Pete Rhoten’s 1991 Mini Cooper at Faneuil Hall — one of only 1,650 produced.
Photo by David Schwartz
Faneuil Hall British Car Shows
by David Schwartz
BOSTON, Mass. — This year marked the 12th time the Boston Area MG Club (BAMG) hosted the Faneuil Hall British Car Show series. BAMG welcomes owners of all British cars to participate. Club membership is not a requirement, nor is owning an MG. Cars are parked on the cobblestones between Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, with space for about 16 cars, so this is a very small show.
What makes the shows unique is the interaction with the public. Car shows are usually attended by people with an interest in cars and the audience is self-selecting. At Faneuil Hall there are thousands of tourists from all over the world. They don’t expect to see a classic British car show at a tourist venue and are always pleasantly surprised.
Speaking with people from the U.K. is especially fun. They love to talk about similar cars their family owned, the car they learned to drive on (“Gran owned one just like it”), etc.
It is a long day. Cars need to arrive at the staging area by 8:30 a.m. and the show ends at 3 p.m. Faneuil Hall security opens a gate to let us in and out. Leaving is a hoot, as hundreds of people gather to wave and take photos and videos.
I have been attending these shows with my 1968 Mini for the past five years and it is one of my favorite events of the season. For the June 22nd show I brought the Mini, and for the August 24th “People’s Choice” show, I drove my 1950 Morris Minor convertible.
In June, my Mini, an MGA, and a Triumph TR3A were flanked on both sides by MGBs. The owner of an MGB parked next to my Mini answered questions about my car any time I wasn’t there. It was nice of the organizers to park all the cool cars in the middle.
At about 2 p.m. the sky turned dark and there was a heavy thunderstorm warning. We hurriedly packed up our cars and made a hasty exit to beat the rain. Most of the convertibles left their tops down. I kept trading places with an MGA heading west on the Mass Turnpike. A few miles before my exit it started to rain, but I made it home without getting caught in a downpour.
‘Her Majesty’ with Betty and David.
Photo by David Schwartz
The morning of the August show started out like a crisp fall day. It was 55° when I left the house and rather cold driving into Boston with the Morris Minor’s top down. The car doesn’t have a heater, so I rolled up the windows and closed the vent windows. The Minor prefers local roads to highways. The sun was bright and the air much warmer by the time I arrived in Boston.
There was a great turnout, including a 1966 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, a 1991 Mini Cooper, Wendy Birchmire’s Mini-based Domino Pimlico, Gary Hampton’s 1960 TR3A, Nels Anderson’s 1963 Land Rover Station Wagon, Tom Birchmire’s MG TD Replicar, a 1957 MG Magnette ZB, a Triumph TR6, and of course a lot of MGBs!
The Phantom V is slightly larger than the Space Shuttle. It was parked in the center of the car row, surrounded on both sides by mere commoners’ cars. The black paint gleamed, and the interior was replete with luxury accoutrements.
Ned Niemiec owns the Rolls and drives it to other shows around New England, but this was his first Faneuil Hall show. I gave Ned a heads-up that the public would crowd in close for photos. He was a good sport as people posed with the car and leaned in the windows for a better look. It seemed likely that the Rolls would win the 1st place People’s Choice award.
Pete Rhoten’s 1991 Mini Cooper is a Rover Special Products (RSP) model of which only 1,650 were produced. He imported the car from the UK in 2017, shortly after it became legal in the U.S. The car has covered a mere 30,400 miles in 28 years and is original except for a repaint due to fading.
Wendy Birchmire’s incredibly cute Domino was parked next to the BAMG information tent. A steady stream of people posed with the car and took turns sitting in it. Wendy quickly handed out all her voting ballots. When the votes were tallied, “cute” won out over luxury. The Domino placed first, the Rolls second and an MGB third.
A very special guest happened to be visiting Boston on August 24th. When the British Consulate heard about the Faneuil Hall car show, they arranged for “The Queen” to put in an appearance. When the show ended, Ned Niemiec chauffeured Her Majesty back to the consulate in his Rolls. (Truth be told, The Queen was advertising for Boston’s Dreamland Wax Museum.) My family met me for lunch and my daughter Laura accompanied me on the leisurely ride home.
Mr. Peanut’s Nutmobile — seen here with Nuala.
Photos by Iain Barker
The ‘Cars of Summer’
by Iain Barker
“Cars of Summer” in Worcester, Mass., certainly lived up to its name. Set in the picturesque Green Hill Park, the event is arranged around what was originally the access road to the Green family private estate and homestead, circa 1760.
The show is held over three days starting on July 4th, U.S. Independence Day. Saturday was the main car show this year, and when Best in Class awards were presented.
The day was all set for sweltering summer weather, but that didn’t seem to affect the turnout. There were multiple classes, including one for classic cars 25 years and older. While ours was the only classic Mini, there were other European cars including a very nicely restored VW Type 2 van and a ‘screen star’ VW Beetle painted as Herbie, the Love Bug.
This event is very family-friendly, and includes a central pavilion with live music, street food and snack vendors, and a ‘kid zone’ children’s activity area with inflatable bounce house-type attractions. The park also incorporates Green Hill Farm — which although not open for petting the animals during car show hours, was available to walk around and view.
My daughter Nuala views our 1967 Mini Cooper S 1275 as her own (which hopefully one day it will be), and her main activity for the afternoon was treating the Mini like a climb-through playhouse, inviting all the kids at the show to climb in one door and out the other. Good job I’m not one of the “hands off” owners — it’s important to engage the next generation, and a few sticky fingers and scuff marks on the vinyl are no big deal.
Over 300 show cars attended the event, somewhat biased towards American classics and muscle cars. In addition to a Best in Show award, there are 50 judged runner-up prizes given out. Although by far the smallest vehicle in attendance and well out of its element as one of only two British cars I spotted (the other was a ’70s MG Midget), our little Mini did us proud by winning a runner-up prize.
As the afternoon wore on, the weather quickly started to turn and a local thunderstorm and flooding alert was issued on the Wireless Emergency Alerts System. The event organizers decided to hold the prize presentations early, allowing people time to get their cars back home and dry before the rain came. Of course, we did not have that luxury, being in a slow car and a long way from home, so we chose to grab a budget hotel room in Worcester, Mass., and stayed overnight.
Standing in the hotel lobby, looking out at poor “Mini KK” in the rain, we saw our car was almost up to her hubcaps in running water and it was torrenting off the roof and down the scuttle. Being a 52-year-old car it’s not exactly state of the art when it comes to waterproofing, but there was no sheltered parking so c’est la vie.
The next morning, I expected to open the doors and be presented by a biblical level of floodwater gushing out onto my shoes. But in fact, it was remarkably dry inside — just some dampness on the door cards where the rain had driven sideways between the sliding windows, easily cleaned up with paper towels. My daughter got a bonus day at the Worcester EcoTarium as a result, which turned a good weekend into a great weekend.
Hold the Date — Dec. 7!
by David Schwartz
The NEMO Holiday Party will be held at La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, Mass., on Saturday, December 7th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
This is the same venue we have enjoyed for the last two years. La Cantina is a family-style Italian restaurant and has been in business since 1946. The member cost for the buffet lunch will be $20 for adults and $10 for children, with the club making up the difference. If your membership has lapsed you can renew at the Party for the six-month rate of $10.
We will be holding a Yankee Swap, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $25). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is his or her turn to pick. Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens!
You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring. Please, no more than one gift per person or the Party will never end.
For those attending your first NEMO Yankee Swap, many gifts are Mini-, MINI-, or British-themed.
We need a head count by November 25th. A reminder Evite will be sent to the NEMO e-mail list. RSVP to the Evite or contact me directly, email@example.com or (508) 561-3462. Let me know how many people will be attending, the ages of any children, and if you have any dietary restrictions.
The Holiday Party is one of our most popular events every year. Hope to see you there!
Directions: The address is La Cantina Italiana, 911 Waverley St., Framingham, MA 01702, and the phone number is (508) 879-7874.
Take I-90 (Mass Turnpike) to Exit 12. Bear right on the ramp and follows signs toward Framingham. Merge onto Rt. 9 East (Worcester Road). Follow Rt. 9 for about 1.8 miles. You will pass Dunkin’ Donuts followed by Samba Steak & Sushi. Immediately after Samba, take a sharp right onto Winter Street. Follow Winter Street about 1.8 miles until it ends. At the traffic light, take a left onto Waverley Street (Rt. 135). La Cantina will be on the left.
There is parking behind the restaurant and in a large lot across the street.
An electric Vespa 400! Note ZAZ 968M parked on the grass.
Photo by David Schwartz
Gould’s 24th Microcar Classic
by David Schwartz
NEWTON, Mass., July 12-14 — The Goulds’ 24th Microcar Classic varied ever so slightly from its usual format. The Friday evening welcome reception was catered this year, which gave Nancy Gould, who hosts the event with her husband Charles, more time to socialize with the guests. William Ellis mapped out a new route for the Saturday driving tour from Newton to the summit of Mt. Wachusett.
The rest of the weekend was unchanged, with a stop at the Gould’s Matchbox Motors storage facility, Saturday night barbecue, and Sunday lawn event at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass.
AlphaCars was back this year with two different Russian cars. A 1976 Volga GAZ M24 “Moscow Taxi,” complete with taximeter, checkerboards and roof light. The Volga resembled a ’60s Ford Fairlane or Dodge Dart, and was the preferred car of the KGB. The second car was a 1990 ZAZ 968M Zaporozhets with an air-cooled rear engine.
My favorite oddball car this year was Max Hall’s Vespa 400, which was converted to an electric car back in 1972. The Vespa is powered by an old forklift motor and ordinally had eight large lead-acid batteries. Max updated it to use four modern batteries. The electric Vespa was one of three Vespa 400s at the Museum lawn event on Sunday. A gas-powered Vespa screamed its way up Mt. Wachusett on Saturday (and I do mean screamed, since with two passengers the owner kept it in first gear for the entire ascent!).
Minicar and microcar owners often have a sense of humor. A two-tone red and white Nash Metropolitan sported a giant wind-up key protruding from the trunk-mounted spare tire. The previous owner had wired the key to an electric motor so it spun slowly. Sadly, the Metropolitan broke down on the driving tour.
Part of the Mini line, under the shade at Larz Anderson.
Photo by Bruce Vild
Five classic Minis and two Mokes started the 120-mile Mt. Wachusett drive. Unfortunately, Bruce Vild’s Mini suffered a potentially serious failure with no compression in two cylinders, and was towed by AAA. The preliminary diagnosis was head gasket failure, which was confirmed a week later by Dave Black. Dave had the repair complete and Bruce back behind the wheel a few days later. Bruce and Faith completed the driving tour in the Goulds’ Nissan Pao, along with Kate Lane.
Luke Vancraeynest’s 1981 Trabant had an alternator problem early in the driving tour, for a total of three casualties.
Two Subaru 360s were in attendance, both of which completed the driving tour. One of the 360s won an award for the longest distance driven to attend the weekend, having motored in from Springfield, Mass.
The new route to Mt. Wachusett had a lot more turns and a few cars got lost. There was an unexpected construction detour, and cars at the back of the line were quite confused when the front cars doubled back. Everyone eventually reconvened at the summit.
Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day for the lawn event at Larz Anderson. The cars paraded from Newton to Brookline and parked by marque or category. There were eight Minis and two Mokes on the lawn. Most of the Minis belonged to NEMO members. I felt like a bit of a traitor to NEMO by driving my 1950 Morris Minor convertible on Sunday (though I did drive my 1968 Mini Traveller on Saturday). This year the Minis parked in the shade, rather than the sunny center of the lawn.
Sunday, July 14th, was Bastille Day, which is celebrated as the turning point of the French Revolution in 1790. All the French car owners celebrated by holding a parade on the lawn while the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” blared from the Museum’s sound system. It was quite a sight. Then it was time to give car rides to the public, a high point of the day.
Ken Lemoine’s 1965 Mini Traveller won 1st place in the Mini class, and Wendy Birchmire’s 1973 Union Jack Mini took 2nd. A VTEC Mini was 3rd.
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Gould’s Microcar Classic. There will surely be some surprises. To get a sense of the weekend, see the on-line photo album posted by Joshua Sweeney, professional automotive photographer extraordinaire, at https://shootfordetails.smugmug.com/Automotive-Tours/Goulds-Microcar-Classic/Microcar-Classic-2019/.
‘Jack’ among the other Brits.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire & Iain Barker
British Cars of N.H. Hosts a Great Show!
by Wendy Birchmire
To show or not to show, that is the question. On the plus side, the BCNH Show of Dreams is well-run, and Hudson, N.H., it isn’t a long drive from Needham, Mass., and is an easy distance to trailer. I was sure other NEMO members would be present, and friendly conversation makes the day go by much faster. On the negative side, my husband and I are winter people and don’t do well in the sun. A day of temperatures in the mid-80s wouldn’t be too hot as long as we had a tent to sit under. Let’s do it!
We decided to trailer “Jack,” our 1973 Morris Mini 1000. This year trailers were allowed to park close to the show field instead of on the other side of the visitor parking lot, making it much easier to unload heavy items like tents. Thank you, BCNH show coordinators! They also had “cooling tents” dispersed throughout the rows of vehicles. Inside each tent was a large cooler filled with ice water. We ended up sitting under one of their tents instead of putting up our own. Others joined us and we got to meet more car enthusiasts.
There were lots of vendors on the perimeter of the show field selling British car products and other items. An especially popular spot was the ice cream truck. There was a 50/50 raffle with over $200 going to the winner, and a silent auction featuring restaurant coupons, hotel accommodations and other goodies. A third raffle was for the prize of your choice on a table filled with car-related products. Each car registrant automatically received one ticket for the third raffle. Some people purchased long strips of tickets, hoping to be one of the early winners.
The Show of Dreams has been held every year since 1996 and BCNH selects local charities to receive show proceeds. The 2019 recipients were the High Hopes Foundation of New Hampshire, which aids chronically ill children and their families, and the New Hampshire Food Bank, the only food bank in the state. Each charity gave an award to their favorite car. Lucinda and Peter Barrone took home a trophy with a miniature shopping cart on it (very cute) from the Food Bank. Jack and I were awarded a plaque from the High Hopes Foundation.
There were only three classic Minis and four modern MINIs in this show. David Rosenberg and his Mini took a 2nd place in his division. Jack took 1st place in the British Classics 1970-1979 class. Best of Show went to Mark Harrison and his 1938 Bentley.
BCNH gives a unique gift to the 1st-place winner in each car class. Last year I received an elegant bottle of wine with a BCNH private label and a matching glass with the club logo. This year I won a folding camp chair. On the back it says, “2019 Show of Dreams 1st Place” along with the BCNH emblem.
The day was a huge success. I won a raffle prize with the one free ticket that came with my registration. For my prize I chose a Stanley Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer.
A three-win day for Jack and me!
Zach’s Mini split apart as the steering rack is replaced.
Photo by Iain Barker
Racking up the Shows
by Iain Barker & Wendy Birchmire
Regular readers may recall the article in the February newsletter about the early Mini Cooper 1071 S owned by Zach Barbera (car #3 from the 1963 Cooper works build). Iain had been trying for some time to cajole Zach into bringing his car to the Goulds’ Microcar Classic at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to get the car ready, it failed inspection due to excessive play in the steering rack.
If you’ve ever watched the BMC short film Wizardry on Wheels (available on YouTube) there is a scene where the painted Mini bodies are lowered from an overhead gantry to mate up with the assembled front end. The steering rack is clearly visible already fitted on the body, and it ends up sandwiched between the subframe and the body.
The video should have provided a hint as to how difficult it is to change the rack on an Mk1 Mini. The twin carburetors must be removed to gain vertical clearance. Then the front subframe mounts, engine steady and solid brake lines need to be disconnected so that the front of the car body can be separated from its mechanicals and raised up. Finally, the steering rack can be unbolted and withdrawn through the wheel arch.
So it was, on a hot, hot (90°-plus) day in July we found ourselves splitting a Mini in two. We worked in an open garage using just a trolley jack and an assortment of wooden props and axle stands.
On examining the rack after it was removed, it was obvious it needed a new end bearing. Where there should have been a nylon support bushing, we found nothing but a thick brown slurry of grease and decomposed plastic granules. Unfortunately, this car is not standard Cooper S and had been heavily modified when it was rebuilt as a racecar by Zach’s father in the mid-’90s. The steering rack was in fact a ‘quick rack’ with a 2.2 ratio. We e-mailed the original U.K. vendor and their reply stated that replacement bearings for this specialist part were no longer available.
Fortunately, similar steering racks were used on late model MPi Minis, and an entire new quick-rack is available from U.K. vendors. Order placed, a few days later DHL duly arrived with the new rack. Fitting it was straightforward, other than that I attached the tapered ball joints upside-down. In my defense, I assembled them the way they are shown in the 1963 BMC workshop manual. But the diagram in the manual was evidently drawn the wrong way up! This made for an interesting test-drive by Zach, but was easily remedied.
Zach and his Mini in the car line again.
Photo by Iain Barker & Wendy Birchmire
With the rack re-fitted and the two halves of the car bolted back together, it passed inspection with no issues. Now all we needed was a show to attend.
Melmark New England, a school for children with autism, hosts an annual all-makes classic car show in Andover, Mass. This year’s show was scheduled for August 10th, so that was our new goal.
The show is held on grass in the leafy grounds surrounding the school. Lots of trees provided shade for a summer day, and there was room for lawn chairs and pop-up awnings. Around 150 cars were in attendance. There was a wide variety, with classic two-seater Ford T-Birds, Corvettes, ’60s to ’70s muscle cars, an Edsel, a Model T, a firetruck, a Willys Jeep and many others.
In addition to Nuala and Iain’s 1967 Morris Cooper S 1275 and Zach’s 1963 Austin Cooper S 1071, Wendy and Tom Birchmire brought ‘Pim’, their Domino Pimlico fiberglass-rebodied Mini convertible. There was just a 10% chance of rain, so Pim’s roof and side windows were removed, which made for a cool drive to Andover.
The show itself is short and sweet, running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and entry is free. All exhibitors and spectators are able to vote for their favorite car. We forget who won the show, but the runner-up did not step forward when announced, so the trophy was passed on to Pim as the next-most popular vote getter. (Wendy said, “I’ll take People’s Choice Runner-up any day, especially when competing with the caliber of cars at this show!”)
Good weather held for the duration of the show, but rain appeared shortly thereafter. Luckily, Tom had convinced Wendy to bring along Pim’s top and windows, so they were all set for the drive home. (Wendy again, “Note to self — listen to your husband more frequently!”)
All said, this is a great little car show and highly recommended for classic Mini owners.
Line of classic Minis at the British Motorcar Festival in Bristol.
Photo by Iain Barker
Shipshape and Bristol Fashion
by Iain Barker
BRISTOL, R.I., June 8 — I was still recovering from a hectic but ultimately rewarding “British by the Sea” show in Waterford, Conn., the previous weekend, and was looking forward to a more relaxed road trip to the British Motorcar Festival in Bristol.
This was to be the second “overnight” car show this year for my daughter Nuala and me, but due to the busy social calendar of a seven-year-old these days, we would not be able to attend the opening Friday night parade. Instead, we drove down early on the Saturday, while temperatures were still cool enough not to trouble the engine of my 1967 Mini Cooper S.
The trip down was uneventful, save for the constant honks, thumbs-up and cellphone photos taken from modern cars on I-95, and we arrived in plenty of time to set up pitch in the classic Mini row.
Bristol has the same organizational team as the Stowe British Invasion, and follows that established order of ceremonies — including having a “royal” visitor chauffeured to her throne, and various British-themed events throughout the day including “British fashion” and “ladies’ hats” competitions.
Seven classic Minis were in attendance, with a good spread of the models represented: Morris Super-Deluxe, Innocenti, Morris Cooper S, Austin Saloon, Austin Countryman, Morris Traveller with a VTEC engine, and a Morris 1/4-ton Commercial Van. Honorable mention goes to “Fuddy,” a solitary Morris Minor Series II.
Compared to Stowe, the Bristol show is small — about a quarter the size — but benefits from a more intimate ambiance. The location is also great for kids, with the seashore and a playground within easy sight of the show field. And bright weather all day helped the cars look their best.
After the show we retired to our hotel in Seekonk, with Sunday being mostly taken up by Nuala’s favorite activity of mini golf.
In all, it was a great little car show and one we will definitely revisit in future.
MG J2 with two young drivers. Ken Lemoine, show organizer, is there to coach them.
Photo by David Schwartz
by David Schwartz
FRAMINGHAM, Mass., June 15 — NEMO’s Ken Lemoine has organized a small classic car show at Framingham’s MetroFest for the past six years. MetroFest offers a bit of everything, with 20 food trucks, music and dance performances, kids’ activities, craft beer tasting and over 100 vendor booths. In previous years the car show was multi-marque with British cars, American muscle cars, European cars and even a truck from the early 1900s. This year the theme was all British, with cars supplied by members of NEMO and the Boston Area MG Club (BAMG). Many owners belong to both clubs.
Wendy Birchmire drove her oh-so-cute 1973 Union Jack Morris Mini, and was joined later by her husband Tom. Bob Brownell had a short drive from Shrewsbury in his 1963 Austin Mini. Bob’s wife and granddaughters arrived separately in a modern car (no seat belts in the Mini).
I finished re-installing the interior in my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer the night before Metrofest, and the car had its debut at the event. My wife Betty Lehrman and daughter Alison met me later in the day for lunch.
Ken Lemione brought his 1961 Jaguar XK150, one of the last five imported to the U.S. before Jaguar switched to the XKE. Ken’s daughter Alison and her children also joined us for lunch.
BAMG member Michael Crawford drove his 1933 MG J2 in from Uxbridge, Mass. Twenty-year-old James Nifong and other BAMG members brought their MGBs.
The LBCs were very popular with the public. An overly enthusiastic teenage girl sprinted toward an MGB and was about to vault over the door when I called out to her. Owners did allow people to sit in their cars, as long as they asked permission first!
One of my favorite photo-ops was two young brothers sitting in the cockpit of the MG J2 as Ken looked on.
While scoping out food truck menus I was excited to see a nicely restored Divco Milk Truck that had been converted to an ice cream truck. The owner was sitting in the driver’s seat and was quite surprised when I asked him the year of the Divco, as no one else knew what it was!
(I did, because in the late ’50s to early ’60s a milkman delivered dairy products to my house in a Divco truck.)
This particular Divco was a 1948 and the owner, Philip Rosenfield, invited me to climb aboard to look around. Rosenfield also owns the “Reasons to be Cheerful” home-made ice cream shops in Hudson and Concord, Mass. The truck is named “Chillwagon.” It attends local festivals and is available for private events.
Contact Ken (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in participating next year. Or just come for lunch. Admission is free.
MINI and Mini on the Museum lawn.
Photos by David Schwartz
British Car Day at LAAM
by David Schwartz
BROOKLINE, Mass., June 23 — The weather was sunny and warm for the 2019 edition of British Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Overall turnout was good, with cars filling the upper lawn and two rows on the lower lawn. The Rolls-Royce and Bentley contingent parked across from the main museum entrance.
Given the record 60th anniversary turnout at British by the Sea, it was surprising there were only five classic Minis and three modern MINIs in attendance. I felt like a traitor driving my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer instead of my Mini. The Minor spent two years on jack stands in my garage while I sorted out sins of previous owners. My goal was to have it back on the road in time for British Car Day.
NEMO regulars Iain and Nuala Barker, Wendy Birchmire, and Alex Daly were in attendance. As was Ken Lemoine, who brought his recently acquired 1961 Jaguar XK150. Brett Lemoine drove Ken’s 1965 Mini Traveller, so he was well represented. Bill Psaledakis and his wife had the fifth classic Mini, a 1979 Austin in green with a checkered roof. Their car pulled in next to a green 2019 JCW MINI Cooper S with only 500 miles.
Most of the Minis were parked in the middle of the upper lawn. I brought my pop-up tent so NEMO members and friends could gather in the shade. When the wind picked up, Iain improvised tent stakes with screwdrivers from his tool kit.
I always search out unusual or rarely seen cars. There was a large Lotus turnout, including a Europa and three Elans, two convertibles and a coupe. The coupe was for sale. Then there was the rare 1948 Jaguar 3-1/2 Litre Drop Head Coupe. The car had a three-position top that can open over the driver while passengers remained in the shade. The look was decidedly prewar, like a chauffeur-driven Duesenberg.
A very original Jaguar XK120 Coupe sported a “Please Touch” sign on the windshield. Wow!
A 1970 Marcos GT powered by a Volvo B30 engine was parked on the lower field. The Marcos has a fiberglass body with a long bonnet that reminded me of a Jaguar E-type. A total of 150 were sold in the U.S. by Volvo dealers.
A Triumph TR7 owner with a sense of humor had affixed Ferrari badges to his car. Late in the show, a beautiful blue and white 1934 Riley roadster was driven onto the upper lawn by an owner clad in a winter hat. The car stayed for less than an hour and was never judged.
Ken Lemoine’s 1965 Mini Traveller won best in the Mini class, and Wendy Birchmire’s 1973 Union Jack Mini took home the People’s Choice Award.
Dan St Croix and his resurrected Mini — good to see them both at BBTS.
Photo by David Schwartz
Mini’s 60th Anniversary at BBTS
by David Schwartz
WATERFORD, Conn., June 2 — To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the classic Mini was featured as “Marque of the Year” at the Connecticut MG Club’s 32nd annual British by the Sea (BBTS).
The day started out overcast, but around noon the sun broke through the clouds. Harkness Memorial State Park, the site of the gathering, is a beautiful venue, and all show cars park on a large lawn with a view of Long Island Sound. There were 320 fantastic British vehicles at the show this year!
For the past few months I have been writing about BBTS in NEMO Newsbeat and posting event reminders on social media. Clearly, Mini and MINI owners got the message. We had a great turnout with 23 classics and 13 modern MINIs. The CT MG Club said it was the most “Marque of the Year” cars that have ever shown up at BBTS! Several members even brought one of each, while others brought two classics!
The official show start time was 10 a.m., but Minis continued to trickle in until after 11, so the parkers started a second row.
There were four NEMO member classic Minis I had never seen before. Dave and Fran Brown brought a ’66 Moke and ’67 Van, both of which were in pristine condition. Paul Smith brought a ’70 Innocenti Mini that he had rescued from under a tarp, as well as a ’67 Austin Van. The Van was a left-hand drive export model for Finland, equipped with a factory engine block heater and fresh air cabin heater in the engine compartment.
Other NEMO members got their cars back on the road just in time for BBTS.
Dan St Croix’s ’71 Morris Mini had been parked for five years. After a trailer ride to Dave Black’s Mini Barn, Dan’s car made the drive to Waterford. Dan looked particularly natty in his white coveralls with red trim. His windshield sign listed “cute single driver” as a feature, and I have to agree.
Greg Mazza’s ’67 Cooper S also made the trip, after finally drying out from the hurricane that hit British Legends Weekend on Cape Cod in 2016.
Lorine and Derick Karabec trailered their gorgeous ’67 Wolseley Hornet (a “booted” Mini variant) up from Ulster Park, N.Y. It is always a treat to see their Hornet, as these cars were not imported to the U.S. Dianne Izzo couldn’t make it to BBTS, but she sent her ’73 Austin Mini with family friends.
Iain and Nuala Barker’s ’67 Cooper S has been a regular at many events. This year Iain also brought a Churchill Hydrolastic pump he restored, as well as an original BMC tool roll.
Wendy Birchmire brought her popular Union Jack ’73 Morris Mini 1000 and Paul Berton flat-towed his ’67 Austin Cooper S down from Salem, Mass.
Bob Brownell made a 2 1/2-hour scenic drive on back roads from Shrewsbury, Mass., through eastern Connecticut. This was a comfortable 40-50mph drive for his ’63 Austin Mini’s 850cc engine. At 85 miles each way, it was the longest drive in his five years of ownership. To be safe, Bob carried tools and spare parts, while his wife Kathy followed in a modern car.
Dave Black drove down in his ’79 Mini 1000, as did Mark Fodor in his ‘59/’60 Austin Mini. Betty and I had an uneventful drive from Framingham, Mass., in my ’68 Morris Mini Traveller. Given the blown head gasket last year, I kept the speed down on the highway.
Barbara Newman drove “Buffy,” her ’60 Morris Mini, while Dave Newman drove their 2013 MINI Cooper Club Van woodie wagon. I have it on good authority that Dave’s modern MINI had trouble keeping up with Barbara’s 850cc classic. Buffy wore a variety of 60th birthday decorations at the show.
Dave Icaza brought his ’69 “Surfer Dude” Austin Countryman, and Jean Icaza parked her 2002 MINI Cooper on the show field.
Yes, NEMO was well represented in both classes.
Best in Show Featured Marque, Best in Class — Nuala and Iain Barker’s 1967 Morris Cooper S.
Photo by David Schwartz
Non-member classics included a ’98 Mini that climbed Mount Washington and sported a “MINIs on Top” decal, a VTEC estate and a VTEC saloon, and a restoration in progress displayed on a flatbed trailer. The show announcer kept referring to the restoration project as half a Mini whenever additional classics arrived on the field and he gave the count!
Antonio Sapata has been active in the modern MINI scene for some time. He brought a recently acquired an ’81 Mini and is busy fitting it with Mk1 features, though he won’t swap out the wind-up windows.
Roger Bartlett’s 2008 “Minions MINI” was a crowd favorite and won 1st in the New MINI class. The car is yellow with green stripes, wheels and accents, and is covered with “Minions” from the Despicable Me movies.
There were several signs stating “Life is too short to drive a boring car.” Dave Oliveira displayed two MINIs on the show field, the GABB racing MINI and his daily driver. A MINI Clubman had a pop-up tent mounted on the roof. The owner said he has taken the car on camping trips and the tent sleeps two.
I am always on the lookout for oddball vehicles, and one of the most unusual cars on the field was a 1960 Bugeye Sprite that had been converted to an electric drivetrain.
From a distance I knew something was different when I spotted thick orange cables under the open bonnet. The 80hp AC motor accelerates from 0 to 60mph in just 10 seconds (the original 948cc engine took 20.5 seconds). The batteries are in the boot, which gives a 50/50 weight distribution, and the car is only 75 lbs. heavier than a 1275cc gas-powered version. The gearshift lever was replaced with a cup holder, and a battery charge gauge is mounted on the dash. Otherwise the interior is true to the original.
Several rarely-seen cars were present at the show. A 1953 Triumph Mayflower was registered in the Open Sedan class. The Mayflower is a very small saloon with upscale lines, as if a Bentley was scaled down by half.
Another Triumph, a 1948 2000 Roadster, was registered in the Open Sport class. The 2000 has “dickey” seats in the boot, just in front of the spare tire, which is mounted on the boot lid. There is a second windshield that folds up from the boot to protect the rear passengers.
When awards were handed out for the Classic Mini class, Iain and Nuala Barker’s 1967 Cooper S took 1st and Best in Show Featured Marque. Wendy Birchmire’s 1973 Morris Mini took 2nd, and Fran and Dave Brown took 3rd with their 1966 Austin Mini Moke. Congratulations to all.
Hopefully, the Mini 60th anniversary celebration will continue throughout the New England car show season.
Melted clamp. The outcome could have been much worse.
Photo by Iain Barker
Fire in the Hole!
by Iain Barker
A cautionary tale for those who do their own electrical maintenance. When replacing a car battery, make sure it is of the correct physical size and there is plenty of clearance before reconnecting the terminals.
A friend with an Mk1 Mini installed a new battery that had the same amps rating as the old one, but was wider, longer and shorter than the original. The reduced height caused the positive terminal to arc onto the metal floor when driving, and ultimately several hundred amps of current melted the old-style lead negative terminal clamp.
Fortunately, the issue was caught in time. Replacing the cables and using correctly spaced terminal clamps fixed the problem. It is best to try and maintain at least an inch of clearance around any non-insulated connector, or to use modern terminal clamps that have a plastic insulating shroud.