Triumph TR6. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
25th Annual British Car Day 2008, Oakville, Ontario
Oakville, Ontario – While the term “British Car Industry” might now be somewhat of an oxymoron, there was a time when Britannia ruled the motorways. So many passionate, innovative, beautiful and downright weird vehicles have come from such automakers as Jaguar, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Jensen, Marcos, TVR, Bristol, Austin, MG, Aston Martin, Morgan, Rover… well, the list is endless, really. Jokes of leaking oil, terminal rust and bad electrics aside, the automotive world would be a lot less interesting were it not for the Brits.
Every September, this notion is reinforced on the fields of Bronte Provincial Park in Oakville, Ontario where hundreds of vehicles congregate for the annual British Car Day. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the event, which has been hosted from its inception by the Toronto Triumph Club.
Approaching the meet on Sunday, I joined a convoy of roadsters that was puttering its way to the park. What’s up there on the side of the road? An immobilized Triumph Stag with the hood up – odd, that.
I followed Dr. John R. Hewson of Burlington in his lovely red 1939 MG TB, resplendent with a wicker picnic basket on the back and a set of gold clubs that he says are “probably from 1934”.
1955 Jag XK140. Click image to enlarge
Bill Schorse drove his 1955 Jaguar XK140 the 250 miles from Corbeil, Ontario to attend the show. Not such a big deal for him, as he’s owned the car for 45 years and it currently has 217,000 miles on the clock. (Editor please note, this odometer is in miles, no km.) No trailer queen, this.
I asked him if he’s rebuilt the 3.4-litre DOHC straight six. “I’ve rebuilt everything on the car at least once.” he said. “In fact, I just had to rebuild the steering rack. When I told my wife I thought I’d just done that, she informed me the fellow who had helped me last time has been dead for thirty years.”
Schorse has a 1959 Jaguar Mk 1 sedan as well, and was sniffing around for an old MG while at the show. “Being addicted to these cars is just short mental illness.” he joked.
1938 R-R 25_30 (top); 1937 Rudge Rapid. Click image to enlarge
Strolling into the Rolls Royce and Bentley area, my nostrils were hit with the unmistakable smell of vintage British leather. Standing out in this crowd was a stately 1938 Rolls Royce 25/30 Limousine brought in by Ken Magerman. His father, Alfie, had bought the car (in pieces) in 1978 as a family project. It took them twelve years to get it on the road.
For bike fans, there were a number of odd-ball vintage British motorcycles, including a 1947 Vincent HRD with side-car and Ron DeKoter’s rare “barn find” 1937 Rudge Rapid.
For those in the market for some vintage UK iron, British Car Day is a great place to shop. Many of the cars are for sale, and I saw everything from a pristine Morgan to a Daimler limo to a beater 70s Rolls on a trailer that looked as if you’d need a serious roll just to get it rolling.
Tugging at my heartstrings was a 1974 Mini Pickup. Like a cute puppy begging me to take it home, I wanted to whip out my checkbook then and there. Then I remembered I learned how to swear under the hood of my ferrous ’68 Mini Cooper and the urge quickly passed.
It takes the right kind of person to care for an old British car, and we can be grateful to those passionate souls who bring their charges to British Car Day every year.