I have seen the 2013 Carlisle Import Nationals, and it was good. The turnout was excellent, the weather cooperated, and the cars were obscure. Just the way we like it. Let’s start our review with the British cars, because we’re doing this alphabetically and there were no Austrian or Australian cars at the show. The British car contingent grew appreciably for this year, due in no small part to the TVR club holding its nationals event at Carlisle. It was also nice to see a large turnout of Triumphs and MGs. Some marques, however, were absent entirely as there was not a single Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, or Bristol on the field, just to name a few. In addition, not a single Land Rover was present, though historically the Land Rover community has not made any concerted efforts to appear at Carlisle. British Leyland-era cars were also underrepresented at the show, though all of these conspicuous absences can be written off to British car owners preferring their own single-country or single-marque gatherings.
As such, it was TVR and Triumph that really dominated the British car contingent this year at Carlisle. And man, there were some rare TVRs this year, including models that we didn’t get in the states (not to imply that North America was ever offered a huge number of TVRs to choose from) such as later model TVR Griffiths that drove down from Canada. Without further
ado mucking about, let’s kick off our review of Carlisle by taking a look at the British cars that gathered this year.
The two TVR Griffiths just about stole the show as far as British cars were concerned. The TVR Griffith was made from 1991 till 2002, and offered
a thousand ways to get into trouble a 4.0 liter 240bhp engine sitting in a fiberglass tub that weighs basically nothing. The displacement was later bumped up to 4.3 liters, producing 280bhp, and all cars came with a 5-speed manual transmission. And that’s about all they came with: a V8 engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, and a couple of seats. The whole thing weighed just a little over 1000 kilograms (driver and gasoline in the tank being extras). The Griffith shared its mechanicals and powerplant with the Chimaera, itself a rare sight on our roads. These cars certainly have a reputation, and there are really very few people who can drive them at the limit. Basically, a lot of people know better than to drive these cars at their limit.
If there was one TVR model that dominated the field, it was undeniably the Grantura, as these outnumbered all other TVR models taken together. The Grantura was made from 1958 till 1967, though the design managed to stay fresh even a couple decades after it left production. The Grantura was made out of glass-reinforced plastic, and featured all the ingredients that would make later cars legendary, with the exception of an engine that would be able to get your into too much trouble. Granturas were made in the US under the marque Griffith, but they’re not technically Griffiths. (It’s complicated).
This was a nice Triumph Spitfire Mark II. The Mark I Spitfires were built from 1965 till 1967 when the car was facelifted with a fascia we’re all familiar with today, but the early Spitfires were basically less-than-heroic Triumph Heralds underneath, with 1,147cc inline-four engines. It’s always nice to see these early ones, and I think they look better than the Spitfires that came later.
And here we have the later Triumph Spitfire 1500, a model that is still quite easy to find in this country. A little over 95 thousand Spitfire 1500s were made between 1974 and 1980, representing quite a long run. These make a great starter classic, and their appeal even now is undeniable.
This was a sharp Triumph TR4, in very nice condition throughout. These models are getting harder and harder to find in concours condition, and prices for well preserved examples have been rising steadily over the past decade.
This was one of several TVR 280is that came Carlisle this year. This model is one of the more easily found ones in the US (relatively speaking), and came in a lot of versions including the coupe, a 2-seat convertible, and a 2+2. Just like with the TR7, this was “the shape of things to come” so wedge styling comes standard.
This was the only Triumph Stag at Carlisle this year, which is kind of a shame. The Stag was essentially Triumph’s muscle car, or at the very least a grand tourer. These have 3.0 liter V8 engines that can surprise with their performance to this day. Despite the relatively long production run, from 1970 till 1977, just a little over 25,000 examples were made. These can be somewhat difficult to service today, I have heard, but there are still plenty of nicely preserved examples out there.
One of well over a dozen TR6s at Carlisle this year, these are great starter classics as well, and are quite easy to find in just about any condition. If you’d like to get one of these, the collector network and parts are quite easy to find, so there is a lot of support.
No British show would be complete without a ridiculous number of MGB convertibles, and here was one of the nicer early ones finished in a light sand color. I am fond of calling these the Ford Mustangs of New England just because of their ubiquity, but its mostly ratty rubber-bumper examples that clog up New England’s
roadways breakdown lanes in the summertime. These chrome-bumper ones, on the other hand, are not as easily found and not as easily purchased.
And here’s a GT6 in what is probably the best color for any 1970s car, period!
This was the sole Daimler at Carlisle this year, and there are usually just one or two of these at any British car gathering.
One of a few Austin Minis at Carlisle this year, this RHD example had a nice paint color, though it’s obviously not original everywhere, starting with the fenders.
This was just one of a couple MG Midgets at Carlisle. Another great starter classic, especially if you don’t require a lot of room to sit and do things, and these are very lively little roadsters. I have to say that I prefer these in that orange color that they came in, as it seemed to work wonderfully on a lot of 1970s cars.
Next up in our coverage are the Germans, and below is a daily updated gallery from Carlisle Import & Kit Nationals 2013.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]