My history with cars goes back to when I took my driver’s training class in the summer of 1966. I took my test that fall in my aunt’s 1962 Corvair. I had some hand-me-down American cars until my senior year of college, when I purchased my 1966 Corvair Monza convertible. It cost $600. How times have changed.
After the Corvair I went through a series of small cars until I met my husband Bill in the early 1980s. He had a 1976 Triumph Spitfire, which was his daily driver.
Bill purchased the car from a British Leyland dealer in Baton Rouge, La. (We still have that car today.) He was autocrossing the Spit at the time and invited me to bring my 1982 RX-7 and give it a try. So I got involved in autocrossing also.
Before we got married we both did a Skip Barber Driving School at Roebling Road Raceway outside of Savannah, Ga. That started the racing bug for Bill, and I was content being crew chief. Many years later he went back racing in the Vintage car group with the Sports Car Club of America.
We have had three British racecars. The first one was a 1964 Triumph Spitfire roadster. It really was a cute little car with an 1147 motor. Bill wanted more power, so when an opportunity arose to buy a 1972 Triumph GT6 we jumped on it.
The GT6 has been a pretty reliable car. It is in Group 44 colors and looks great.
A few years later we traded the little Spit racecar along with some cash for a 1965 Triumph Spitfire Le Mans Coupe Replica, which we sold back to the original owner after a few track mishaps.
Our other British acquisitions included a 1970 red Triumph GT6. We did some mechanical work on it and sold it. Bill said it fought him all the way (but I think most of them do).
We also owned a 1969 Spit-Six, which we took off the hands of a guy going through a divorce. We did not do much with that car and found a willing buyer.
One of our less satisfying acquisitions was a 1972 Jensen-Healey. It was a beautiful yellow convertible, for which we traded a pontoon boat to our neighbor. It had a bad habit of dying at the top of bridges. We sold that car to a young man who told us he never had trouble with Lucas electrics in the past. I’m sure it gave him a new perspective on that subject.
Another car that was in our stable for a while was a 1960 Bugeye that we rescued in Fort Myers. It was in good shape but needed some restoration and we finally realized that we did not have the time or the energy to do it. We sold that car to a good home, and hopefully we will see it out and about one day.
In 1999 Bill and I went to the Mini 40th Birthday Celebration at Silverstone Raceway and saw over 5,000 Minis in all different body styles and configurations. It was there that we saw the introduction of the new MINI One. It was in a giant bubble and piqued our interest — so much so that in December 2002, we took delivery of our 2003 Chili Red MINI. I named her Chili Girl, and that was the start of my love affair with my MINI.
When we picked her up she had a big bow on her bonnet, and we received a snow globe with a MINI in the city inside. We also were sent several other goodies throughout the next year. A special MINI mug was my favorite. I’m still using it.
Bill really wanted to drive the new MINI more but I used her as my daily driver to work. Ultimately we ordered his 2005 Hyper Blue Metallic with a British flag on the roof.
In 2005 we went to the British Grand Prix at Silver-stone and arranged a trip to tour the new MINI factory outside Oxford. It was the first tour of an automobile factory I had ever taken and it was very impressive.
I have driven my MINI over 164,000 miles. She just had a new paint job that makes her look like she just came off the showroom floor.
Our Mini saga went on after we purchased a classic 1972 Clubman from our friends. It is our primary show car and has won some trophies. We have really enjoyed the little purple Mini. It is right-hand drive and people ask us if it is legal in this country.
Our most recent acquisition is a 2016 Mini Cooper S, for which we traded in our 2005 MINI. It is much different from my MINI in that it has a lot of technology. No key, but a fob that you have to have in the car. The start-up procedure takes a while to get used to.
I am still in love with my MINI and intend to have many more adventures with her.
Our club was invited to bring our cars to the Miramar Outlets Mall on Father’s Day, June 17th, for a car show.
One of the local hot rod clubs, the Cool Cruisers, has a monthly display at the mall and wanted to expand the show with our British cars for Father’s Day. Since many of our members travel north for the summer, I called the other local British car clubs, Triumphs of Southwest Florida and the Jaguar Club of Southwest Florida, to round up a few more cars.
The parking lot venue was on a lake, but shade was very scarce with the Florida sun shining brightly in the 90°-plus heat.
Mary and I brought the 1972 Mini Clubman and the 2016 MINI Cooper S. We also brought some shade and a lot of cold water.
There were several MGs — Chris Cosden’s 1952 TD, Larry and Marcia McCartt’s MGB and Mike Wheeler’s MGB. John and Angela Sergeant brought their MGA.
John and Heather Dent came in style with their 2007 Bentley. Ed O’Neal brought his Austin-Healey 3000. Representing the Triumphs were Dennis McKinley with his TR7 and Mark Shilen with his TR6.
The Mall provided some free raffle prizes, free water, and lots of shopping.
We all lasted about four hours, escaping before the afternoon rains came down. —Bill Newman
ARCADIA, Fla. — Before Pearl Harbor there was a need to establish flying schools in the United States. South Florida became the site for two that were important British training schools: the British Number 5 at Riddle Field in Clewiston, and the US School at Carlstrom Field in Arcadia. Carlstrom Field opened in June 1941 and Riddle field opened in September 1941.
During the course of their training several young pilots had accidents and 23 died. The British authorities requested a burial spot for the fallen pilots. Five plots of adequate size were set aside for this purpose, along with two extra plots for meditation and memorials.
At Carlstrom Field training was with planes of simple design, such as the PT-17s. At Clewiston advanced trainers, the BT-13s and AT-6s, were used.
Each year a formal commemorative service is held at the British Plot in Arcadia’s Oak Ridge Cemetery by the Rotary Club of Arcadia. The British Car Club of Southwest Florida has participated in this event for many years. Each year our club has presented a memorial wreath for placement at the plot.
This year’s ceremony included memorial comments by Brigadier General Bradley Swanson of the US Central Command at Mac Dill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla. He had been stationed in England for several years and was a pilot himself.
Our Club President, Bill Newman, presented our wreath for the ceremony. Also attending were Cecil Carter and Isabel Munoz from the club.
A PT-17 under restoration was at the memorial, having been brought there by Hal Thompson (see photo). The turnout was lower than in past years because of the threat of rain. We all then met up again at the Celtic Ray Pub in Punta Gorda for some lunch.
The June 12th meeting was called to order by President Bill Newman at 6:30 p.m.
Mary Newman gave the Secretary’s report. She stated the minutes were on the website and also in the British Marque. Mary Newman, also interim Treasurer, reported we had three new members, which brings the membership to 87 members. A motion was made to accept the report and seconded.
Ken Taylor made a motion to nominate Tom Brewsaugh as Treasurer. Larry McCart seconded the motion and the motion passed. Tom is the new Treasurer.
On May 27th the club attended the Memorial Day Service at the British Plot at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia, Fla. Bill and Mary Newman and Cecil and Isabel Munoz attended from our club and placed a wreath at the plot containing 23 British pilots who died while training in Florida. After the event the group proceeded to the Celtic Ray in Punta Gorda for lunch.
On June 9th and 10th Kenny Taylor raced at Sebring in the vintage races, stating it rained on Saturday but was dry on Sunday.
Bill asked for an organizer for the Christmas Party. We can have it the usual meeting location if no one steps forward.
Miramar Outlets has contacted us about a car display on June 17th we have contacted the membership and hope to have a turnout.
There is a SCCA vintage race on the weekend of July 21st and 22nd at Sebring on the short course. It is a Drivers School also, along with an Enduro.
The 50/50 was held and the meeting then adjourned.—Mary Newman, Secretary
When I was in college in New England in the ’60s, I was not allowed to own or operate a car on campus because I was on financial aid. All the rich kids were tooling around in MGs and Triumphs, and I was very jealous.
Last term senior year, this limitation was relaxed, the school aware of soon-to-be-alumni from whom they would be soliciting donations. My dad gave me some money as a graduation present to buy a car.
I found a 1961 Morgan owned by a Harvard student. The price was more than I had, so I called my mom and secretly got her to give me some more money under the table. I quickly hitchhiked to Cambridge, and bought it. I spent many hours during that last term working on the car, replacing floorboards, making side curtains, etc.
I took it on a road trip, revving the engine up to red line, and it threw a rod and broke the camshaft, and I was stuck by the side of the road. I found a garage that worked on British cars, and the guy offered to swap the engine of a TR3 he had for $250. That bill ended up being $400, and since I didn’t have any money, I went into the financial aid office and begged them to increase my student loan. They looked at my record, and increased my scholarship by $400, not knowing what it was for!
On graduation, I took the car home to Chicago and enjoyed driving it for two years, then got Jaguar fever and spent my entire annual salary on an XKE. I sold the Morgan to my best friend, who started to restore it. He eventually burned out, and the car sat in his garage in Chicago for 45 years.
I bought the car back from him in 2016, and after all those years, got back the very car I had in college. I decided to complete the restoration. After two years, the restoration is now finished, so everything has been renewed, and it now has a new TR4 engine with more power. It is a beauty, a real gem.
It has been a 50-year saga, and now that the car is done, I am thinking of moving on, so I will put it on the market. If interested you can contact me at email@example.com!
The May Luncheon Run to the Celtic Ray Public House in Punta Gorda was attended by a small but happy group on May 5th. Cinco de Mayo at an Irish pub may seem strange, but the Celtic Ray actually has the best tacos in Punta Gorda.
Mary and I met Larry and Marcia McCartt with their MGB at a shopping plaza and were joined by Tom Howard, a potential new member with a nice black MGA. Tom made part of the Run but had to get home due to some visiting relatives.
We arrived at the Pub to find Mike Wheeler with his MGB along with Aldis and Janet Lemesis with their late model Jaguar. Soon joining the group were Sindy and Carl Steinberg with their Mini Panel Van, and Cecil Carter and Isabel Munoz with his “British” Honda.
We were fortunate to be able to sit together since we were the first customers in this very busy pub. The group enjoyed great conversation and good food and drink.
The Celtic Ray Public House is owned by Irishman Kevin Doyle, who is a big fan of all Minis, both old and new. The Pub is listed on Foursquare as #5 on a list of the top 25 most popular pubs in America! —Bill Newman
The May 8th meeting was called to order by President Bill Newman at 6:30 p.m. A smaller group was present due to the absence of the seasonal residents. There were no new members or guests.
Our Secretary, Mary Newman, reported that the minutes of the last meeting were on the website. She also asked for people to submit articles for British Marque Car Club News.
We celebrated the May birthdays of the members present. Mary also asked to let her know if you have not received e-mails about upcoming events.
Treasurer Jackie Hill gave her report and stated that there were 84 paid members. This was Jackie’s last report, as she has resigned from being Treasurer because she and her husband Lionel have sold their home and are moving to North Florida. They were presented with a gift card for their past years of service to the club.
President Bill asked for a volunteer for Treasurer but no one volunteered. A motion was made by Vice President Ken Taylor for Mary Newman to be interim Secretary/Treasurer. It was seconded by Tom Brewsaugh. The motion carried.
Past events — The Jaguar Club of Southwest Florida held an event in Port Charlotte and several club members attended. They included John Welch, Cecil Carter, Al Iagnemmo, Gary Dworkin, and Linda and Bob Ray.
The local Triumph Club held a cruise-in at Nathan’s Hot Dogs in Fort Myers. Attendees from our club included Lionel and Jackie Hill, Peter Sales, Larry and Marcia McCartt and John Liversedge.
President Bill sponsored a luncheon run to the Celtic Ray Pub in Punta Gorda on May 5th (see accompanying article). Attendees included Bill and Mary Newman, Larry and Marcia McCartt, Cecil Carter and Isabel Munoz, Mike Wheeler, Aldis and Janet Lemesis, and Carl and Sindy Steinberg.
Upcoming events (as of the meeting date)
May 28 — Memorial Day Service at the British Pilots Plot at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia, Fla. The group will meet at the McDonald’s at Jones Loop Road and I-75 at 8:15 a.m.
June 9-10 — Vintage Race on the Short Course at Sebring International Raceway.
Other business — Peter Sales had a question about sending out other clubs’ newsletters with our e-mail list. President Bill explained he did not give permission for that and will not promote competing clubs.
The 50/50 raffle was held. President Bill asked for a volunteer to organize the Christmas Party. No one volunteered.
The meeting adjourned.—Mary Newman, Secretary
The story of this car is the automotive history of four men in England, whose actions created the stuff well suited for a movie:
Wilbur Gunn, a Scottish-American and former opera singer, who emigrated to England and became a British citizen in 1891. He worked as a speedboat and motorcycle engineer in Staines, Surrey, UK, where he founded the Lagonda Company in 1906. He named the company after the Shawnee name of a creek close to Springfield, Ohio, where he was born.
Gunn had originally built motorcycles on a small scale in the back of his house with reasonable success, including a win on the 1905 London-Edinburgh race. In 1907 he built his first car, the 20hp, 6-cylinder Torpedo, with which he won the Moscow-St. Petersburg race of 1910.
After Gunn’s death in 1920, Lagonda continued to develop cars with groundbreaking technologies, but had continuous financial problems.
Alan Good, an Irish entrepreneur, outbid Rolls-Royce in 1935 to buy the assets of the bankrupt Lagonda Company, which was the beginning of a fierce competition.
Walter Owen Bentley found himself in a difficult situation after Rolls-Royce bought his company. They forced him to stay on for three years, but kept him away from the engineering department and pushed Rolls-Royce engines into Bentley cars.
“W.O.,” very frustrated, joined Lagonda in 1935, in spite of their small-scale business facilities. He developed a 4.5-liter V12 engine that consequently placed Lagonda in direct competition with Rolls-Royce and Daimler. The car debuted in 1937 and its race version won respectable results at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1939.
Towards the end of World War II, W.O. developed a new 2.6-liter inline six-cylinder for a smaller car to position Lagonda between Rover and Rolls-Royce. Alan Good had started the advertisement for the new car already in 1944 by promoting the Bentley connection with the new Lagonda. Since Rolls-Royce owned rights to the Bentley name, they sued Lagonda successfully, which ruined Alan Good.
David Brown, a British entrepreneur, saw in 1947 a classified advertisement in The Times offering for sale a “High Class Motor Business.” Brown acquired it — Aston Martin — for £20,500, but discovered that they had only old engines and chassis constructions. When Lagonda became for sale in 1948, he bought it for £52,500 to get his hands on the Bentley engine. Lagonda moved in with Aston Martin in Feltham, Middlesex, and production resumed with the latest prototype from W.O., the 1948 DB (for David Brown) 2.6-Litre, with a new chassis featuring fully independent suspension. Its new 2580cc twin overhead cam straight-six became the basis for the Aston Martin engines of the 1950s.
In 1953 Brooklands of Bond Street purchased the last sixteen 2.6 Mk2 rolling chassis and had them bodied by Tickford in a more modern style. After Brooklands’ sales success with the new design, Lagonda decided to produce these cars themselves.
The new body was still all-aluminum-over-ash-frame, but became too heavy for the 2.6-Litre engine. Therefore, the engine was enlarged to 3-Litre, producing 140bhp.
The car featured built-in hydraulic jacks as standard equipment as well as trafficators (semaphore turning signals). At the front there were coil springs and the De Dion rear axle used torsion bars. The Lockheed drum brakes, 12” at the front and 11” at the rear, were servo-assisted, and steering was by a rack-and-pinion system.
Like its predecessor, the DB 3-Litre was available as a four-seat, two-door coupé or as a drophead coupé, produced by the coach builder Tickford — which David Brown took over in 1955, moving Aston Martin and Lagonda to their Newport Pagnell facility. A four-door saloon was introduced in 1954, and the two-door coupé was discontinued in 1956.
The 3-Litre was more expensive than its competitors, and a total of just 270 of the three body styles were sold. The convertible ended production in 1957 (ca. 55 made), with the saloon following one year later.
The Florida Connection
Jeri and Hermann Schaller (yours truly) moved full-time to Punta Gorda, Fla., in the summer of 2014.
Unfortunately, their vacation house in Harbour Heights didn’t have enough garage space for their two BMWs and the 1949 Triumph Roadster 2000, so they sold “Lord Callaby,” as they had named their Triumph. Three years later, they finished a new house that included a four-car garage, and they went looking for their next classic car.
Jeri liked one of the cars in the PBS TV series Grandchester. Hermann needed three days to find out that this car was a Lagonda DB 3-Litre Drophead Coupé.
While the car fulfilled the important requirements — all-aluminum body, inline six-cylinder, four-seater convertible, affordable price level — there was no car to be found for sale in the US.
Knowing that some cars are mostly traded between people in the respective car club, Hermann joined the Lagonda Club in the UK. Through e-mails, he learned that perhaps one member was willing to part with his car. Some planned vacation travel was adjusted to be able to meet him and other members at the club’s annual meeting in South England. At the end of that day, three members had offered their cars, but the prices seemed to be one condition level higher than the cars!
Back in Florida, I saw an advertisement from a Portuguese car dealer on a Swiss website. Several e-mails later, the owner of a restoration company in Porto drove three hours to Lisbon to review the car and supply Jeri and me with a detailed report. Since nothing looked too bad in the report, price negotiations led to a deal to be finalized in person in Lisbon.
On November 14, 2017, the personal inspection, test drive and paper stuff were all done, and the car could go on its long voyage to Miami, where, with the help of good friends, I would pick it up the car on December 29, 2017, and bring it to Punta Gorda.
This car was finished on July 8, 1954, and delivered to a Mrs. E. Segrave at North Heath House in Chieveley, Newbury, Berkshire, on July 24, 1954, a long way from Lisbon and Punta Gorda. As much as the international Lagonda Club knows, this car is the only DB 3-Litre DHC in North America.
Jeri and I named the car “Largo de Lisboa” because of its relatively large size (for a European car) and the place where we found it. We want to bring “Largo” back to its original grandeur and will work on an intensive technical and optical overhaul. After that you might see it driving around Southwest Florida, because it will not stay in the garage or become a “trailer queen”!
WINTER PARK, Fla. — Three BCCSWF members headed in convoy for the 34th Winter Park All-British Classic Car Show held on Saturday, April 7th.
The 160-mile journey went well, apart from the usual traffic jams along the various family park/Kissimmee sections of I-4 that test the inevitable hot engines and the driver’s patience — all forgotten by the time we enjoyed a cold beer with club members at the Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub Meet & Greet!
On arrival at the show we joined about 180 other British classics spread around the many large shade trees, and almost immediately met John Dent, another club member, who had arrived ahead of us. We all enjoyed a wonderful day walking, talking, viewing and voting other attendees’ cars.
At 2 p.m. the trophy presentations took place. John Dent took a 1st with his 2013 XKR-S in the XK Jaguar class. Lionel Hill collected a 2nd for “Spiffy,” his 1962 MGA. My 1962 Jaguar Mk2 (“Lady Jane”) also took a 1st in the older Jag saloon class.
Dennis McKinley’s 1981 Triumph TR7 didn’t gain a trophy this time but, like everyone involved, he was full of praise for the Central Florida British Car Club who, once again, had organized a bloomin’ lovely car show! —Peter Sales
Winners at our Club Picnic! Left to right: Rich Lesinski, Trish Maue, Mike Wheeler and Isabel Munoz.
Photo by Mary Newman
Bill Newman, BCCSWF President, called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. There were no new members or guests to introduce.
Mary Newman, Secretary, said the minutes of the March meeting were on the website. She also stated that anyone not receiving e-mails should see her after the meeting to sort out the issues. Jackie Hill, the Treasurer gave her financial report and stated we have 82 paid members.
Old business and past events — March 11th, Mike Wheeler attended the “Cruise for the Cure” Car Show. He stated he won a raffle prize and there were a lot of nice cars.
March 31st was the club’s annual Picnic at the Franklin Locks in Alva, Fla. About 31 people attended and many people helped make the Picnic a success. Trish Maue and Mary Newman set up for the Picnic and also shopped for the food. Vice President Ken Taylor and President Bill Newman cooked the food. Cecil Carter and Isabel Munoz organized the games (along with a few others), and the attendees brought a side dish to complement the hamburgers and hot dogs.
After we ate, Cecil solicited participants for horseshoes and a corn hole game. After a rousing competition, the winners both male and female won gift cards to local restaurants. Winners were, for horseshoes, Trish Maue (Ladies) and Rich Lesinski (Men), and for corn hole, Isabel Munoz (Ladies) and Mike Wheeler (Men).
On April 7th, Peter Sales, Jackie and Lionel Hill, Dennis McKinley and John Dent attended Winter Park show. John Dent took a 1st place with his Jaguar XKS. Peter Sales took a 1st with his Jaguar Mk2. Lionel and Jackie took a 2nd with their MGA.
Upcoming events — On May 5th is the Luncheon Run to the Celtic Ray Pub in Punta Gorda. The Secretary will send out an e-mail about the details.
Memorial Day, May 28th, at the RAF Fallen Pilots plot in Arcadia Oak Ridge Cemetery, the club will present a wreath for the ceremony. Details will be given at the May meeting.
April birthdays were celebrated. The 50/50 raffle was held, after which the meeting adjourned. —Mary Newman, Secretary