The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ Test Day was originally conceived as an opportunity for swathes of regional motoring journalists to get their hands on all manner of obscure and exotic machinery that had passed them by over the preceding twelve months.
Millbrook hired and filled with cars, hoards of motoring scribblers from the length and breadth of the nation would congregate in Bedfordshire and put their selections through their paces, before reporting their findings back through their paymasters’ pages.
Motoring writing has undergone something of a transition since those early SMMT Test Days and, chatting to Ed Callow, the eloquent and entertaining mouthpiece of the Society on Twitter and other social media, as well as in real life, it’s evident the event itself has also moved with the times.
As more bloggers and online-only writers have joined the motoring writing fraternity, the event itself is also serving a social function as well as a practical opportunity to sample machinery that simply proves difficult to get hold of during the course of the year.
For manufacturers too, making pioneering steps into a world beginning to be drawn ever deeper into a world of online reviews and opinion, the SMMT Test Day has become a convenient opportunity to put faces to names and Twitter avatars that have been at the other end of typed out conversations over the year.
Millbrook is an expansive facility with a variety of driving routes on offer within its high fences, designed to keep the snooping long lenses of spy shot photographers at bay. A tight and twisty city driving course is in complete contrast with the high speed two mile bowl and whilst the undulating rollercoaster of the hill route was the most popular, the off-road courses were equally worthy of sampling.
With in the region of 100 cars on offer to 300 invited guests time with each selection was limited; subsequently every moment behind the wheel had to be maximised to glean as many initial impressions about each car. Then upon each meeting of someone known from the Twittersphere, sharing impressions of the cars we’d ticked off our lists, confirmed with clichéd hand gestures indicating slip angles and steering wheel inputs.
Seventeen cars were crammed in to the eight hours of track time, the reviews of which are identified here with the #SMMTTestDay hashtag.