Allison Transmission Div. of General Motors pulled out all the stops last month to stage a one-of-a-kind customer "ride and drive" invitational at Florida's Walt Disney World.

The elaborate event gave some 1,650 attendees the opportunity to put a hundred or so Allison-equipped trucks through their paces via three different setups: a roadway course, a construction work zone, and a false-front community dubbed "Allisonville," created with the help of a Hollywood set designer.

"We believe Allison automatics are clearly superior to the alternatives, and we've invited our customers to experience our products in a manner quite unique from ride-and-drives in the past," said Larry Dewey, president of Allison Transmission. "Through experiences in Orlando, our customers will realize in a very real way just how our products work to improve their business performance."

The mock town of Allisonville, established on an out-of-the-way Disney parking lot, was much more than the witty stage set it appeared to be at first glance.

It consisted of a residential neighborhood, a town center with retail, commercial and municipal buildings, as well as a construction site and an on- and off-road course.

Its purpose was to allow customers to safely get the feel for operating all sorts of trucks - everything from tow trucks and e-commerce vans to fire engines and heavy dump trucks - insimulated yet realistic settings.

"The performance of a truck can always be demonstrated in the abstract - on a test track," noted Mitch Murray, manager of marketing programs. On the other hand, he said the month-long Allison event was crafted to enable users to drive their "vehicle of choice" within an environment that best approximated their actual needs.

Along with the test-driving, attendees sat through classroom presentations that pitched them on the benefits of Allison products. In addition, they witnessed special "live" demonstrations of high-tech features of the automatics, such as how their electronic controls prevent the equipment abuse that results from improper shifting of an automatic while in motion.

Customers were also invited to "drag-race" an Allison-equipped truck vs. an identical model having a competitive automated-mechanical transmission to demonstrate which gearbox delivered the quickest acceleration from a full stop.