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  • Writer's pictureFrank Oles

British Car Show 2018

Our friends Jeff and Peggy invited us to join them at the British Car Festival at Harper College. They own an original Mini. The show was larger than I anticipated - over 4 full lots full of British cars, old and new. Pretty much every mark was represented, including some pretty rare cars you don't see cruising up and down the street every day... or ever. It's hard to gauge just how big or small a car is from pictures, so seeing these cars in person is a good chance to put things into perspective, especially if you are a fan of the smaller British cars like Lotus and MG.

One of the first cars that caught my eye was this Jensen Interceptor Convertible. Back in the 70s, my Dad and Uncle used to repair exotic cars out of my Grandmother’s garage. This is one of the cars that I would always remember seeing. Although the bodywork was British, these had American drivetrains - a Chrysler 440 engine mated to a Torquefiite auto trans. It really is a British muscle car. Although the convertibles are cool, they are missing the iconic rear glass hatchback that made these models so distinctive.

A beautiful Austin Healy 100/4. So many great details - the wire wheels, the vented bonnet, the leather hold down strap, the fold down windshield, and that iconic grille. I often toy with the idea of getting one of these, but the later 3000 model with 2+2 seating. Classic British.

It’s hard to go wrong with a Jaguar E-Type roadster, especially a series 1 with those cool covered headlights. This car has oozed style from the moment it was made and will forever.

This Devin roadster was amazing, built on Jaguar mechanicals. Devin offered bodies to fit a variety of bodies and drivetrains from aircooled Porsche and Volkswagen to Triumph in different wheelbases to suit. The king of the Devin heap is the SS roadster, which was a Cobra competitor with a tube frame and Chevy drivetrain. But this example was no slouch.

And now, we enter the land of Lotus, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to live. The Europa is a Marmite model for a lot of people - it is definitely awkward from some angles, and it is small and cramped inside. But I love them! Especially in this fetching black with gold trim JPS tribute coloring. To me, these are like mini GT40s and I would love the opportunity to drive one someday.

The Elan Sprint. This color might not be for everyone, but sign me up! These are fantastic cars, and so petite in person. It’s easy to see where the Japanese got their influence for the Miata. Harry Metcalfe (of Evo Magazine) owns one, so that should tell you what a great driving experience these represent.

One day I will fulfill my dream of owning a Seven, either Lotus or Caterham. A lot of people say “my car handles like a go cart.” Unless they are talking about a Seven, they don’t know what they are talking about. Just look at it! You can’t pare a car down to much less. It’s everything you need for sporting driving, and nothing else.

How can you not love a Sprite. Cindy likes them too. I think I could talk her into one, to tuck into the corner of the garage. Just look at that face!

Look at that badge. Such amazing detail! Why don’t modern cars have badges this cool? Why does everything have to be such a yawn? End rant.

Trikes are not always cool. Unless it’s a Morgan Trike. I want to drive one of these so bad. It’s just NEAT. Cool details, cool exhaust, probably worth whatever compromise is entailed to own and drive one. Dear Santa...

MG TC. British Racing Green. If you asked somebody to name the most British car they could think of, this would not be a wrong answer. I don’t think it is legal to drive one of these unless you are wearing a jacket with elbow patches.

The cool thing about this show is the mix of old and new cars, like this brand spankin’ new Aston Martin Vantage. They took some chances with the styling of this car. It is pure aggression. The side vent detailing is neat. The front bumper is polarizing - I bet it will be one of the first things to “evolve” as the car moves through the product cycle. Overall, this was a great show that will be on my calendar again next year.

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