For as long as I can remember, the name Milner has been synonymous with off road racing, engine conversions and of course parts and accessories. My last dealings with Milner was around 7 years ago when I had an imported Toyota Surf, they were one of only a handful of places where I could buy spare parts at a reasonable price that were delivered promptly every time - what more could you ask for?
These days however, things have moved on a bit, they still provide good quality spares and accessories for Japanese trucks, but they’re also, and I quote, churning out some excellent off roader racers that have a habit of winning! With that in mind, I had to take a look.
Milner off Road can be traced back to the very early 80’s when Trevor Milner was into off road racing and I, incidentally, was still at school. Back then it seemed that everyone wanted to swap their petrol engines for the more powerful and economical Japanese diesels, so he began developing engine conversion kits. Not long after, Trevor noticed that the market for Japanese 4x4 parts was getting bigger and decided to do what any savvy businessman would do, and Milner Off Road was born.
Since then, the conversion side of the business has been sold on, and now with a strong, knowledgable sales team and enthusiastic engineering side, they focus on parts and racing. Milner aren’t just about imports, they supply common serviceable items, exhausts, fuel tanks, suspension, wheel and tyre combo’s for most of the Japanese 4x4’s you see on the road today. In fact, with over £2 million in parts alone they’re even outgrowing their new purpose built premises that they moved into in 2006.
Walking around their warehouse it’s evident that they carry a massive range of stock, with 30 parts staff, racks bulging with parts (many being OE spec), and there’s a whole floor dedicated to exhaust systems!
On their website you’ll also find part diagrams for your vehicle to make easy for you to narrow down those elusive parts you require, anything they say to help make your buying experience be as easy and trouble free as possible.
Although they still supply parts for Surfs and Pajero’s, these days Andrew told me, it’s the Mitsubishi L200 that’s popular. But as we all know, time stands still for no one, and as all vehicles evolve and become more technical, Milner are constantly updating their stock and knowledge to stay ahead of the parts game. With that in mind, you wouldn’t be surprised to read that even main dealers form a part of their customer network.
As well as suppling to both trade and retail customers in the UK, their parts often find themselves in the remotest parts of the world, with deliveries sent out to Cook Island in the South Pacific, clutches to Africa for a couple on expedition, they’ve even had enquiries for Land Cruiser parts from BBC’s Top Gear team.
A mile or so up the road I parked up in front of their other building and met up with Dave Chapman and Tim Marsh who form part of the racing and engineering side of the business. Years ago when I actually ‘worked’ for a living, I was constantly told that when I dealt with customers it was me who they saw representing the company. Well, just chatting to Dave and Tim for a short while it was evident that they take great pride in their work, showing off their creations, modifications and engineering skills with real enthusiasm.
As a company, Milner obviously make more money selling kits, but I got the impression that both Dave and Tim would rather build a vehicle from scratch so they know it’s spot on when it leaves. So, with millions of pounds being invested in the racing side of things and having produced 30 vehicles so far, I was hoping they’d have a demonstrator vehicle for me to have a play in. They both chuckled, Tim explained that every time they build one, it gets sold. ‘We simply can’t keep them!’
Sitting alongside the new LRM-1 in Milner’s current line up is the R5. The R5 is an evolution of the previous R4 that’s lower, lighter and faster. Dave explained that they can build them with any engine and transmission combination the customers wishes. Previous builds so far have included engines from Ford, Chevrolet, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Rover, Lexus and a Millington 2.7 Diamond engine. Although you can have pretty much any engine you want, Tim explained that for around £5k delivered, the Chevy V8 from the Corvette is good simple engine, and as a bonus, everything’s metric!
Your decisions don’t stop there, suspension wise you can have Varidamp dampers or Donerre Lithium 3-way or 5 way adjustable dampers with internal hydraulic bump stops and DETRA fast rebound system that’s available with ART (Anti Roll Technology). The bodywork can be supplied in either basic chopped strand fibreglass or various composite materials - or a mixture of both. Milner can also supply them gel coated to a colour of your choice, so that’s one less worry.
The LRM-1 came about when Land Rover, recognising their expertise and knowledge gained over 30 years of cross country racing, approached Milner in a joint effort to create a competitive race car and promote themselves in the rally scene. Although it’s still instantly recognisable as an Evoque, and arguably one of the best looking cars to be launched in the UK since the Allegro (kidding!), clad in a composite body shell it’s actually scaled to 4/5 the size of a real Evoque.
Built using a full space frame chassis with double wishbone, fully independent suspension, the LRM-1 uses parts and technologies from some of the best brands in motorsport, and therefore capable of competing at the highest level from the outset as all of the development has been carried out over the last 2 years in Milner’s own 'works' test car.
The first production car had the latest Land Rover 5.0 V8 supercharged engine producing in excess of 550BHP and 680Nm of torque. The transmission is a 6spd sequential gear box driving a Milner transfer box and Milner differentials with Quaife centres throughout. There’s no denying that it looks stunning, either stood posing or doing the business in the NORC, AWDC, Britpart & Scottish championships. (Harriet was keen to point out that they have vehicles top of the table in all of the above championships).
Depending on how much change (and large denomination notes), you can dig out from the back of your sofa, the LRM-1 is available to customers as a turn-key car or as a rolling kit with a choice of power plants and transmission packages. Whether it’s the LRM-1 or R5 that tickles your fancy, a full, street legal vehicle can usually be supplied in around 3 months of your order.
Admittedly, there are other 4x4 racers out there, so when I asked the simple, why would I want to buy from Milner, I received a very simple answer, ‘Because you want to win!’ The thing is, it isn’t a conceited answer, the results simply speak for themselves.
Of course, they don’t just build fast and reliable racers, they service them and fix them too. Over the years their engineering expertise has been called upon, not just by the MOD and drivers who want a competitive racer, but when Hollywood came knocking too.
Milner has provided 4WD systems, transfer cases, steering and suspension set ups for all manner of famous vehicles. Some examples are both the Aston Martin and Jaguar XK8 from the frozen lake scene in 007’s ‘Die Another Day’, and they also provided the shocks and steering for the Land Rover Defender in ‘Skyfall’.
The Batmobile from ‘Batman Begins’ wouldn’t exist without Milner’s expertise either as the Americans said that it couldn’t be built due to its complexities. Once the English special effects team mulled it over and said it could, they contacted Milner to do the rest. More recently, Milner have been asked to design and build the dampers on a buggy for a new, up and coming Guy Ritchie film, is there no end to their skills?
Fame however hasn’t sent them over the edge, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to racing and engineering or the sales team for parts, what’s evident is that both Milner divisions are a happy and dedicated bunch who are always happy to help.