By Rory Gammell
It’s been three years since my last look at the MoD’s now well-established defence promotion event ‘DVD’. The Millbrook-based show has grown considerably over the years, but does bigger mean better?…
Well, for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s show, but it did come with a number of irritations. Unfortunately the first niggle came right at the beginning with an enormous queue for the compulsory safety video. One couldn’t help feeling sorry the poor companies whose stands were blocked by this flood of people. It seemed that the MoD had not accounted for the massively increased influx of entrants to the show, with many people waiting almost an hour. Thankfully the process was sped up and people were moved through without having badges stamped. Though this then spawned another problem the following day as the badge looked invalid. The organisers really must sort this out for next year, or they risk scaring people away.
More disappointing for me was the reduction in the interactive side of the event that had won me over in 2005. Yes, the show has grown and there were more stands promoting their various products and services. But there were fewer opportunities for test drives, and gone were the hair-raising rides round the race track, the F1 racing simulator, and even the speed ring – arguably Millbrook’s centrepiece, which had become a car park to cope with the increased admissions. Let’s hope they’ll find somewhere else to park the cars next year.
Being a bit of a car nut, to find that all these engaging activities had been scrapped was of course a little frustrating. That said, my few laps on the hill track in a new M-sport BMW 330d were really pretty exciting. Had I got my act together in time, I could also have had a spin in the new TDV8 Range Rover Sport. The opportunity to test drive such serious machinery is absolutely fantastic, particularly for anyone who drives an ordinary hatchback like I do. I couldn’t help thinking – if only they had expanded this side of the show as much as the rest of it.
Fortunately, the off-road section still had plenty to be proud of. I was pleased to see that there was still a substantial arsenal of military machinery being put through its paces on one of the most highly regarded off-road tracks in Europe. What a brilliant way to showcase a vehicle’s potential (though a little embarrassing for those that don’t make it round…).
I managed to line up passenger rides in almost every class of vehicle (perhaps by milking my press pass just a little). I was particularly impressed by Supacat’s superb HMT range: the 400 and 600 both devouring any sort of terrain at ruthless speed, yet in remarkable comfort thanks to its airbag suspension system. £400,000 gets you a serious machine, but then it should. A Unimog perhaps represented better value for money at a mere £100,000 by going all the same places, albeit with less speed and more bumps. A competition-prepared V8 Defender equipped with KAM’s ultra-tough differential among other kit was an impressive ground-coverer too. A bit of persuasion granted me a ride in a Pinzgauer, another distinguished off-road machine seen rarely outside the forces, had no problems on the tough stuff. Unfortunately there were fewer opportunities to get behind the wheel this time. It seems that manufacturers are trying to cover their backs to ensure care is taken of their machinery. Retail prices for some of these machines are astronomical, so perhaps this is not surprising. Shame though.
Like in 2005, my most memorable round of the off-road ground was with Mercedes Benz’s own ‘Heinrich’. At DVD, people bow down at the mere utterance of this regal name. Heinrich is a superhuman off-road demon drafted in specially from Germany to show everyone how it’s done in his customised 6-wheeled G-Wagen. The G-Class demonstrates a classic example of the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy, much like that of Land R