If ever there were a ‘right time, right place’ success story, Millard would be it.
From humble beginnings in the 1940’s, Millard grew to be one of the ‘big five’ caravan manufacturers in Australia (which also included Viscount, Franklin, Chesney and Coronet for those interested!).
Founded by Jim Darlington, Millard is one of Australia’s oldest caravan brands, and it still plays a role in how Australians enjoy the caravan lifestyle today.
The first Millard vans came out of a tiny factory in Mortlake, Sydney, but within 10 years, the business had outgrown this site and moved to a larger factory in North Ryde. This was when Jim’s sons – John and Peter – joined the business, which ended up being a great move for everyone involved.
During the 1960’s, Millard had moved again to a factory in Liverpool, with 250 workers on the floor. At one point, they were building up to 74 caravans a day, averaging 4,000 a year. Pretty impressive!
It was Millard that revolutionised the basic designs of the 60’s, building more modern products into the next decade and beyond. Apparently, John’s wife, June, was responsible for adding a more ‘feminine touch’ to the interiors. Details such as sophisticated colour schemes and high quality curtains gave their caravans a stylish edge over competitors.
Yet another success for Millard was attributed to the fact that they manufactured their own windows. Most brands were using single blade windows or double hoppers, but Millard made wind-out multi hoppers, providing multiple options for ventilation.
Millard decided to manufacture a range of ‘no frills’ vans under the York name between 1969 and 1979. This brand also proved to be very popular, and this business model was copied many times over the following years.
However, in 1979, Millard’s luck finally ran out, and they were forced to sell their assets to rival brand, Viscount. It’s thanks to John Carr from Viscount that Millard still exists today. (An interesting fact is that both companies were so big that the government reviewed the merger before giving the green light!)
The petrol shortage brought high petrol prices, which meant that Australians were not spending their hard-earned cash on big cars and caravans. It was - so to speak - the perfect storm, when a giant hailstorm hit Sydney, damaging hundreds of vans that essentially had to be rebuilt. It was all too much for the business.
After a couple of ownership changes, Viscount’s fortunes also dried up. Gary Willer and Stan Edwards, after being given permission by the Darlington family, resurrected the Millard brand in 2001.
To this day, Millard is still producing premium quality caravans that are much loved by Australian caravanners. We can honestly say it’s been a wild ride!