Austin Healey


20150426_105417Pity 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.

20150426_130658So 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.

20150426_105458Among 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.

20150426_110735Is 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?)

20150426_130202Another 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!

20150426_131009Don 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.

20150426_144630In 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.



033Car show season is heating up, with one of our favorite events taking place this Sunday: the annual Queen’s English All-British Car Show in Van Nuys, California. An incredible variety of English iron from across Southern California will congregate on Woodley Park’s expansive lawn for this free admission, family-friendly show which will feature almost every British car one can imagine, from the most humble MGs to the most outrageous McLarens, plus Austin-Healeys, Morgans, Bentleys, and of course, Jaaaaags as far as the eye can see.

Sparks for QEOf course, for Carriage House Models, it’s all about scale, and we’ll have plenty of it at the Queen’s English. We’re bringing our full range of 1:18 and 1:43-scale model cars for your shopping pleasure, with special show pricing on many popular favorites. In response to overwhelming demand, we’ll also have a great selection of classic and current 1:64 cars from Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Jags ResizeThe Queen’s English takes place on April 26th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91436. Abundant free parking is available, but get there early to get the best selection of models from the Carriage House booth. Hope to see you there!



By the time I was five years old, my status as a hardcore car enthusiast was already well established. My play life centered around Matchbox cars, and I had already expressed an interest in collecting higher-quality diecast models. This passion seems to have skipped a generation, however, as neither my five-year-old son nor my three-year-old daughter has shown signs of being a committed gearhead. True, both have small collections of Hot Wheels cars, and the boy went through a pretty serious Pixar Cars phase, but at this stage, they’re just into other things.

Ready To GoWhile I have no desire to force the kids to follow in their old man’s petrol-sniffing footsteps, I feel that I should make an attempt to explain to them the reason for their father’s monomania about cars, to see if there is at least a sliver of a common bond there. So, last Saturday we loaded up the Carriage House Express and headed south to Irvine for the weekly Cars and Coffee show at Mazda’s U.S. headquarters. As arguably the world’s greatest free-form weekly car show, Cars and Coffee represented a perfect opportunity to take the kids’ temperature on where they stand on “the car thing.” Here’s what I learned:


Margot Modena“Dad, a horsey! Take a picture!” shouted Margot as she broke free from my grasp and made a beeline for this 360 Modena. I was happy to oblige her, hoping that I could turn this into a teachable moment about the specialness of Ferraris. My plan was thwarted, however, when her brother Elliott immediately found a row of FIVE horses affixed to the grilles of late-model Mustangs and promptly declared himself the winner. I didn’t know it was a contest…but I guess I should have.


Green Porsche“Green cars are really rare, Dad,” Elliott said. I don’t have the statistics to corroborate this, but I do know that as a family unit, this hot-rodded 911 was our favorite car at the show that day. I loved it for its slightly seedy aggressiveness and its singularity of purpose, packed full of swapped 3.6 and advisable roll cage. The kids loved it because it looked like Kermit. That, and the whole rarity thing.



Your eyes do not deceive you: that is a BMW M4 wrapped in blue foil. At least, I hope it’s wrapped, and that it’s not actually painted that way. Whatever, the kids spent three solid minutes checking out their reflections in it. Not sure that was the sort of attention the owner of this splendid jewel was seeking, but perhaps it’s the sort he deserves.


Beautiful Healey, isn’t it? I thought so. Know who didn’t? The Margot and Elliott Show. They were equally unimpressed with the Lincoln Mark II, the Dino 246GT, the Mercedes W108 Coupe,  the BMW E28 M5, and a half-dozen other cars that I wanted to stop to admire. Instead, they wanted to see the goofy VW with front-mounted Chevy 427, the Callaway Corvette with blue rims, and the rainbow-liveried Hamann BMW. I try to take consolation that, when I was their age, I thought flame jobs were the ultimate in automotive style.


Ell GT3

The kids were starting to hit the wall after only fifteen minutes of browsing, and it was obvious to me that while they clearly had their favorites, the two of them just didn’t have an overwhelming curiosity about cars…and that was totally okay with me. They are very independent kids whose enthusiasms run strong, and that’s all that really matters, even if our passions are not shared. BUT, as we were starting to head back toward the exit, Elliott stopped in his tracks and pointed to the 991 GT3 pictured above. “Dad,” he said with complete seriousness, “I’m going to save my money and buy that car when I’m a grown up.” I told him I thought it was a good choice, secretly celebrating the aspirational power of a really great automobile, and I asked him why he wanted that one.

“Because it’s blue,” he said.

Because it’s blue. Not as rare as green, of course, but I’ll take it for now, kid.