I want you to take a good hard look at this nice old couple. On the face of it, they would appear to be the two most idiotically optimistic persons on the face of the Earth, with their tropical-themed thatched beach umbrella and deck chairs. However, if you look a little closer, you will notice that both are warmly dressed, with Gore-Tex and a tray of hot coffee to keep the chill at bay. They knew the weather might not cooperate and they prepared for the worst.
Granted, the background of Morris Minors and Rovers gives the plot away a little but if I actually knew how to use Photoshop to cut away all their surroundings, anyone with half a brain could take one look at the pair of them and immediately infer what sort of car they owned. “Aha!” you might say, “Those people are driving something British.”
It’s technically late spring in British Columbia, and I am at the Van Dusen gardens in central Vancouver for their annual All-British Field Meet. As such, I am surrounded by lunatics. Let me explain.
We’ve had a trio of British vehicles in the family for decades and, thus, I grew up around (and underneath) enough cantankerous machinery to set me up for a lifetime of psychotherapy. One Land Rover is essentially a rolling shed/compost-heap, the other has a dicky driver’s door that doesn’t line up after we did a full frame-off restoration and it was just discovered that the pride of the bunch – a ’67 MGB that’s also been fully restored – had its front brake callipers installed upside-down at the factory.
I drove the Landie for many of my formative years and it tried to kill me several times. The throttle linkage would fall apart at stop signs, the brakes were about as effective at stopping you as Neville Chamberlain was at stopping the Germans, and it accelerated about as briskly as Prince Phillip. It had about seventeen horsepower and all the horses had three legs and rickets and emphysema and were heavy smokers.
“But British cars have such a lot of character!” you cry. Poppycock. Excusing the numerous ‘orrible faults of a Brit-built crap-can because of so-called “character” is like letting Slobodan Milosevic off the hook for being a good dancer. Face it, these cars could only every appeal to the sort of people who can look at a huge, glistening, semi-translucent suet pudding with the appearance of a grade 4 science project on the Pacific Northwest Banana Slug and with a name out of a urologist’s medical textbook, and think, “Ooh lovely, I’ll have a slice of that then.”
British cars are for masochists and people who thought the Blitz was a minor inconvenience. “Yes, me leg’s off, but musn’t complain; merely a flesh-wound.” To be honest, I was wandering around like I had a visitors pass at Bedlam: observing the owners as much as the cars. I actually saw someone wearing a deerstalker.
Surely, this teal Aston-Martin Lagonda is the height of bad taste. I am careful not to look directly at it, lest it damage my retina like a partial eclipse or melt my face off like the Ark of the Covenant.
Something funny is beginning to happen.
I’m starting to enjoy myself.
Just look at this thing.
It’s a stick-shift V8 Vantage, and it is absolutely spectacular. It looks like it wants to wander down to Weissach and start nutting Caymans and kicking them in the cobblers when they’re rolling around on the ground.
Then there’s this.
A Sunbeam Tiger, but with a 302 swapped in. It might not have the “look-at-me” lairy-ness of a 427 Cobra, but that’s certainly a hell of a lot of tempest for a single teapot. I’m even beginning to warm up to this row of Frog-Eye sprites.
Aw, they’re sweeeeet!
Good heavens. I actually Get It: the English Disease (no, not syphillis).
None of these cars is what you’d call reliable, but then, neither is that new Kia you’re eyeing. It’s all full of fancy whizz-dads and gizmos and whatsits, and while none of them are produced by the legendarily hamfisted Lucas, they’re still going to break. It’s the difference between a high-tech laptop with the latest edition of Windows and a wonky abacus where the beads occasionally fall off. Thing is, you can put the beads back yourself, with a bit of know-how.
It’s the old truth all gearheads know about all old cars: they’re simultaneously much much better and much much worse. Still, mustn’t complain.
[A special thanks to Guest Contributor Boosted Lego Wagon, of Yet Another Damn Beer Blog! He’s got an awesome site, and is one of the OG crew from Way Back When. Check out his site, and welcome him aboard. We’d love more articles like this, and I’d sure like more Canadians on the team! Got a topic you’re passionate about? Want to write for Hooniverse? Be like Boosted, and send a sample submission to email@example.com!]
Leave a Reply