The weather was April-perfect, so I couldn’t resist riding country roads up to Road Atlanta to see old friends driving (even) older cars. The morning air was crisp, and full of honeysuckle and freshly-cut grass. I was surprised at the large turnout: both the pits and the infield spectator parking lots were full.
While I enjoyed watching GT-40s and old Porsches roar down under the bridge onto the front straight, I was more interested in the lovingly restored old cars on display. I say “old” — these were the cars I lusted after in my early teens, when other girls were taking horseback riding lessons.
I considered the MG-TD to be the consummate British motor car, its flaring front fenders like a Shropshire gentleman’s manicured handlebar mustache buoyed on the wind, the slender wood steering wheel requiring fine leather driving gloves. Hat, optional.
The Jaguar E-Type (often referred to as “XK-E” here in the States) truly conjures up the swinging ’60s. Twiggy on Carnaby Street, baby!
And then there’s the stealth attack vehicle, the Sunbeam Tiger, which was essentially a life-support system for a 260hp Ford V-8 engine. What a kick in the pants!
These were my three favorite Brits from my youth. The only childhood love missing in pictures is the venerable Porsche 356; I saw one moving, but couldn’t catch it parked. That’s OK: it wasn’t meant for parking.
I had the decidedly mixed blessing of owning a 1965 356C coupe many years ago. The fact that it was the realization of the dreams of my 13-year-old self blurred my critical vision, I guess. When I got it home (and that in itself was an accomplishment), I discovered a new problem every week. I rebuilt the engine and it ran like a top (after all I spent on shot-peening and magnafluxing, it had to). I thought I’d turned the corner on it, beat all the demons. But one day while I was at work, it slipped out of gear, overrode the anemic parking brake, and rolled down the driveway. Not content to just roll backward in a straight line, it somehow effected a 3-point turn, taking out my mailbox and careening across the street to lodge at the base of my neighbor’s magnolia tree.
I came home, tired after a long day working in the printing plant and stared at it, somewhere between crushed and numb (me, not the car). It was drivable, but the left rear quarter panel and right headlight were broken and bent, revealing the true depth of the Bondo holding it all together. Suddenly, the magic evaporated. I called Joe Cogbill, at whose wrecking yard I’d spent so many Saturday afternoons, hunting for parts:
“Joe, you know that timing gear you sold me?”
“How’d you like to have it back?”
And so he came and towed off my yellow broken dream, paying me more than he should have for what had essentially devolved into a parts donor. I hate it that the story didn’t have a happier ending, but that love of gears and gas was resurrected in my later love of motorcycles. Shoot, my current bike is the same garish yellow as the old bathtub Porsche — maybe it’s been reincarnated.