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  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
Fifth Annual British Car Week
May 19 through 27, 2001

This year marks the fifth annual British Car Week, also known as British Car “Drivers” Week. For those of you who are new to the idea, this annual week was fueled by a 1997 article written by Road & Track columnist and British car enthusiast Peter Egan, titled “Seldom Seen Cars”. The subject of the article centered on the fact that the author misses the days when some of the most interesting sports cars ever produced were common place on the streets of any town throughout the United States. Like many of us, he misses those once familiar sights and sounds of a British car tooling up and down the street, most certainly catching the eye of anyone within in its presence. Since many of those who read the article could easily relate with the author’s feelings, they felt that maybe something should be done to help change that void, if not for the entire year, at least maybe for one week per year.

As a result, with the help of many capable British car enthusiasts, we were able to spread the word very effectively, and now the week has become a tradition for the many people who cherish these very special, unique automobiles and the rich history that helps make them so interesting. People who realize how important it is to preserve a heritage that has earned British cars a top position in automotive history. Identifiable automobile badges such as Triumph, MG, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, Austin, Sunbeam, Singer, Rover, Bentley, Hillman, Jensen, TVR, Morris, Morgan, Lotus, Mini-Cooper, Rolls-Royce, and Daimler, are just some of the names that have become American icons. They are very much a part of what made the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s such an interesting time to live. They represent an important part of our culture, and just like many things from an older era, they need to be preserved. We also need to preserve our rights to keep them filled with fuel and those that enable us to keep them on the roads.

For comparison sake, the British car is very much to the history of the automobile as what the Beatles are to music. Fortunately for the Beatles interests, their music has had the financial backing of many investors, and therefore they are promoted very heavily through all types of media. For this reason, it would be nearly impossible for anyone to forget about John, Paul, George, & Ringo, and the wonderful music they’ve provided us with. As long as their music is making money, they are assured a permanent spot within today’s music scene, today’s culture, and the preservation of the Beatles history.

As for our little British cars, this is not the case. They have no major financial backers who have a need to promote them. They have been abandoned by most of the corporations that have brought them into this world. Other than being a part of a short scene in a movie, a television commercial, or a glimpse in a book, they are not a part of any high dollar, high profile moneymaking schemes. As a result, it is up to each individual British car enthusiast to do their part to assure that these wonderful cars and their history are preserved for future enthusiasts to enjoy. We all need to continue the fine tradition of getting them out of the garage to display to the less fortunate population who do not normally have the opportunity to observe their unique beauty. Not only for the good of the enthusiast, but for all of the people who help supply us with the resources we desperately need to continue having fun with our cars.

These past five years have been very interesting and enjoyable for me because I’ve had the opportunity to read and answer a lot of messages that come to me through the British Car Week web page pertaining to enthusiasts experiences with their British cars. Some people sharing new experiences and some reminiscing of days gone by. A lot of the stories are posted on the British Car Week web page for all to read. One very common message that I receive from time to time goes something like this:

“I decided to do my part for British Car Drivers Week, so I dusted my car off and got it ready to drive. I drove it to work, I drove it to the store, I drove my kids to and from school. I drove my car all week long, but I did not see one single British car on the road other than my own. I’m not so sure this British car idea is working.”

Well, there are going to be a variety of experiences of course, but this person just described exactly why there is a need for British Car Week. If it weren’t for the exposure of their car, no one would have seen any British cars, therefore a total lack of exposure to anyone. It’s amazing how much attention these cars attract, even when you’re not aware of it. The car’s unique appearance is such that it is very hard for anyone to miss an unforgettable glimpse. Whether it’s driving around town, taking a country drive, planning a day trip with your local British car club friends, or simply pulling the car onto the driveway for a spit and polish during the day, it’s providing the chance for someone to see and appreciate its beauty. Someone to take the time to ask questions like;

“What kind of car is this?” “When was it built?” “Where was it built?” “Are they affordable?” “Where can I buy one?” “Are they easy to maintain?” “Are there clubs and businesses that support these cars?” “Where can I buy books or magazines about these cars?” “Are parts still available?” “Where would I buy parts?” “Are there shops available that service these cars?” “Is there anyone who will help me or teach me how to work on the car if it requires some service?”

There are many potential enthusiasts who are hesitant to go beyond the initial thought of owning a vintage British car because they don’t realize that virtually anyone can own and maintain any one of a variety of models to choose from. Without your answers to their questions, they would never know that these cars are very simple, reliable, affordable, extremely entertaining, and parts are readily available. What’s most important though, is that you have taken the time to get your favorite car away from its dark, lonely storage place, and you’ve decided to spend some quality time enjoying it. You and your car are a part of a large group who are spread out all over the world doing the same thing. Each planting a seed while doing something they enjoy.

So the next time you’re having fun with your favorite British car during British Car Week and you feel a bit lonely on the road, don’t feel as if it’s time wasted. First of all, you’re having fun with your car and that’s never a waste of time. Second, you’d probably be surprised how much you’re contributing to a good cause. I can tell you from my own first hand experience that spotting a British car on the road does indeed get the heart pumping a little faster. With just little bit of exposure to the right person, it just may unleash a strong desire to get involved with a very satisfying hobby, which in turn will help to support the clubs and businesses that help keep our cars on the road. Think about it. What caused you to become involved with British cars?

So grab your goggles and driving gloves, and top off your dashpots! It’s time to have some fun!

See you on the road......

Scott Helms - Curator

©2001 Chicagoland MG Club, All rights reserved.