British Car Week
Octagon Newsletter Ö May 2000
By Doug Ingram
One of the first things I read when I pick up a copy of Road & Track magazine is Peter Eganís column, 'Side Glances'. His writings capture the essence of the romantic soul that is a great part of my passion for little old British cars. Here he describes seeing a Jaguar XK120 on a highway just outside of Detroit: "The Jag was motoring southbound through a sea of decidedly less interesting cars and trucks (how could it be otherwise?), slinking along in that patented Jaguar stance. It looked like a small Sphinx coming down the highway, gripping a front axle in its paws, borne along on tall wire wheels."
In another column, Mr. Egan describes the various components that he feels make up the romance of motoring. HereĎs one of them: "Mechanical decrepitude or unreliability is also a great boost to the romance of motoring. Which is why almost any British car - especially an old one - offers an immediate escape from the ennui and low status of mere driving. Reaching that mountaintop lodge in your MG TC is a cause for celebration, and it leaves you with a sense of wonder and accomplishment unknown to the driver of, say, a Lexus ES300." Last year, my Sprite took me to the Portland ABFM and back with no problems, and I certainly found this a cause for celebration.
Back in the March 1997 issue, Peter Eganís column was entitled 'Seldom Seen Cars', and this brings me closer to the point of my ramblings. He laments the fact that he very seldom sees old sports cars on the roads anymore. In the article, he reminisces about his younger days in Southern California: "On any Saturday or Sunday, if you hung around a cafe on the Pacific Coast Highway or Mulholland Drive and watched the traffic go by, youíd see one of almost anything in a given hourís time: Cobras, Speedsters, MGAs, TCs, E-Types, and so on." He goes on to relate about the present time: "now in 1997 I could make a fairly long list of cars I rarely or never see: Lotus Elans, TR4s, early Alfas, Morgans, Bugeye Sprites, etc."
Well, it turned out that Mr. Eganís article got the attention of Austin-Healey Internet list member Peter Schauss, who subsequently composed a letter to the other members of his group with a suggestion: "I believe that (Peter Eganís) article calls for a response from us, and I suggest that we designate a week in late spring as 'Drive your British Car Week'. During this week, we would make every effort to drive our LBCs as much as we could - the idea being to get them out on the road where people can see them."
One thing led to another, and with the power of the Internet, many other British car lists got involved and the first British Car Week was organized in just three months for May 12th Ė 18th, 1997. The event grew in 1998 and again in 1999, and this year (2000), British Car Week takes place May 20th to 28th. For the first time, it has been extended to include two weekends to provide additional opportunities.
Think a bit about how much pleasure you get from your British sports car. I cannot imagine being without one. What great enjoyment I receive from getting up on a clear morning in the summer, rolling up the garage door, checking the fluid levels, firing up the little engine, listening to the low rumble as it warms up, then heading off for a drive, going no where in particular. Better yet is getting together with my friends in the Victoria MG Club on a warm evening and puttering along some obscure or unfamiliar roadways to a cool tasty reward and warm conversation. I relish the feeling of pride when some admiring person gives the thumbs up, or yells out "nice car".
The years have not been kind to the British car industry. Most of the marques we enjoy are no longer made and much support has disappeared. Fortunately, others have filled in some of the gaps left by the manufacturers and we are lucky today to have our parts suppliers and our clubs and groups.
Many of us who own British cars do so because we were attracted to them during their heyday in the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. But what about the next generation. Will there be anyone to enjoy and maintain these cars many years from now? Perhaps some of us wonít care, but when I am too old to keep it up, Iíd rather see my car in the hands of some younger enthusiast who will carry on the tradition, who will love the smells, sounds, sights and other sensations that go along with the experience.
British Car Week offers us all a time to get our cars out on the streets in full force, to allow others to see and hear what these old British cars are about, and perhaps a few of those people will get that same feeling that we had when we decided to get involved in this wonderful hobby.
This year, especially during May 20th to 28th, dust off your car and drive it. Donít wait for a club event, or anything special, just drive it. To the store, to the library, maybe even to work. Take time to show it off, and answer questions from curious people. You just might help someone else get hooked. You will definitely help to recreate the days when these cars were a much more common sight on the roads.
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