Woodward Avenue: GM’s testing ground for manual transmissions

Woodward Avenue was the first concrete paved boulevard in the world in 1909 and where the first electric traffic light was installed – now it is home to GM’s Woodward Test, which makes sure the manual transmissions in their Camaros and Corvettes will stand up to everything the street racers who buy them can dish out.

As early as 1967, GM was sending engineers down to Woodward Ave. to improve transmission durability by means of a test procedure based on the rigors of strip driving. Here they recreate the tortures inflicted on manual transmissions and such street testing has become the norm, combining elements of the worst-case shifting style, including repeated high-torque launches and high-rev shifts.

"We've been evolving the Woodward test to make sure our transmissions live through repeated performance-style shifting," said Brad Bur, GM assistant chief engineer for manual transmissions. "Of course we encourage safe driving, but we know burnouts and quick shifting are the reality. We have to design and engineer our transmissions to succeed in every possible scenario, including the street."

The real world feedback extracted on the street that runs from Detroit to downtown Pontiac is estimated to have provided a nearly 600-percent increase in flawless transmission shift cycles.

"This is one of the ways we are able to offer one of the best powertrain warranties in the business," said Bur. "We use this test on all our performance manual transmissions like those found in the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro."

Woodward Avenue is also home of the Dream Cruise, a vintage car cavalcade dating back to the automotive heydays of the ‘50s and ‘60s. It takes place along Woodward Avenue in Detroit and its northern suburbs. The event usually draws more than 1.5 million participants and spectators to celebrate the automotive heritage of the Motor City.

So the next time you burn some rubber by laying scratch when the light turns green on your favorite strip, give a salute to the GM engineers and Woodward Avenue – they’ve spent more than 40 years teaching that shifter to sing so sweetly.

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