Pity for a moment the poor British sports car that is doomed to live out its days in its mother country. Rain and rust…that’s your destiny. Far better to find one’s way to sunny Southern California, where gentle sunshine and the adoration of cheerful enthusiasts abound.
Until the wind starts blowing. Then you’re still kinda screwed.
So it was at the 2015 edition of the long-running Queen’s English All-British Car Show, held as it is every year at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. Normally, this springtime show is a reminder of how spoiled we car folk are in this part of the country by glorious blue skies and warm days. This year, however, blustery winds meant that car owners and show patrons were blasted by blowing dust all morning and most of the afternoon, while parts and automobilia vendors (like us) struggled to keep our pop-up canopies from becoming airborne. Car detailing products will no doubt be in high demand among the region’s Jaguar and MG clubs this week.
Nonetheless, the collection of cars that amassed on the Woodley Park lawn was utterly excellent. Though the Carriage House crew had its hands full with brisk business for most of the event, we still found time to sneak away from the booth to check out the hundreds of gorgeous automobiles on hand.
Among the few Aston Martins on hand, Lawrence Fromm’s 1991 Virage was a rare treat…very rare, as only about 50 examples of the total 365-unit production run found their way to North America. Fromm’s car is in fact a Canadian import with an interesting history: its original owner received it as a medical-school graduation gift from a pair of obviously doting parents. With a proper manual gearbox and a KM/H-reading speedometer, the Fromm Virage is low-key, but still a fascinating supercar.
Is the Jaguar E-Type the most iconic British car of all time? It’s certain that supporters of the Mini would argue the point, but the Jag’s appeal is so pervasive there’s not much we can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently before. Instead, we’ll just point to Mitch Clements’ ’63 fixed-head coupe as an example of what makes the E-Type so universally beloved. Simply put, it’s stunning. Clements restored the car over a leisurely ten-year period, doing almost all of the work (save the paint) himself, and he is far too humble about the sensational results. “I want to drive it,” Clements said, “but quite frankly, where?” (Might we suggest Carriage House HQ for a closer inspection?)
Another magnificently restored classic that caught our eye was Ron Fine’s beautiful 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BN7. The subject of a two-year, frame-off restoration (as with the Clements Jag, performed mostly by the owner himself) this Big Healey is a multiple national award-winning car. However, Fine drives the car to shows rather than trailering it, and he notes that the restoration has mellowed enough that he’ll drive it anywhere…as long as there is a safe place to park waiting at the end of the journey!
Don Thompson’s 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo captured our attention with its absolutely flawless presentation, but a brief conversation with the owner may have revealed the true nature of the British-car enthusiast. Thompson cheerfully informed us that the car, a sure winner in any judged event for which its eligible, is for sale. Why unload such a perfect specimen? “It’s 100% done,” replied Thompson. There’s nothing left to fix, so he feels it’s time to move on to a new project. Hey, whatever works for you, sir.
In a show filled with iconic, often exotic machinery, it may come as a surprise that our favorite car of the day was something a bit more humble, but our choice was Larry Bisordi’s 1965 Ford Cortina Estate (shown by his brother Ray.) Honest, lovely and almost 100% original, the little Cortina wagon is completely stock apart from being lowered and mounted on Lotus Cortina rims. A U.S.-export model hailing from the southwest, Bisordi’s Cortina is exactly the kind of offbeat, affordable classic that we ourselves would like to own, and the fact that it’s a station wagon was just the icing on the cake.
The wind stopped just in time for us to pack up our gear and head home. It’s a virtual certainty that we’ll be back next year with an even bigger selection of British scale model cars (we got the message, MG fans) along with a very serious set of tent stakes.
Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on Southern California’s vibrant car show scene. Occassionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.