They say fortune favours the brave, so the Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ second annual cavalcade of cars old and new prompted extra loud celebrations.
The inaugural Heritage Day at the National Motor Museum Beaulieu in August 2017 had been staged to mark the Group’s 15th anniversary but was hit hard by rain. Nevertheless, an enthusiastic response by members and their guests from the UK motor industry’s PR departments, encouraged the bold decision to make it an annual event.
Such confidence was rewarded on Wednesday 15 August this year by good weather and another tempting array of classic cars and latest models for attendees to drive and discuss, write, post and Tweet about.
Group chairman Ian Robertson said: “We don’t know what our event organiser and Group secretary Chris Rees did to appease the weather gods this year, but he must bottle some and keep it for the future. It enabled us to enhance what we had last year; some people were like kids in a sweet shop once they clapped eyes on the cars available to drive.”
“And it was great to see our PR colleagues, so often the onlookers and keyholders at their own brand events, get the chance to take various steering wheels and share experiences and banter. I must thank all who came and particularly the PSA Group for its contribution to the pre-event dinner the previous evening.
“We are also delighted to prove that we now have a second major event in our calendar to follow the success of the SGMW Karting Grand Prix, launched in 2014. We hope to make it three as our New Year’s Honours Awards – launched at the start of this year – gets more into its stride.”
Fittingly, Car of The Year from those awards – the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – was a Heritage Day star, but it had plenty of company after PR colleagues 13 motor manufacturers contributed cars from their heritage and modern test fleets.
Car of the Day was a classic Peugeot 205 GTI; for many people, the hot hatch of the 1980s. This example had been stripped down by Peugeot apprentices and rebuilt with a Mi16 engine and other refinements. Many SGMW members and guests lucky enough to get a drive, promptly voted it top car at the event, though it was run close by Mazda’s unusual 1973 RX-3 rotary-engined coupe.
Secretary and organiser Chris Rees said: “As with last year, we can only thank our PR friends for their generosity in making such vehicles available, though it must be said that they all enjoyed jumping in and out of each other’s cars, new and old.
“Other gems were a Ford Transit MkII and XR2i; a Jeep CJ-7; Honda’s immaculate 1989 Prelude and lovely NSX supercar; while Toyota brought an original RAV4 – dubbed the ‘4×4 GTi’ – and the mad rear-engine Aygo Crazy.
“Rather more stately contributions were Vauxhall’s Victor FB estate and a Mk2 Volkswagen Polo.
“Members also brought some of their classics, with Group Treasurer Chris Manning’s 1970s-vintage Toyota Celica Liftback – often described as a miniature of Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang in ‘Bullitt’ – being one of the most popular drives; Toyota PR chief Scott Brownlee was quick to add that to his day’s tally.
“Group members also contributed no less than three Alfa Romeos from the past, to complement the modern Guilia Quadrifoglio attending.”
Other highlights included the presentation of the newly engraved SGMW Karting GP trophy to the event’s 2018 winner, Ford, marking the brand’s hat trick of wins over the past three years. The trophy was accepted on the team’s behalf by Ford Product Affairs Manager Oliver Rowe.
There was also a quiz (questions and answers attached) during the lunch break, won by a team led by Richard Seymour, Toyota Press Officer – Product & Technical.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE 2ND SGMW HERITAGE DAY:
“These are great days because it’s a chance for everybody to get together: the journalists, of course, with the PRs, but also for the PRs to get together with friends and rivals in the industry.” Tom Johnston – Press Relations Manager, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
“I just got passed by Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and that’s probably the highlight of my day. I fumbled my phone out and took a picture!” Scott Brownlee – General Manager, Press Relations and Social Media, Toyota
“It’s been a real pleasure to be here today and enjoy the cars that the manufacturers have brought along, and to meet old friends. Let’s face it, the Southern Group are one of the most friendly and active groups in the country.” John Handcock – Head of Communications, Citroën
“A wonderful day. Great vehicles, great people. It’s not very often as a PR that I get to drive such a breadth of cars, both new and old. Today, I have driven everything from a Ford Transit up to the latest Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio.” Simon Hucknall – PR Manager, Vauxhall & VX Motorsports