Millbrook Proving Ground
Modelled on the Milford Proving Ground operated by General Motors in Michigan, Millbrook was opened in the 1960s by the GM subsidiary Bedford Trucks before passing over to Vauxhall. Due to the geographical needs of a full testing centre, including both hills and flat land, the traditional choice of a former Royal Air Force airfield was ruled out and many sites around the UK were surveyed before the location at Millbrook was decided upon, especially due to having the benefit of being close to Vauxhall's production site at Luton.
Construction began in 1968 and once opened in 1970 acted as the testing site for many European GM models from, amongst others, the Vauxhall and Bedford companies. In 1988 the site was transferred to a new company, Millbrook Proving Ground Limited as part of Group Lotus and began to offer its facilities as well to non-GM companies. With the sale of Lotus in 1993 Millbrook was transferred to GM Holdings UK Limited, as an independently managed company and began to diversify into all aspects of vehicle testing including emission control. In October 2013 Rutland Partners announced it exchanged contracts with General Motors for the acquisition of Millbrook Proving Ground Limited for an undisclosed amount with additional funds being made available for the development of new facilities.
The centre provides vehicle test and development facilities including:
- Vehicle and system assessment
- Powertrain development
- Safety testing.
These are staffed by engineering teams who work with manufacturers on their test and development programmes.
Millbrook has a wide range of types of test tracks. The most prominent are the:
- Hill Route – divided into three sections or loops which contain progressively steeper gradients as well as many tight corners. Sometimes seen in motoring television programmes, for example Top Gear, particularly the "ski-jump" where it is very easy for vehicles to become airborne.
- Outer and Inner Handling (or City Course) circuits – extremely technical twisty circuits used for extreme testing of vehicle dynamic characteristics.
- High Speed Bowl – a two-mile banked circuit used for higher speed testing.
The proving ground maintains a high standard of security and secrecy to protect the commercial interests of its customers. Public access is not generally permitted and the facility is hidden from view. Limited supervised access to the facilities is available through some driver training organisations.
Film and television
Millbrook has been used in the filming of many television programs and films including:
- Casino Royale where James Bond’s Aston Martin DBS V12 rolls
- Top Gear:
- Website of Millbrook Proving Ground Ltd, Millbrook, Bedford
- http://vauxpedianet.uk2sitebuilder.com/vauxhall---millbrook-proving-ground Collection of historic documents on the Millbrook Proving Ground]
- History Millbrook Proving Ground
- Video Portfolio Milbrook Proving Ground