A British Invasion of Cars, Bikes, and a Beagle

So whats with the Italians? Is this a mob movie? I thought this was a British car show. Well, it is, and The Italian Job is a part of it. But more on that later. How’s this for now?

More befitting the British Invasion. Asheville, North Carolina is host to the British Car Club of Western North Carolina’s big motoring event every October, Autumn in the Mountains British Car Show. British cars of all stripes, vintage and new, fully restored and not, descend on Asheville from all over the southeast and beyond. A mall parking lot is filled with these fantastic vehicles from Britain’s automotive and motorcycling history (see previous post). Roo and I were in heaven, and to make the day even more enjoyable, we came across another Brit car enthusiast: a beagle!

As we made our way into the plethora of British automotive excellence, Roo, Don (a Porsche driving friend), and myself were giving a Morgan the once and twice over, when Roo let out a scream; “It’s a beagle!” and took off running across the parking lot. We lost Roo. We caught up with her later (still with the beagle).

This is Ginger the beagle, and he drives in his dad’s Morgan everywhere!

I have always been drawn to British sports cars, having owned a Triumph Spitfire way back when. So whenever I see a vintage British sports car, it lights a fire in me. As a matter of fact, it was a Brit sports car that got me hooked on this automotive genre when I was 13 years old: a Jaguar XKE convertible roadster.

The car that lit my sports car fire: Jaguar XKE convertible roadster

 Triumph Spitfire 1500

So many gorgeous cars were here, it took us a few hours to negotiate them all. Granted, though, we do like to really look deeply at the cars and talk to the owners, whose stories are usually quite interesting and entertaining. Below are some of the cars we saw, in no particular grouping or order. Enjoy the gallery.

The Italian Job – Mini Cooper S

The Italian Job is a 1969 British comedy film which featured many Italian and British cars. The movie was also remade in the U.S. in 2003 with modern versions of some of the same cars used in the original film. A Lamborghini Muira, Aston Martin DB4, E-Type Jaguars, Alfa Romeo Guilia and Mini Coopers were all showcased in these movies.

The Mini Cooper S, a high performance Mini used in the films is the only Mini  privileged to wear the Italian Job badge.

Motor racing driver John Cooper persuaded the Mini’s creator Sir Alec Issigonis to let him produce a high performance Mini. Sir Alec didn’t believe it would sell. The car was an immediate success. The powerful Cooper S was a big hit, as was the film.


Hilton Head Motoring Festival & Concours d’Elegance Part 4



Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

 310After the excitement of Roo helping the BMW win Best in Category, we moved on to the next category of motorbikes: 1954- 1973. Maybe Roo could do the same favor for one of these motorcycles.

This BMW did win without Roo’s help.

Remember these? These bikes have there own cult following.

An interesting enduro custom on a Spanish Bultaco

Next up was the motorcycle preservation class. This class is made up of motorbikes that have not been restored other than to replace missing parts and to get the engine in running order. In other words, “as is.” Some bikes in this class have been found in pristine condition, having been meticulously cared for by their owner(s) through the years. Others, not so much.

Interestingly, Preservation Class in motorcycle and automobile events is gaining steam with collectors and buyers. Instead of squeaky clean, spit and polish, shiny chromed out perfection, people are turning their interest more towards the worn look. Tatstes change, and will change again, I suppose.

Roo always finds a way to get in the picture (that’s her by the pole).


Very well preserved.


Now that’s what I call “as is.” Yes, it does run!

Bidding the motorbikes farewell for now, we moved on to a special class of automobiles, that were, and are still, way out of my class, but lit the Sports Car fire in me when I was but 13 years old.


At the beach near my hometown with my family, dad parked the car and we walked toward the entrance to the beach. On the way through the parking lot sat a car that I immediately fell in love with. At 13 years old, I was already into cars, and couldn’t wait to get my license. This car made my knees shake, it was so gorgeous. As I got older, I thought this automobile was the sexiest, most beautiful, piece of art on four wheels, until I discovered Italian cars. But this vehicle still electrifies me and turns my head whenever I see one.


At the time, the Jaguar E-Type exemplified beauty, sleekness, flowing lines, and with that V-12 motor, speed and power.

As Jaguar had it’s own section of fairway, all other English marques had to share some golf course real estate.


Austin Healeys always attract the attention of gawkers. This 3000 Mk III is flawless.

A very interesting English Sports Car came into view, one we had never heard of before or even seen photos of in magazines. But what a stunner! To some, it may look like a cartoon car, and in a way it does (picture Roger Rabbit at the wheel), but it is beautiful none the less……….


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What would English Sports Cars be without the marque most folks associate with English Sports Cars:


The Italians

Ah! The Italians. Beautiful women, wonderful food, fantastic wine. But there is something more in the vehicles they manufacture. How the Italians infuse beauty and sex appeal into their automobiles and motorcycles is anyone’s guess. But they do, and only they do. Ever hear anyone describe a Triumph or BSA as sexy? No. How about a Ferrari or Moto Guzzi? Oh yes! Nuff said.


Most cars and motorcycles produced in the 1980’s were ugly ducklings and truly forgettable. Everything was square: headlights, tail lights, instrument gauges, body styles. I’m surprised the wheels escaped “squaredom.” Not so this black beauty. Ferrari stayed true to it’s roots of beauty, power, and sex appeal.

Ferrari and Testarossa are always spoken of in the same breath.


You might call this the “practical Ferrari.”


Uh Oh! I knew it had to happen. Roo has found a Ferrari that meets her criteria of “cute” and kind of “nerdy”, with the power to bring out her inner Mario Andretti. This is one beautiful automobile.


The afternoon was waning, and soon it would be time for the judging of the 2015 Concours d’Elegance Best in Show. But first, we had one more exhibit to visit, showcasing cars that most of us today can actually relate to, and may have owned in years past.

American Muscle

The Muscle Car Era in American automobile production was relatively short lived, but had a tremendous impact on the American car culture scene. Most folks, when they hear the term “muscle car”, think of cars in the 1960’s and 70’s. In reality, the era of the muscle car began way back in the 1930’s, when “moonshiners” would “hop up” their cars for increased horsepower to outrun the Federal Revenuers during Prohibition. These were all “home grown” modified.

However, production by the “big three”, Ford, GM, and Chrysler, wouldn’t begin until the late 1950’s, when they started building power plants that could generate tremendous horsepower and would make dad in his sedan feel like a race car driver. The thrill of driving was about to begin.


Most of us today think of the Muscle Car Era as the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. However, by then, the era of big horsepower and speed was in decline. The golden age of American Muscle Cars was actually from the early 1960’s to 1967. Even pop culture got on the muscle car wagon with the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and others singing songs like “She’s so Fine, My 409; Little GTO; My Rocket 88; Dead Man’s Curve,  and others. The cars in this exhibit showcased the Golden Age of American Muscle.


This car was huge, and gave new meaning to the “performance family car.”

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Probably more than any other marque at the time, Pontiac came out with what would be  known as the most recognizable muscle car of the era. Affectionately known as “The Goat”, the GTO put Pontiac on the muscle car map for good.


Ford still had it’s Thunderbird, but it didn’t create much of a stir with the muscle crowd. While it was still a looker, it didn’t match up to performance standards. Ford was slipping behind.


Dodge, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile were all big players in the muscle car wars at this time: Dodge Chargers and Challengers, Chevy Camaros, and Oldsmobile’s iconic Cutlass 442, were all squeezing Ford out of the game. Ford decided to pull out all the stops with its original Pony car: The Mustang. By this time the Mustang was nothing more than a cute ride for high schooler’s to impress the girls with. But Ford had big plans for the little Mustang, and enlisted the body and engine design of the man whose name alone became synonymous with the American muscle car era: Carol Shelby.


The new design would be known as the Shelby Cobra, and it would catapult  the Mustang into one of the leading muscle cars in the late 1960’s. The badge on the Mustangs needed no explanation. When you saw the Cobra, you knew it was a Carol Shelby design.


Mustangs on the Midway


This is the Shelby design that did it for the lowly Mustang and put Ford right back in the muscle car “race.” It didn’t disappoint. Sales soared, and the little pony car, now known as the Shelby Mustang, became a household name.


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By the late 60’s, American Muscle was on the decline. Interest in monster horsepower performance for the street was losing ground. The oil embargo of the early seventies was the death nell of the muscle car, along with cheap Japanese imports. American Muscle was gone.

Or was it? Today, the American muscle car is back. Baby Boomers pining for the cars of their youth sparked the resurgence of the muscle car. Modern “retro” versions of those iconic cars of the 60’s are everywhere. Look on the roads of America today and you see modern versions of Dodge Challengers and Chargers, Chevrolet Camaros, and Chrysler 300’s. Best of all, Ford has brought back the Shelby Cobra Mustang in it’s modern Shelby GT 350, a pure beast of a car. All are beautiful while pushing out huge gobs of torque and horsepower with modern technology. American Muscle is back in full force!

It was now time for us to make our way to the far end of the Motoring Midway for the main, and, final event of this years Concours:

2015 Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance Best In Show

I don’t envy the job of these judges, nor do I understand how they choose a Best In Show from all these exemplary vehicles. I know they have strict protocols and checklists to go by, but some subjectivity must creep in, I imagine. For them, it is a labor of love. So, here’s how it played out:

The Runner’s Up

1957 Ghia Dual-Ghia Convertible – Founder’s Award (3rd place)


1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster – People’s Choice Award (2nd place)


Best In Show

1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Phaeton


There was no Best In Show for the motorcycle categories. These were the three winners:

1968 Triumph Rickman Metisse 


1939 BMW R51 (with a beautiful woman’s help)


1965 BMW R69S


The sun was setting on the Port Royal Golf Course as we made our way to the Clubhouse and exit. We didn’t want to leave. This was our first Concours, and we were impressed and looking forward to coming back here and to others in the region. Matter of fact, St. Augustine, Florida has a motorcycle only Concours d’Elegance each spring. See you there, perhaps?