Graeme Whickman, said, labeling the proving ground "a pride point" for Ford Australia.
Holden will also retain its Lang Lang proving ground well beyond the end of local manufacturing in 2017. GM President (and former MD of Holden) Mark Reuss has championed the facility and Holden retaining around 300 engineers. "Whether it’s earned on the Proving Ground or created in the GM Australia Design Centre, Holden will keep its proud Australian identity,” GM' President for International Operations Stefan Jacoby said.