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Reflections on Amelia

Sitting at a local’s bar, half a block from the main tourist drag in historic Fernandina Beach, Florida, one has the opportunity to reflect. Over the outdoor speakers, B.B. King picks out Lucille as only he can, and above my head a hand written sign warns “Do NOT leave the porch with beers.” Above the hand scrawled warning is mounted a polar bear shaped license plate from the Northwest Territories of Canada. Occasionally a Porsche shirt walks by, or maybe a Ferrari cap, each reminding me of the scene from a couple hours ago.

Reed and Jan Tarwater, and their stunning 1933 MG J2.

Not two hours previously I watched a Tom Walkinshaw Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9 stuck in traffic, trying to turn left into the Ritz Carlton parking lot. One doesn’t often expect to see a Le Mans winning Jaguar stuck in traffic, especially when the car behind it is the one and only V12 four-cam powered Jaguar XJ13. But then such scenes are to be expected if the Ritz in question happens to be hosting tomorrow’s 2010 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Sipping my beer, studying another personalized plate hung on the wall,  “PNK PHLD,” I am forced to conclude someone else in the great state of Virginia must already have a plate which reads “PNK FLYD.” And if all is right in the world, I may also conclude that amongst the exotic turbine powered Ghia dream cars on display at the concours, there will be something with which the rest of us punters can identify. Sure enough, come Sunday I spotted that car.

Reed and Jan Tarwater, of Greenfield, Indiana, found themselves a 1933 MG J2 in a hay loft. What they really found was a chassis, windshield, instruments, some running gear, and what looked like the Swiss cheese remains of a body. Many years, and much investment later, they are the proud owners of the beautifully restored car you see here. The J2 looks outwardly like an MG TC, but is a very different car under the skin. It’s actually smaller than a TC, and is powered by an 847cc overhead cam four cylinder, with a two bearing crankshaft. Although not exceptionally quick, the cable-operated brakes make it a little more “exciting” to drive than optimum.

Of course, there is seemingly no such thing as a one-British-car family, and in conversation it came out they have a couple other British classics as well. One of which, a 1959 Bugeye Sprite, is under restoration right now. However, Reed and Jan are building that car with more of an eye for fun than serious concours competition.

It was great visiting with the Tarwaters, but before leaving I also had to spend a few minutes gawking at Richard Petty’s 1966 Plymouth Belvedere NASCAR stock car. It has 426 ci emblazoned on the hood. There are holes in the front wheel arches so the King could see if there was still tread left on the tires. And although equipped with a roll cage, the bolts holding it in place look smaller than the manifold studs on a Spridget head. Those old time NASCAR boys had some attachments. Whether your idea of automotive nirvana is a 1955 turbine powered Ghia, or standing in a very long line waiting for Richard Petty’s autograph, there’s a lot to reflect on in the aftermath of Amelia Island.

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