Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mascots at British Car Festival

The pride of ownership of classic cars is often shown in the accessories intended to personalize those cars- to set them off from similar vehicles. At car shows, stuffed animals and other plush toys are common. We've all seen the pouting toddler doll that is mostly popular with the cruiser set. Thankfully they are rare in our corner of the hobby.

I took a few moments to take a few photos of some of the examples of mascots at British Car Festival 2014. Is yours here?

A Jaguar Napping in a Jaguar Engine Bay

A Very Happy Bulldog in a MINI Engine Engine Bay

A Tiger With a Tail
A Litter of Tiger Cubs in a Tiger
A Brit Bear - OK, It's Mine...


Saturday, October 25, 2014

British Car Festival 2014: An Unqualified Success

Fun Ahead
The 24th annual South Alabama British Car Club's British Car Festival is in the books, and it was the club's most successful to date: 131 cars registered; 126 cars on the field, easily besting last year's record-setting car count. And the day was one that dawned cool, bright and clear - perfect for a car show.

At the conclusion of last year's British Car Festival, the show committee leaders were informed that the South Lawn site at Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope would be unavailable to the club for the event due to the planned construction of a new pavilion and walkway system. While the college regretted the disruption, it simply could not be avoided. Once again, the show was in search of a home. 

The committee heard the participants of previous shows state that they enjoyed the show site closer to the fine shopping and dining district in downtown Fairhope, Alabama. The former site of the show along the shore of Mobile Bay was pleasant, but it was remote from the downtown area. The show committee faced a formidable challenge: find a site large enough to contain the expected entrants while remaining near the desired downtown area. 

Featured Sunbeam Tigers
Several committee members were associated with the leadership of Fairhope United Methodist Church and mentioned our plight to them. After a few conversations, the club had an invitation to conduct the show on the lovely campus of the church. And as a bonus, it is located just one block south of the Faulkner campus site- still close to the downtown area that the show participants enjoy so much. Once the site was confirmed, committee volunteers were solicited and planning began in earnest.   

Big Healeys a Crowd Favorite
The show committee was made up of volunteers who had served in positions on previous shows along with some newcomers wanting to help out. The experienced show committee chairs set to work with their groups to prepare for the day.

Late MGBs
First and foremost, the field layout required some professional help and we got it in the form of club member and civil engineer, Fletcher Thompson. Fletcher measured the site's various parking areas and drew up detailed drawings showing the committee how many cars could be parked in a given area. His professional opinion said we had room for 141 cars.

Now we needed to get the word out to public at large and SABCC'er Myra Evans worked with local media to make sure that our event was on the calendars of the many newspapers and magazines that serve the Mobile and Baldwin County area of south Alabama.

Registration is the most crucial part of the event and the committee ably lead by charter member Jack Ross kept the records correct for those pre-registered for the event and for those who chose to register on site. Registration is a daunting responsibility, and this year's field was set with little delay. 

TR6s in Attendance
Of course, it's always fun to win a drawing for something and door prizes have become a tradition of the show. Robb Ogletree worked with the club's membership to obtain a number of interesting gifts that were drawn for during the show. 

Another tradition is the souvenir photo taken at the field entrance. David Turnipseed once again volunteered to shoot photos of the cars as they arrived. Since photos don't print themselves, Ron
The High Rent District
Wolverton played runner to the print shop and then organized their distribution to the participants.

Becky Kramer stepped up to manage the sale of the event souvenir T-shirts along with a committee of able volunteers. 

Every event needs a "fixer"and SABCC's is in the form of Dick Bishop. Dick became the club's representative to city officials and the neighbors that surround the normally-quiet church campus. Of course,
Title Sponsor MINI of Pensacola's Display
Dick was supported by a number of volunteers that assisted him in his tasks. 

If it's a car club event we will be eating and Frank Stabler raised his hand to take on the role organizing the day's cookout menu. Burgers, ribs and sides were available for purchase by the hungry show attendees. About a half dozen SABCC'ers worked all day cooking, serving,cleaning or making supply runs. Those who purchased lunch at the show were highly complimentary of the food.

Good Food Here
The show committee was stunned by both the number and quality of the cars on the show field this year. Several pre-war vehicles were on display which, for this show, is unusual.  It was a real delight to welcome no fewer than six Sunbeam Tigers- this year's  honored car in observance of its 50th  anniversary. Reflecting their popularity with American drivers, Triumphs and MGs were out in force, making up almost 50% of the total cars registered.

Lovely MGAs
Jaguar, too, was well represented with a couple new classes dedicated to the luxury performance marque. For the first time in several years, modern MINIs were numerous on the show field. The show included representatives of nearly all MINI models sold today.

If unusual is more to your liking, we had a Caterham 7, Morgan Aero 8 and a Bentley Continental to name but a few. 

Modern MINIs on the Field
There was a constant stream of visitors walking through the show area and the car owners were there to answer questions and perhaps listen to a couple of  "I had one like that..." stories. Most gratifying was the large number of young people who toured the site. Some of them found the cars on display fascinating. One young teen was overheard asking, "What's a Sunbeam car, dad? I've never heard of it." Speaking of young people, SABCC's highly creative Don Pritchett devised a Kid's Choice prize that was determined by the number of votes cast by kids visiting the show. The award went to the Caterham 7.

Pre-War MG M-Type
The afternoon sun was still high when the awards for the popular choice balloting were presented. Delighted owners were given a trophy in the form of a heavy glass double photo frame where a place placard and the souvenir photo can be displayed. These unique trophies have been an SABCC signature item for a number of years.

After the awards ceremony, goodbyes and promises of getting together again soon were passed around by the participants. This was the signal for the tired but happy SABCC team to start cleaning up the area and packing away the show equipment until it is needed next year. 

It cannot be said strongly enough that without the unselfish volunteers that step up to own a task this event could not be possible. I ask you to think of it this way: While others all around are relaxing and enjoying the events of the day, these generous people willingly miss out just to make sure that the show participants are able to have a great time. From the guys in yellow vests directing cars to their spot to those who made sure that there was a pot of coffee on, we as club members and show entrants owe them a debt of gratitude.

Thank you for making our day so successful!     

Check back for links to the winners list and more photo albums. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

British Car Festival Preparations Going Strong

"Goodies" Laid Out for the Bag Stuffing
In any organization, the strength of the group lies within those who unselfishly offer their time and efforts in achieving the goals set. South Alabama British Car Club's British Car Festival is one of those events that runs solely on support of its members who volunteer.

A Stool on the Assembly Line?
At the event this coming Saturday, October 25, you'll see many people doing tasks that they raised their hand to assume, but keep in mind that for every hour that the show runs, many more hours were spent in planning and performing tasks in preparation for the day. Dozens of SABCC'ers rounded up door prizes, solicited class sponsors, arranged printing or worked to obtain publicity. Tonight was one event that supports THE event.

The club has always put together a hospitality bag of items of interest to visitors in our area and classic car enthusiasts in particular. Members contact business that they patronize to seek donations of small gift items or brochures that show participants would find interesting. And then the time comes to actually get the items in the bags. What better way than to call it a party and invite members to help?

Not Up to Henry Ford's Standards
This evening, about 20 members of the club got together in the spacious garage at the home of Richard and Donna Cunningham in Daphne, Alabama to assemble the guest bags. Folding tables were arranged in a line and the items to be stuffed were laid out. After a couple of announcements (and several stops at the snack table), the line workers stepped up to their stations and the empty bags started their trip up one side of the row of tables, then across to the other side and back down to the end where they were boxed up. 

During the proceedings, conversation about the upcoming show, British cars and inquiries about family took place while the "goodies" were loaded in the bags. Eventually, good natured ribbing about a co-worker's work ethic or filling technique broke out to much laughter all around. With friends and fellow enthusiasts, a task like this is never "work". 

British Car Festival 2014 is on track to absolutely smash all previous participation records. The club is truly excited and looks forward to a fine event.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is an American-Built Jaguar in the Future?

Jaguar XE- To be American Built? - JLR Image
Reports out of the UK indicate that Jaguar-Land Rover is in talks with several southern US states about the construction of a new assembly plant. The Liverpool Echo said that a mooted Jaguar-Land Rover production facility in Saudi Arabia would be shelved in favor of the American plant.

Currently, the southeast US is the home of several assembly plants, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and Honda. The supplier infrastructure that supports these facilities is robust and their proximity would be of interest to Jaguar-Land Rover. 

The Echo reports that South Carolina is currently the odds-on favorite. Read the full story here.    

Friday, October 17, 2014


The 2011 Geneva Motor Show was the site for the unveiling of MINI's Rocketman ultracompact concept car. This four seater, with innovations to make driving (and living) in congested cities easier, was one of the few "smaller" MINI concepts up to that point.

The MINI product line (and the MINI Hardtop itself) has grown over the years and enthusiasts asked for a model closer in size to the classic 1959-2000 Mini. 

Now, Motoring File is reporting that the Rocketman is a go for production. Their inside sources tell them that a production version could be ready for sale around 2018 and could possibly share its unseen bits with another manufacturer's small city car. 

Get the full story from Motoring File.  
All: BMW- Click for Larger Images

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Behind the Scenes at a Magazine Photo Shoot

As British car enthusiasts, many of us subscribe to one or more magazines that cover the classic car scene. One of my favorites is Hemmings Sports and Exotic magazine - a title from the Hemmings  Motor News family of publications.

Richard Lentinello and Tony McLaughlin's Morgan Plus 8
Richard Shoots the Cunningham Jaguar E-Type
SABCC members may recall the fine coverage of British Car Festival 2013 in the pages of Hemmings Motor News. The May, 2014 issue carried an account of the event written by Executive Editor Richard Lentinello along with some photos provided by club members. Richard asked us to stay in touch and keep him up to date about club happenings and possible stories of interest to Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car readers.  

Mike Darby's Jaguar 240 Gets its Turn
I wrote to him in July with the dates for BCF 2014 in case he was interested in covering the show. Replying that he was booked elsewhere that weekend, he mentioned that he was looking for story suggestions to present to Sports and Exotic Car Editor David LaChance and did I have any ideas that fit the magazine's editorial criteria? I submitted several suggestions and he said he would be in touch.

A few weeks ago, Richard emailed me saying that he would be covering an auction in Biloxi, Mississippi and he would be passing through South Alabama and gave me the list of story suggestions approved for publication. Could I contact the owners, find an appropriate location for a photo shoot and get everyone together for the day?

After a few phone calls, the group was on board and we waited for the day arrive. In the end, Richard planned to photograph and write up stories about Tony McLaughlin's owned-from-new Morgan Plus 8, Richard Cunningham's recently restored Jaguar E-Type, Mike Darby's highly original Jaguar 240 saloon and Bill Silhan's rare AC Ace roadster.  

Frantic detailing of the chosen cars commenced as we watched the weather report in hope that we would have the kind of weather perfect for a photo shoot. It had been decided that everyone but Bill Silhan would meet at the 5 Rivers Delta Center in Spanish Fort for photos. Richard would shoot Bill's car in Pensacola the next day on his way back to his home in South Florida. 

We gathered at the appointed place and hour and Richard scouted out the spots he thought would serve his needs. Selecting his location, he began his methodical photo session. With an eye for minute detail, he requested parking angles, backgrounds and helped the owners with removing personal items from the frame. It was an education to watch him at work. 

With the photo shoot's end, we caravaned to Richard Cunningham's home in Daphne where we cooled off from the heat of the day and shared in conversation about the old car hobby. Richard Lentinello is truly knowledgeable and passionate about classic cars. We certainly look forward to welcoming him back to our area again soon.

For those that do not subscribe to any of the Hemmings titles, I recommend that you check them out.          

Friday, October 10, 2014

How Does That Work, Anyway?

The GadgetsWow blog recently put a series of animated gifs that help explain the operation of complex machinery. Some of the more interesting images include a rotary (Wankel) engine a radial engine and a constant velocity joint. You can check out the complete set of images here. 

A Four Speed Gearbox - -

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SABCC Ice Cream Social is a Smashing Success

After late week weather of high humidity and scattered rain showers, the Saturday of the club's ice cream social dawned with a flawless blue sky and unseasonably cool temperatures for our part of the Gulf Coast.

This eagerly anticipated event has become one of the club's most attended anywhere during the year. The club welcomed almost 80 people from SABCC, the Panhandle British Car Association and the Mardi Gras MGs. This year, more attendees drove British cars to the event than ever before with 29 examples of British-made automobiles parked around the property belonging to Richard and Donna Cunningham.

The Cunninghams have hosted this club event for nearly ten years in their spacious home and workshop garage near Daphne, Alabama. Richard, the proprietor of Classic Motorcar Services, clears out his shop and installs tables and chairs to accommodate connoisseurs of the fine array of homemade ice creams made by

Beginning in August, Donna starts the work that will result in up to ten gallons of fine ice cream. Vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and peach (made with peaches from a heavy-producing tree in their yard) make up the main event.
Club members sign up to bring a variety of ice cream topping favorites and there are always more of them brought than consumed during the day. We are truly spoiled for choice. There are even stations set up to construct banana splits and root beer floats.

Donna makes sure that those with a taste for the savory are catered to as well. A heaping bowl of
chicken salad along with chips, dip, breads and other goodies are laid out for the day's guests.
Richard's working garage is arranged so that people who may never see the inside of and engine or suspension pieces off of a car can inspect parts such as these up close and get questions answered about their own cars. This year, SABCC's Stuart Waddington had his freshly painted Triumph Stag body shell on display. Tom Rennick, another club member is having his owned-from-new 1965 Sunbeam Tiger restored by CMS and a number of Tiger components were out for view.

Both kids and the inner children of older members enjoyed taking a turn with a Sony PlayStation running Grand Turismo. The game included a force feedback steering wheel and a cool high back sports car seat in front of the large screen television.

Club President Michael King announced that nearly fifty cars had preregistered for this year's British Car Festival on October 25th. The event is once again on track to set an attendance record.

As the early autumn sun began its descent, those who enjoyed the gracious hospitality said their thanks went their separate ways after a pleasant afternoon spent with fellow classic British car enthusiasts. Thank you, Richard and Donna Cunningham and all those who helped make the day so successful.     

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Is it Time to Give the TR7 Another Look?

How do you replace a Johnny Carson or Walter Cronkite or a deeply-loved sports car model? The simple answer is: it ain't easy.  We still have a "Tonight Show" and a "CBS Evening News" but we do not have a Triumph TR. While the television shows mentioned came out OK after their changes, the car-buying American public (and automotive press) was torn over the replacement for Triumph's much loved TR6 roadster - the Triumph TR7.

American auto safety regulations were running somewhat ahead of current auto technology in the 1970s. A raft of new standards put forward by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) meant that car makers were legislated into inventing equipment and systems that never before existed in order to be compliant. 

British automakers in the form of British Leyland gamely kept up the "make do and mend" approach so finely honed by the British people during postwar austerity. Make do with larger rubber bumpers, "tamper proof" carburetors and complex fuel systems to keep the product in the American market and keep US dollars coming in. But a stiff upper lip wasn't enough to keep old deigns compliant and BL bet the rent money on a new sports car, but it wasn't a roadster.
"Bullet" Prototype
"Lynx" Prototype

In 1970 BL launched a sports car committee to create guidelines for a new "corporate" sports car designed to meet current and anticipated European and American safety standards. At the time, NHTSA  had proposed rollover standards that were restrictive enough to effectively outlaw open top cars. The BL sports car committee moved forward with that understanding of American regulations and one of the new sports car's requirements was that it be a closed designed or minimally open hence, the Jaguar XJ-S and the TR7 were closed roof vehicles.
BL moved forward with an internal competition to create the new sports car. The winning proposal would be sold under both the Triumph and MG badges. 

"Magna" Prototype
Triumph proposed two vehicles: a "Targa" roofed sports car code named "Bullet" and a slightly stretched four place version code named "Lynx". Both cars were attractive designs- the Lynx looking somewhat Italian in appearance and the Bullet looking similar to Porsche's 914. 

Meanwhile, MG (through Austin Motors in Longbridge), having had a pretty mid-engine MGB/MG Midget replacement proposal rejected by BL management in 1970, put forward a two seat, hard top wedge shaped vehicle styled by Harris Mann that was internally named "Magna"- a harkening back to MG's prewar sports cars. It was this design that formed the basis of the TR7 at the decision of BL Chairman Donald Stokes

The Shape of Things to Come
It was a radical departure for a Triumph sports car in that it was a unit body design, a first for a small Triumph sports car, but dimensionally it was fairly close to the TR6 it was to replace, almost identical in height and length. Inside, the new TR provided more shoulder room (3") and leg room (7") than the outgoing TR6. 
TR7 Roadster

Meanwhile, Chrysler Corporation took NHTSA to court over the proposed rollover standards and the court rejected them in 1972 stating that people who buy open top cars accept the risk inherent in driving
TR7 in Java
without a roof. This not only opened the door for a convertible TR7, but saved the rest of BL's sports car line in America. 

BL called in Italian styling house Michelotti to handle the design and development of the TR7 roadster model. Michelotti had a long relationship with British automakers having designed the foldaway convertible top for the MGB and redesigned the Triumph TR3 body to make the TR4 series.

The roadster was exactly what this last of the TR line needed, helping the TR7 to become the best selling TR ever.
Tartan Plaid Interior Trim

Being a product of a huge firm run by marginally competent managers dealing with government meddling and a militant workforce, the TR7 had its problems. Poor build quality haunted the TR all through its life. US owners were not forgiving of nagging reliability problems and eventually the TR7 became a "throwaway" sports car. As their reputation for problems grew, resale values fell until keeping one in good repair became a losing proposition. 

I think its time to give this best selling Triumph (and the last Triumph sold in America) another look. The TR7's design has aged well. The low nose and high tail give it  a look of speed even while standing still and the side creases pioneered on the TR7 can be found on cars on sale today. The interior is comfortable for those of us who are buying belts by the yard these days and the dashboard could even be considered modern. The tartan upholstery may not be to everyone's taste but it was a product of its time and hey, even high end Lotus sports cars wore tartan, too. 

Restoring a TR7 is not impossible if the project car isn't too derelict. Parts are available from the usual sources such as Moss Motors and Victoria British, but be warned, there are a lot of "N/A"s in the catalogs. There are also independent keepers of the TR7 flame that can help, too. Of course, a wise restorer will have a parts car or three on hand.

It's a bit sad that we don't see many TR7s at Gulf Coast British car shows. I think they deserve better.

British Car Festival 24 is Upon Us

Yes, indeed it is October and the South Alabama British Car Club's biggest event is just a few short weeks away. This year's show committee has worked harder then ever to make sure that the show participants have a great time. 

Third-gen MINI Cooper S
As you may have read earlier in this humble blog, BCF 2014 is moving to a new venue due to planned (but ultimately delayed) construction at our usual  Faulkner State Community College campus in downtown Fairhope, Alabama. Instead, we will be just one block south at the campus of Fairhope United Methodist Church. Last year's show attendees who made it to the Friday night welcome party will remember it as the venue for that evening event. SABCC is indeed grateful for Fairhope UMC's invitation to conduct this year's show on their lovely, tree shaded campus.

Jim O'Brien's Sunbeam Tiger at BCF 2013
Again, our friends at MINI of Pensacola will be displaying the new third-generation MINI hatch and other examples of the growing product line. The MINI folks will also have some cool swag on sale at their featured display area on the field. 

Do You Remember These Guys?
The show will feature the Sunbeam Tiger in observance of the 50th anniversary of this Anglo-American hybrid (designed before hybrid meant electricity is involved somewhere) that was developed by Carroll Shelby. In fact ALL Rootes Group marques will be honored and their owners will receive some special treats on the day of the show.

Where were YOU when the Beatles made their American debut? We'll also be remembering the start of the "British Invasion" in American pop music. We'll have some background music during the day that will certainly get you singing along with the best of Britain. 

Here is a calendar of events and details associated with the 24th annual British Car Festival:.

Friday Evening Welcome Party 7:00PM at the Abundant Life Center building at Fairhope United Methodist Church 155 South Section Street in Fairhope. Meet fellow British car enthusiasts and enjoy some great homemade goodies courtesy of SABCC member families.  

British Car Festival 2014 9:00AM at the campus of  Fairhope United Methodist Church in downtown Fairhope, Alabama. Day of show registration closes at noon and popular choice ballots will handed out shortly thereafter. Balloting will close at 2:00PM and awards will be begin at 3:30PM

To allow you to park your car quickly and with the least delay, we urge you to pre-register. You can print a form here and mail it in.

We look forward to seeing you at the 24th Annual British Car Festival. Stay tuned for news about next year's show, too - our 25th anniversary year event!