At Full Chat: Summer 1995

A few months ago, I was invited to Goleta to serve on a panel assembled to judge a number of British enthusiast club publications. It was to prove a gratifying experience, one that left me optimistic regarding the future of the sports car fraternity (sorority, too). I was reminded of my tenure decades ago as an officer of the Westchester (County, New York) Sports Car Club, and the difficulty we had in finding editorial staff volunteers who could live with deadlines.

As we progressed through the newsletters and magazines, my sense of duty, of being put upon, was replaced by one of discovery. The pages of these publications demonstrate that British sports cars today arc perceived as far more than cantankerous appliances, but rather they are the common denominator for a cult-like lifestyle.The session inspired memories of rallies, of gymkhanas, and monthly dinner meetings. All of the judges were both entertained and educated by the information found in the pages of the competing publications. My hat is off to the volunteers who put them together.

Today, access to desktop publishing technology enables some pretty professional-looking publications to be produced by national, even regional marque clubs. And, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the scope of our judging would include magazines and newsletters put out by organizations whose focus is on nameplates other than those now associated with Moss Motors. It was the content of the publications and the activities of the clubs that became the primary yardsticks by which our awards were to be made. Obviously, there still are TSD rallies taking place around the USA and throughout the world. The same applies to concours, time trials and tech sessions, as well as a wide range of social activities.

We were particularly pleased to see considerable current interest in history. Perhaps this is because most of these marques now can be termed orphans. I should like to return to this topic a bit later.

Recently, I again leafed through some of the publications that Ken Smith and Bob Goldman allowed me to keep after we had made our selections. Here below are a few items that really got my attention…

MG VINTAGE RACERS’ NEWSLETTER

Editor: Greg Prehodka.

Superior reportage of events past and present; a great historical resource. Tech tips that not only detail repair procedures, but which present analyses of problem causes.

AUSTIN-HEALEY MAGAZINE

Editor: Bill Emerson.

Healeys (Pre-Austin) at Le Mans…well-researched historic information, supported by period photos.

JAMMERS

Published by: Jensen Motorcar Club.

Mere inclusion in judging demonstrates a commendably catholic posture by Moss Motors towards all British sports car enthusiast clubs. I found the restoration saga in my sample copy (June, 1994) to be thorough and well presented.

YE OLDE VALVE CLATTRE

Club T MG of Portland, Oregon.

Editor: Mary Margaret Hire

A nostalgic revisit to Burma Shave’s roadside sign ad campaign of 50 years.

WHITE LADY

Association of Jensen Owners.

Historical Editor: Richard Calver.

Article on the early interceptors included, not only production numbers, but identified markets where the vehicles in question were distributed. Most impressive publication, with much four color photography and near commercial layout and graphics.

THE CHATTER

Emerald Necklace MG Register.

Activities, specifically an innovative, year-long scavenger hunt. Report of discovery of MGB GT V8 prototype leads to advice: “Know what you are buying or selling.”

THE SPANNER NEWS

British Auto Club of Las Vegas

The First Annual Garage & Bake Sale…it’s nice to know that there will be a second!

THE ROARS

Houston MG Car Club.

We were impressed by Gary Watson’s John Thornley obituary. (It recalled our own 1965 lunch with Thornley at Abingdon.)

In actual fact, every club publication contained something that sparked a recollection, or that provided historic information that enriched our personal knowledge of automotive history.

Those clubs that already have historians are to be commended for their foresight. And, we suggest that all clubs should establish such a position. An early function might be to record the chassis and engine numbers of every member’s vehicles, and to create some means to keep track of any future ownership changes. Then the historian might establish a means to help members trace their vehicles’ prior history and chain of ownership.

It’s too late now for me to trace the current status of several cars that once resided in the Newton garage…and you shouldn’t repeat my errors. There were two MG TDs, a pair of TRs, a ZA Magnette, a first year Sprite, an XK120M roadster, plus a 1963 MGB roadster. Then there was the early, very early, all-aluminum XK120 that Logan Hill sold me in 1958. To my shame, I don’t have the numbers of any of these cars in my files today. Had these cars been registered with a club, there might be a way to trace their current whereabouts.

In that regard, Morris Hallowell called me in 1981 or thereabouts to say that he had an Aston Martin DB5 coupe for sale, and that his archives showed YT as the original purchaser. I’m sure that the AMOC records will forever keep that tidbit of information on file.

What those records won’t show are the wonderful memories of driving that Fiesta red beauty to Dover, of the rough seas while crossing to Boulogne and the subsequent drive to Le Mans via Paris. After leaving Le Mans, we motored west to Mont St. Michel and then north, ending up at St. Valery sur Somme at a wonderful Relais. In fact, just last month my son Brian and I spent a Sunday searching the Cabourg area for a seaside restaurant where his mother and I had enjoyed the world’s best Moules Mariniere on a sunny June day on that memorable trip. We didn’t find the exact restaurant, but we did find a bistro that served a fine canard followed by an unbelievable Calvados soufflé. And that, my friends, is an example of the value of keeping as much information as possible about your cars.

—Harry Newton

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