Clare L. Caswell
Mr. Proving Grounds
Clare L. Caswell was born on July 4, 1902 in Milan, Michigan. An Independence Day baby, he was the third in a family of eight brothers. The very close band of brothers moved to the Milford area in 1914 with their parents. He attended a one-room school house and achieved his education very early when he graduated after the 8th grade.
He met a beautiful young lady named Viletta Amlotte and the couple were married on November 13, 1926. The union would ultimately lead to three children and two of the sons spent their lives at General Motors also.
He was hired by the General Motors Proving Grounds as a test driver in 1927 at the age of 25. He worked hard and advanced among the ranks of the employees at the Milford Proving Grounds. He was known as a "hard charging" Company man that was feared and respected. During the war years, he specialized in the testing of military vehicles, tanks, and jeeps. His aptitude for engineering testing of these vehicles led to several trips to Alaska for the military when heavy duty trucks were being tested. It was during this time that he was promoted to Assistant Staff Engineer.
During the summer of 1966, he was the Supervisor in charge of the testing of the new product line then referred to as the “F” car. He orchestrated all necessary endurance, reliability, and performance testing to ensure the feasibility and desirability of the Pilot Prototype Camaros. He carefully watched over every aspect of the daily routines of the mechanics and the drivers and provided the direction for all special testing.
These engineering Pilot Prototypes were tested for individual components, as well as, general drivetrain. The performance and the handling of these vehicles were constantly evaluated against the durability of these components. Card tables were set up within the General Motors Garage designated for each individual car and all components removed were documented and reviewed by the necessary mechanics and engineers from their spot on these tables. It was this testing and review that would ultimately lead to whether the same components would be used in the actual assembly line process.
Many components from the “F” car were already proven because of their use on the Chevy II line, but many were being introduced for the very first time. An example of this was the smog pump system that was tested for California emissions on two cars. These cars were studied extensively, as were the longevity and endurance “Mules”. Additionally, Clare spear headed and processed all information gleaned from the pilot reliability audits. A full overview of these particular audits can be viewed on the "Pilot Reliability Audits" page of this site. It was during the research for this biography, done in person and on location, that we learned that two of the Pilot Prototype “F” cars met with an untimely demise at the Proving Grounds. Although we don’t know which two met with high speed destruction, we ascertained that one struck a tree and the other was removed from testing after striking an embankment.
The all new Camaro was the final launch of an all new product line that Clare oversaw. In addition to his involvement in the engineering and testing of the "F" car, factory documents were procured during this interview that attribute Factory Sponsored Nascar prep during the years of 1955 and 1956. He retired in 1967 and devoted himself to Viletta and their six grandchildren. They traveled and enjoyed their lake cottage until the death of Viletta in 1975. After the loss of her, he spent the remainder of his years between the lake cottage and the comfort of his son’s home in Arizona. He suffered a heart attack and passed away on December 4, 1988 while deer hunting in the area that he had grown so fond of. The couple lay together at rest in the Cemetery that carries his childhood home’s name…..Milford Memorial Cemetery.
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By: Logan Lawson
Registrar Of WWW.PilotCarRegistry.com
Copyright 2014 Logan Lawson. All Rights Reserved.