I have always loved British cars, especially Jaguars. I purchased my first Jaguar when my son, Brad, was 12-years-old with the thought that it would be his first car and a solid metal one from bonnet to boot—protection if he were ever in an accident. It was not in the greatest shape but at that time I thought I knew what I was stepping into. I had the money and support to work on it, and I had a little knowledge of how to fix the problems.
When Brad turned 16 I handed him the keys for his birthday. He rolled his eyes. He was hoping for a better car. I was disappointed that he did not share my enthusiasm of riding the roads in a classy 1987 XJ6 with her sleek lines and voluptuous curves. He reluctantly took the keys from my hand. A week later, when he returned home from a drive, he was grinning from ear to ear. He jumped out of the car, threw his hands up in the air and roared, “I LOVE THIS CAR!” He found out it could be a chick magnet.
Later that year he was involved in an accident and the Jag did her job of protecting him from harm, although he cried like a baby when he looked at her crumpled and disabled body. I had a friend who owned a body shop and she was straightened out and back in running order before long. For Christmas that year, five years ago, I gave my son a membership to the British Motoring Club of Arkansas (BMCA) so he could connect with others who shared the passion, love and frustration of British Car Ownership. At that time I also became an associate member; however, my work schedule as a law enforcement officer prevented me from spending any time with the club. And Brad was going to boarding school so he was not able to be involved in the club either.
Two years ago I was in a deep depression. My health took a drastic turn for the worse, my husband left, I was forced to retire from my job, my son had to come home from college and I lost my house—all within a matter of 8 months. I was at rock-bottom. I’ve always heard when one reaches rock bottom there is only one place to go, but things weren’t looking too “up” for me and I was lost. I struggled with losing a job that I had spent my entire life either wanting to do or doing, only to wake up one morning to find it gone.
One morning Brad said he wanted help working on the Jag and I reluctantly agreed. I was not feeling my worth but I sucked it up, put my big girl panties on and drove him out to Ronnie McLeod’s British Car Shop for some parts. While talking with Ronnie that morning he mentioned there was a BMCA meeting that night and urged us to attend. I still was not feeling like a people person but Brad dragged me out of the house. I had a nice time but felt a little lost because I did not know anyone there; however, they mentioned a “run” later in the month and Brad suggested we go ride go-carts with the rest of them, “It’ll be fun,” he said, “you’ll like it.”
We did go on the run and I did like it. The next month I attended another meeting and another run which ended at the Lake Corvallis Yacht Club with watermelon skillfully sliced with a claymore sword by Ronnie McLeod. I still did not really know anyone but I was determined to try. That night I met many people who have become more than friends, they are family. I have since spent nearly every Saturday evening with members of the club and always attend the meetings and runs. Little did I know that spending time with the BMCA would change my life in ways I never could have imagined.
I made plans to attend the British Car Week National Meet in Hot Springs, Arkansas, last May but was not too enthusiastic about it until we actually arrived. It was wonderful to meet people from around the United States, people just like me, with a plethora of backgrounds all sharing a love of little British cars. During the week I had a chance encounter with a person who has had a major impact on my life, John Nikas, the driver of “Grace,” a 1953 Austin Healey 100. As I spent time with John and Grace I received encouragement to “keep going, don’t give up.”
Had I not become involved in the BMCA, I would still be wallowing in self-pity and only a shell of myself. I have continued to dig myself out of the rocky bottom and have found a renewed sense of self-worth. I have set new goals for my life and have begun going out to find life instead of waiting for it to come to me. I have something to look forward to every day and I have slowly started finding my place in the world, all because of my little British car, a determined young man and the British Motoring Club of Arkansas. I look at every day as a joy and a chance to be better, and most importantly I get out there and drive.
By Synnova Henthorne
British Motoring Club of Arkansas
North American Spitfire Squadron