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1969 L88 Vintage Corvette Tours the Milford Proving Grounds

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 8/10/2018 Walt Thurn
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John Heinricy (www.heinrocket.com) was inducted into the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame in 2014. His selection was based upon his successful 38-year engineering career at General Motors. He joined the company in 1970 and retired in 2008. He summed up his job experience by saying, "Where else could you find a job that lets you play with cars all day?" He started his work at Chevrolet as an Experimental Test Engineer at the Milford Proving Grounds. He was promoted to Manager of the Front Wheel Drive Development Group and continued gaining additional job responsibilities during his time with the company.

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We caught up with John at a National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) Motor City Regional (www.michiganncrs.org) in Detroit. The weekend event was sponsored by Les Stanford Chevrolet (www.corvetteking.com) and has about 250 members. One of the weekend activities was a Corvette-only driving tour of the Milford Proving Grounds. George Haddad, owner of Fabulous Restorations (www.fabulousrestorations.com) brought his stunning replica of the Owens Corning 1969 Corvette L88 (Stunning L88 Replica, July '18) from his shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The original Owens Corning Corvette team traces its heritage back to its headquarters in Troy, Michigan. In addition, the team did some testing at the Milford Proving Grounds. With the Milford Proving Grounds driving tour on the schedule, George invited John Heinricy to drive his L88 replica on the tour, and John accepted his invitation.

The Milford Proving Grounds opened in September 1924 and has been in continuous operation ever since. The facility covers 4,000 acres in two counties and is the largest automotive test facility in the world. It is home to over 5,300 employees and operates 24/7/365. This giant property has 174 buildings, many miles of roadway and the famous 67-acre Vehicle Dynamic Test Area (VDTA) known as "Black Lake." It is also home to the Milford Road Course (MRC) that is used extensively for suspension evaluation. Security is always tight at Milford because of the "secret" vehicles undergoing testing.

Our NCRS tour began in the parking lot of Bakers of Milford restaurant. Only Corvettes were allowed to pass through the entrance (Gate 104) of the proving ground complex. Our rental Chevy Cruze did not qualify, so we had to hunt for a ride. Fortunately, Tom Dingman (Detroit NCRS Judging Chairman) invited us to take photos from his beautiful Nassau Blue '65 L78 (396/425) coupe. Tom is a Corvette hobbyist who lives in Michigan and restored this car himself.

Close to 50 Corvettes of every generation left Bakers under police escort to make the 3.6-mile drive to the proving grounds. Tom tucked in behind the stunning L88 replica and the throaty rumble of two big-block engines entertained us. The group met inside the administration building for a security briefing and the signing of waivers. At the end of our driving tour we had arranged, in advance, to do a private photo shoot with John driving the L88 replica on the 3-mile Milford straightaway and the MRC. It was a dreary, rainy day, but Heinricy and Dingman kept both cars in the correct positions for our photos. After our tour we caravanned back to Bakers and returned the L88 to its trailer. We said our goodbyes and everyone, including Heinricy, had big smiles on their faces after touring this historic place.  Vette

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