I just got back from the Sussex British Car Field day, in Sussex Wisconsin. For a few weeks heading into it, I was really torn. I kept asking myself:
A – Do I go?
B – Do I show?
C – Do I show the MGB?
D – Or do I tow and show a half done, poorly painted MG Midget race car?
A – Do I go? That’s a gimme – unless work gets in the way, or there’s a strong potential for hail, I’ll always be there. Rain? Who cares? The only time I ever showed my MGB was when it was raining at the event. I was one of only two folks with chrome bumper MGB’s to enter, and I’ve got the second place “Chrome Bumper MGB” trophy to prove it.
B – Do I show? Not this year. I spent the week before the show doing errands and trying to chase down cam specs for the Midget, and no time whatsoever washing or detailing anything on wheels. I attended the show in the MGB, and it looked fine in the parking lot, even with that annoying bird dropping on the left front fender. And it’s liberating going to a car show and being the one walking around asking questions rather than stationing myself in a lawn chair and answering them.
So I also eliminated option C. It’s often more fun being the spectator than the spectatee.
Which brought me to option D. I could have shown the Midget. That would have been unique. Not that Spridgets are rare, but a Midget set up for Bonneville? I’d have been the only one there with that twist on a theme. Sure, we’ve all seen SCCA and vintage prepared MG’s for road racing. Joe Radosevich, a vintage racer who I’ve had some dealings with in the past actually DID bring his beautiful ’67 vintage Midget production racer up from New Berlin to Sussex. A solid car, race ready, and really well set up. If I were to go road racing tomorrow, his is the car I’d buy. When I saw his car there, I got to thinking I should have brought the Midget and parked up next to him. A land speed racing Midget with 15” wheels and Moon discs, contrasted to an honest-to-goodness bona fied Spridget sports racer. Now THAT would have been a study in contrasts. But it would have required a thrash to get it put back together in time for the show. And in the unlikely event of a category win, there would have been the embarrassment of trying to drive it up to the judge’s stand with an engine that is still in a pile in the garage.
And to compound the inner turmoil, I would have had to wrestle with the moral issue of towing a car to a car show.
Call me a Luddite, but to my way of thinking, it’s just not right to trailer a running MGA, MGB, AH100, a Triumph of any variety, and most certainly a Spridget. These are cars that are intended to be driven. Period. End of story.
Now I can rationalize an argument about bringing my Midget in on a trailer. It has no operating headlights, brake lights or horn, an open exhaust system with no muffler, no rear view mirror (that’s where I put the tachometer), no title or plates. I towed it to Bonneville, North Carolina and to Great Lakes Dragaway. It’s a race car – and it’s not intended to be driven on the street. Seeing Joe’s car there further encouraged the rationalization of my scheme under the “I’m not the only one doing it” clause, which I developed at recess during the 2nd grade. I’ll extend the privilege of that argument to a fellow racer. Let’s call it the “Race Car Exception”. Joe, I’ve got your back on this one.
And Joe’s car was a welcome outlier to the show. But two racers would have been one too many, and the “Race Car Exception” remains, in my mind, the exception that proves this rule; The Sussex British Car Field Day is intended for, and attended by folks who use their beautiful British roadsters, saloons and cabriolet’s as transportation.
Most entrants held true to this unwritten code, like the pristine XK 120, meticulously researched and restored, right down the correct OEM supplier of the cotter key holding the hub nut. Beautiful car, set up for rally and street legal. I’m proud to announce that all Jaguars present were driven onto the grounds, the way it was meant to be.
And an Aston Martin DB5, so pristine, forever emblazoned in our minds for its brief movie role. Why would anyone trailer such a car when you could pull up and park it, and pretend you’re Sean Connery? If you were permitted the opportunity to slip behind the wheel, you just know you would automatically try flipping the top of the shifter over to expose the ejector seat button. Moneypenny, flip me the keys. Alas, a lowly export model, destined for the US, where the MI6 option package was never offered. Just a plain Jane DB5 with only one license plate, but by golly, a DB5 driven to the event.
While many of these cars have become very valuable and expensive to keep, most remain affordable and easy to maintain. The fun has always been behind the wheel, and not on the balance sheet.
That’s what this show, like the many smaller community shows across the country, is all about. The British Car Field Day in Sussex is about cars that are intended to be driven on the street. That’s what makes the turnout so fascinating. It’s a day in the sun with friends that share the common bond of DRIVING their cars.
Still I remain a bit torn. While I’d like to see my Midget at the party with about 200 other very nice British cars, strewn about against a sea of freshly cut grass, like so many jellybeans in an Easter basket, option D was out, and this year, it proved to be the right decision. Although I might take inspiration from Joe and consider it next year. It could be fun, being the outlier.
By Chris Conrad