In 2020, the iconic Millbrook Proving Ground celebrates 50 years since opening as the Bedfordshire Proving Ground. The facility was originally built by General Motors as a dedicated testing and development facility for Bedford and Vauxhall. However, Millbrook was – and is – unusual for featuring flat and hilly sections.
It took two years to build and involved moving nearly two million cubic metres of earth, laying more than 100,000 cubic meters of aggregate, hardcore, sand and cement and the planting some 200,000 trees. The site soon became an integral part of the development of Vauxhall models from the Victor FE onwards. General Motors sold the facility to the Spectris plc, a supplier of high-tech instruments, test equipment and software, in 2016.
In 1988, Millbrook Proving Ground began to trade independently as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Group Lotus – itself part of General Motors at the time. This was the start of Millbrook’s role as an automotive test service provider. It enjoyed steady growth of both customers and capabilities throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Once separated from General Motors, Millbrook expanded when the business acquired world-leading winter vehicle and tyre testing facility, Test World, in northern Finland. A year later, Millbrook was acquired by Spectris plc, under whose ownership it continues to thrive.
Millbrook has invested £120m in its test facilities since 2015. This includes acquiring Detroit-based, EV driveline test system and test service provider, Revolutionary Engineering in 2018 and opening a new Millbrook Revolutionary Engineering site in California in 2019. It also acquired the Lancashire-based Leyland Technical Centre in 2017, adding to its physical test capabilities in the UK.
The original Proving Ground in Bedfordshire has enjoyed significant investment in recent years. In 2019, it opened the UK’s most comprehensive independent propulsion systems test, validation and certification facility. It also opened its Battery Test Facility – the UK’s largest private investment in independent battery testing. It became home to the UK’s first 5G network for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and opened the Autonomous Village to enable the development of CAVs onsite. However, for AROnline readers, it will be forever associated with some classic Vauxhall-related footage, such as this lovely 1972 promotional film, below.