Millbrook takes its name from the nearby village where, in the early 19th century, a flourishing community of Mills nestled around a picturesque brook. By the late 1800s the population exceeded 600 but with the last of the mills being demolished by 1940 it rapidly declined to today’s 140 inhabitants. The village shop, bakery and blacksmith have all gone and the village school was closed in 1977. The church remains and its position and height dominate the neighbourhood.
In 1923, the General Motors Technical Committee, under the chairmanship of Alfred P. Sloan Jr, determined following a rather less than satisfactory brake test on public roads near Flint, Michigan (the road was repaved by the highways department between design changes) that a test surface should be built.
It was proposed that a piece of level pavement should be constructed but Mr Crane, an assertive member of the Committee, suggested that this would only partially answer the questions. In order to effectively evaluate an automobile, he decreed, it would be necessary to provide a hill of at least 10 percent gradient.
The result was that in 1924, construction began on the General Motors Proving Ground at Milford in Michigan. A year later it was widely agreed that test operations on hill roads was an important part of automobile testing and the 7.2 percent and 11.6 percent grades were constructed. Following nearly 40 years of operation of the oval high-speed track a circular 4.5 mile circumference banked high-speed track was built in 1963.
Millbrook Proving Ground Under Construction
In the mid 1960s, Vauxhall and Bedford decided that, whilst the new and almost deserted M1 motorway close to Luton presented some very interesting testing opportunities, a better policy for future vehicle development was to learn from the GM experience and build a dedicated proving ground.
With the importance of hills now well established, a task force scoured the UK for a site that was both flat and hilly, unfortunately ruling out the traditional choice of a former airfield. At last the Millbrook site was located, coincidentally but usefully close to Luton and London, and a smaller version of the North American General Motors Proving Ground was constructed. The new facility replicated many of the most successful features of the Milford site and benefited from the accumulated wisdom of more than 50 years of proving ground operation.
Construction work began in April 1968. 2,600,000 cu.yds. of earth were moved to sculpt the necessary track features into the existing but barren landscape. At the height of the earth-moving work 51 machines were moving 125,000 cu.yd. of earth each week. Many ammonites (shell like fossils around 150 million years old) were unearthed. 3,500 tons of hand laid granite blocks formed the 0.9 mile Belgian pave circuit.
73,000 tons of aggregate and 9,000 tons of cement went into the five lane high-speed circuit. 20,000 cu.yds of hardcore, 1,450 tons of cement, 4,500 tons of aggregate and 25,000 tons of sand were used to make the mile straight. The circular steering pad required 6,000 cu.yds. of hardcore, 1,300 tons of cement and 6,000 tons of aggregate. Over 200,000 trees were planted including both conifers and indigenous deciduous varieties, helping nature to return to an area that for many years had been notably lacking in natural beauty.
Early Days of Millbrook
The ubiquitous Viva. For many years, Vauxhall cars and Bedford trucks, buses and military vehicles consumed the efforts of the small staff team based at Millbrook.
Millbrook Operates Independently
In 1988 a new company, Millbrook Proving Ground Ltd, was formed to trade independently as a wholly owned subsidiary of Group Lotus.
The entire staff successfully faced the enormous challenge of transitioning from a department of a major vehicle manufacturer to a nimble customer focussed organisation in the tough world of automotive consulting.
In 1993 Millbrook was separated from Group Lotus by transferring its shares to GM Holdings UK Ltd. The company continued to flourish as an independently managed business, focussing investment on increasingly high technology areas of vehicle design such as crash mitigation, emissions control and component durability. The core track-based whole vehicle durability business was also supported with new facilities and steady, profitable growth ensued.
Millbrook Group Formed
Millbrook Group was formed in 2015 when Millbrook acquired Test World, a world leading winter vehicle and tyre test business.The Group operates facilities in the UK and Finland and manages test, developmentand engineering programmes for customers across the world. Representatives in other Countries offer local support.
Millbrook’s employees are passionate about safety, customer service and technical excellence, making them ideal partners at any stage in the development and launch of the vehicles of tomorrow.
2016 - Millbrook joins Spectris plc
Millbrook Group is part of the Test and Measurement business segment of Spectris, a leading supplier of productivity-enhancing instrumentation and controls. The integration enables Millbrook to continue with its ambitious plans for growth, accelerating capital investment and international expansion.
Passionate about Safety, Customer Service and Technical Excellence