Designing the Perfect British Car
When I should be spending my energies on productive, income-producing work, here I am lost in reverie, day-dreaming about something that has captured my imagination ever since I was a barefoot boy with cheeks of tan-- cars.
Could any activity be more frivolous than this? And not only cars, but the bane of my existence, the thing that has stolen my purse, earned me great dollops of contemptuous stares and not a few sharp words from “she who must be obeyed,” caused me to corrupt my first born with a life-long addiction just like mine, led me to spend countless hours bent over a fender peering into the what might be best called the pit of petroleum-covered hell, and nearly blighted my existence.
I of course refer to British cars.
Struggling to put the best face on what I know in my sober moments is indefensible, I rationalize that by these ruminations I am benefitting the larger part of mankind, not just idly wasting time in wool-gathering , but trying to do something singular and useful, something that will benefit all of mankind—to wit; mentally designing the perfect British car.
How do I go about this momentous task, you ask with bated breath? Or am I simply losing you with all this idle rambling and you are just about to turn the page. Bear with me for a moment longer. Great wisdom follows.
Here’s my plan. I imagine all the British cars I know and try to ferret out what makes them most appealing to me. I intend to take their various shining parts and fashion the perfect single vehicle out of all of them. Sort of like creating a Frankenstein monster out of steel and leather and wood.
Don’t ask me how I intend to integrate all these disparate elements into one perfect car. I leave such grunt work to all those engineering types, with their slide rules worn on their belts and their pencils snuggly nestled in pocket protectors worn tenderly over their hearts, who made me feel so inadequate in high school and college. Long division was my highest aspiration. I do the thinking. You do the work. Seems fair to me.
Well, let’s get started. Let’s see, what’s first?
I have always admired the way the cockpit of the MGA’s replicated so neatly the cockpit of those early biplanes flown by such luminaries as Billy Mitchell and Amelia Earhart. So let’s insist on a cockpit lined with gorgeous, buttery-soft, glove leather surrounding the two passengers lushly seated side by side in equally sumptuous bucket seats. We all accept that this configuration gives no space for even a thermos of martinis unless one shares room on the floorboard, but sacrifices must be made for style and art.
The swoops, curves, and arcs of both the early Jaguar and Austin Healey roadsters, and the equally beautiful MGA’s, create such a sensuous feel, evoking a feminine, mammary-like voluptuousness and, at the same time, a masculine grace and proportion evoking Michelangelo’s David that I think we can agree we want our perfect British car to possess the organic elements of these three marques. (Lusty enough for you?)
Speaking of masculine traits, few cars evoke the brawny, in-your-face stance of the TR 6, with its sure-footed, squarely-planted stance, flared fenders, and no-nonsense grill, combining all these elements, somewhat threateningly, to be seeming to say, “You talking to me? Are you talking to me?” Let’s include that slightly dangerous attitude into our perfect British car.
We need an engine growl to give our car just a little more menace. How about capturing the deep, throaty, intimidating basso of the Aston Martin DB 8, mixed with the American-sourced V-8 bravado of the Triumph TR 8, and leaven the mix with the rumble of the Sunbeam Tiger to scare the pants off fleeing pedestrians.
Can we get a touch of the whimsical into our potpourri? Can we capture some of the quaintness of the Morgan or the Metropolitan into our vision of perfection? I don’t know quite what this means yet. How about the motorcycle fenders of the Lotus Super 7, the clown-car feel of the early Mini’s, or the fender mounted rear-view mirrors of the TR 2? How about a better idea?
Reliability, while highly desirable, is more problematic with British cars, which are noted for “Monday after a weekend spent in the pub” construction and oil on the garage floor (Do you know why the British never went into computer manufacturing? Because they couldn’t get them to stop leaking oil.) We have to turn to high-end Rolls Royce and Bentley for this feature, but let’s include it anyway.
I know no one should expect country-club lushness and comfort in a British car, but after having my feet toasted in Austin Healy’s, or my bones pulverized in an MG TD, or my ears assailed by wind noise in a Rover, I’m ready for a little gentle treatment. Let’s capture some of the sybaritic indulgences of the late-model Jaguar XJS or the later XKR models and pamper ourselves, at least in our imagination.
Our ideal British car has to go fast, to snap your head back with acceleration, and to climb into the stratosphere on the speedometer. The Sunbeam Tiger, all the Aston Martins, and the beautiful and fast C Type jaguars of the “50’s and “60’s readily come to mind.
Does this newest, improved pastiche of British cars sound divine? Does it sound wonderful? Does it sound impossible? Likely, I’m afraid. “Fugidabouit’ may be the phrase that comes to mind.
As we descend reluctantly to earth, we are reminded of the words of the immortal Bard, who wrote,
“Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter.
To sleep a king, but waking, no such matter.”
Waking, no such matter. That is the likely outcome of this little trip to Oz for us, or at least for me. But, how wonderful to dream.
This is my dream. You might find fault with it, or have some additions or subtractions, but this is my dream. Maybe you can make your own.
Now, no more castles in the air as we come back to the here and now.
Happy upcoming Halloween and, with this gorgeous weather, don’t let the gremlins keep you from driving your LBC.
Our August 20 “Dog Days Rally” was quite a success, especially in terms of benefit to our canine friends. Not only did we have six of our members cars show up, but we collected 180 pounds of pup food and some considerable financial contributions to the Pensacola Humane Society. The event, which had a fair-like quality and was not limited to sports cars, drew everyone from religious groups to a display of professional wrestlers practicing their craft at the Warrington Shopping Center in what turned out to be lots of fun. Club members participated in a rally organized by Rich and Darla Willows around some really interesting and seldom-visited Pensacola terrain. Rally first place went Bob and Risa Manske, in their 2009 Jaguar XK, second to Mark Cherry with his 1963 jaguar XKE and, flash! The sparkling, dazzling 1974 TR 6, driven by your loyal correspondent and navigated by Mickey McNair, failed again to even place. Can you believe that once again, your loyal correspondent unjustly tastes the bitter ashes of defeat? One asks, when will old wrongs be finally righted? When will justice triumph? Time wounds all heels, we believe, but not soon enough, and so on.
The September 10 Gulf Shores, Alabama Zoo Tour drew about twenty drivers and co-pilots in ten British cars, starting out near Perdido Key in Pensacola. PBCA members were joined by a similar number of Mardi Gras MG members, led by events chair Dick Bishop, all of which participated in a rally organized by Mickey and Kay Kay, and continued with lunch at Doc’s Seafood in Gulf Shores, Al, (I know you are never to play poker with a fellow called ”Doc.” At first blush, it also seems dicey to eat at a place called “Doc’s.” I always wonder whether it got that appellation from the proprietor’s ability to render medical aid, if necessary, to customers after dining. However, I am assured that Doc’s Seafood is sterling and no need to worry.) The Tour indeed with a visit to the Gulf Coast Zoo, which was featured after Hurricane Ivan on the television show “Animal Planet” as “The Little Zoo That Could,’ which documented their incredible efforts in moving all of the animals before the storm decimated the entire Zoo and surrounding area. Amazingly, they didn’t lose a single animal in the evacuation. Thus ended a beautiful day blessed by cool and pleasant weather.
September 16 was again Gallery Night in Pensacola and PBCA showed up with about eight cars parked in downtown Pensacola among lots of modified and restored American cars. Traffic was again restricted in downtown Pensacola, allowing easy walking among the musicians, street sellers, gallery displays, and revelers. This event just seems to grow with every iteration. Those attending were : Tom Pocta, Lotus; Bob and Risa Manske and daughter and son-in-law, MG TF; Bill and Donna Weeks, MG Midget; Rich and Darla Willows, TR 3B;Richard Lewis and Mickey McNair, TR 6,; Joe Hajack, MG TD; and Tom and Jeanne Schmitz, MG TF.
The September 19 PBCA monthly meeting month, with the usual matters of business, included Mike Bamford’s advice on British cars. Mike, a well known restorer and corrector of British car’s little foibles, shared a wealth of knowledge in his talk on “How to Select the Right British Car For You” with those of us so much less knowledgeable. Most of us silently reflected on the mistakes we had made in past purchases, but were grateful for directions for the future.
Circle October 22. There are so many exceptional events during the upcoming months that it is hard to choose from this wonderful menu, but, out of sequence, we want to especially ask you to include on your calendar October 22, the date of the “British Car Festival 2011.” This is the South Alabama British Car Club’s premier event, held in nearby Fairhope, Alabama on the campus of Faulkner College. Our sister club’s annual show, exceptional in every way, is not to be missed by PBCA members. It is a real treat, held in a truly charming town, for all British car enthusiasts and draws some really seldom-seen marques. Don’t miss it.
September 24 will welcome the Natchez Car Show, held in that delightful Mississippi city. Several PBCA members plan to caravan from Pensacola on what promises to be beautiful driving weather. This too is a show too delightful to miss. We’ll have pictures and a report next month.
October 1 is the annual South Alabama British Car Club (SABCC) Ice Cream Social at the Daphne, Alabama home of Richard and Donna Cunningham, to be held in the fabled “Garagemahal,” a luxurious temple for coddling British cars, and once again, PBCA has been invited to join old friends. The event starts at 2 p. m. and it is a good idea to get there on time to have first digs into the ice cream and other treats. Guests are encouraged to bring their favorite toppings. More is to follow via email from Tom Schmitz, including directions.
October 15 sees the 11th Annual Navarre Beach Car, Truck, and Bike Show, to be held at Navarre High School. The show draws from a wide range of automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts and has in the past had some really beautiful examples of a wide range of vehicles. Club parking areas are provided for those making prior arrangements.
October 15 is also the date of the “Fallen Heroes Memorial Cruise In” at the USS Alabama Battleship Park on Mobile Bay. There is a $10 donation per car which goes to the fund to build the War Memorial to our fallen heroes. Again, email will follow with more information.
November 5 is the date of the 10th Annual Marine Corps League Car Show in Pensacola. We expect to have a very good turnout for this local show. The location is 5 Flags Speedway on Pine Forest Road and registration is 8 to 11 a. m.
Watch for several emails advising you of times, directions, and details for these upcoming events.