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English Spirit

Braving Rain at the Rolling British Car Day

By Dan Kahn

We heard about the 11th Annual Rolling British Car Day a few weeks prior to the event. The concept was simple, yet brilliant: take advantage of the fantastic Southern California weather with not one, but two car shows, and throw in a parade and a scenic road trip to round things out. Hosted by the San Diego British Car Club Council – a roundtable of local clubs that honor everything from Minis to DeLoreans – the Rolling Car Day promised to be an exciting event packed with interesting old iron.

The day before the event, our local well-coifed weatherman was predicting the worse. A big green blob, swirling towards San Diego with ominous intensity, dominated the radar screen. We hoped for the best and decided to make the trek south regardless.

On the morning of April 15, we hit the road early, hoping to make the 200-mile trek to San Diego in less than three hours. As the miles of So Cal urban sprawl blurred past, the sky got darker, along with our mood. Finally, as we crossed the San Diego county line, the skies opened up and Zeus started hurling lighting bolts with gusto. The rain came down, and we contemplated turning around right then and there.

With only a few miles to go, we decided to cruise past the parking lot kickoff point anyway, just to see if anyone had enough grit to brave the “liquid sunshine.” As we pulled in the drive, we were greeted by the sight of 120 British cars, of every era, make, and style, parked and prepped for the day ahead. After parking, we walked up to a hearty-looking fellow standing next to an MGB and asked if he planned to make the trek to the rally-point, a park in northeastern San Diego Country. With a wry smile and a glint in his eye, the old gent proudly exclaimed, “We drive British cars! You don’t think we’re going to let a little rain stop us, do you?”

As it turns out, that statement perfectly describes the prevailing spirit at the Rolling British Car Day. In the commercial strip mall staging area, most of the marque-specific clubs stuck together, with Minis grouped together in one corner, MGs in another, and rare breeds like a gaggle of DeLorean DMC-12s and a pack of Lotus’ gathering in groups. Once all the cars had arrived at the starting point, participants were given a choice of several different routes to get to the end point. As the cars filtered out of the lot, the procession of British tin created an impromptu parade that literally stopped traffic.

By the time we reached Felicita Park around 11am, cars were beginning to filter in one or two at a time. The driving rain had lifted, and a heavy mist hung in the air. The park’s rolling green hills, cobblestone pathways and weeping willow trees provided the perfect backdrop for a British car show. Combined with the wet weather and the sound of agrarian four cylinders puttering in the distance, the scene could have been plucked straight out of England.

Many drivers headed for home when the weather got rough, and only about 60 cars completed the route and arrived at the park. The park’s picnic area rapidly filled up with drivers, passengers, picnic baskets and boisterous banter. Wine was poured, stories were swapped, and the day’s wet beginnings were soon forgotten. All in all we considered the 11th Annual Rolling British Car Day a resounding success, as participants got to socialize with fellow petrol-heads and experience a tiny slice of true British Motoring.

BM0602_SD_01This slick little Lotus Cortina was one of the first cars to arrive at Felicita Park, the destination point for the Rolling British Car Day rally. The combination of sporty Ford suspension and a high-revving Lotus mill make the Cortina a perfect choice for events such as this.

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We loved this stunning 1952 MG-TD Mark II, complete with supercharged engine and larger-than-stock tires, making it a true lightweight performance machine.

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Several Minis made the trip, including this right-hand-drive model. It looks like the co-pilot is having a wonderful time.

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In the hot rod world, stripped-down bare-bones roadsters are called “Rat Rods.” While we hesitate to apply that term to a British car, this MGA would certainly fit the description. It boasted loads of performance and panache, without the expense and headaches that go along with a perfectly-restored car.

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With a new Bond movie on the way, it was great to see a well-kept 1961 Aston Martin DB4 in action. No rocket launchers or martini dispensers on this one, though.

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David Cox represented the Irish car contingent with his beautiful 1983 DeLorean DMC-12. Several cars from the San Diego DeLorean club made the journey, and they even brought along the “Back to the Future” soundtrack for ambiance.

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Only a handful of Triumphs showed up at the park, but this British Racing Green TR6 was a fine example of the marque.

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Both early and later E-Types were in attendance, and this roadster stood out as one of our favorites.

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AJ and Kimmy Ashley braved the rain in their unusual 1973 Mini Moke. The low-slung Moke uses a steel monocoque body pan mounted on Mini sub frames, and is powered by an “A” series Mini engine and gearbox unit.

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This breathtaking ‘67 MGB GT was nearly flawless and showcased several eye-catching features, including Minilite wheels and a well-detailed motor.

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This Mini Traveller caught plenty of stares thanks to a well-executed restoration, and unique surfer-style that fits San Diego to a T.

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David and Elizabeth Leigh stole the show with their fantastic 1956 Daimler Model 104. The car has only 45,000 original miles on the odometer, and is number 122 of 347 produced. Power comes from a 137-horsepower, 3.5-liter inline-six.

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Cold, misty weather didn’t seem to deter picnickers at the Rolling Car Day, where picnic baskets were plentiful and wine flowed freely.

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The latest Lotus and classic Jensen-Healey muscle parked side-by-side at Felicita Park, where all the local British clubs can come together for a little canyon carving and camaraderie.

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