The Headwaters British Car Club had its beginnings three years ago when two local men – Norm Redpath and Tom Hodgson – decided to see if anyone in the area shared their passion for British automobiles. Norm’s wife had recently inherited an MGB and Tom was a long-time enthusiast, so why not spread the word?
They arranged a Saturday road tour and seven British cars and one “visiting” Volvo responded. Since then, the club has grown to 87 members consisting of 39 couples and 9 individual members.
Collectively members own more than a hundred classic British vehicles, representing names such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Daimler, Bristol, Allard, Morgan, Jensen, Austin, Metropolitan, Lotus, Sunbeam and of course the well known arch rivals MG and Triumph.
Back in the fifties and sixties the open-top MG and Triumph sports cars were a godsend for the fiscally challenged young buck on the prowl. They were less costly, but still had the sporty lines to qualify as a chick magnet.
Aside from the nostalgia factor, British cars have a practical edge to them that the older North American models lack. Many of these cars are particularly suited to the modern era with nimble handling and reasonable fuel economy. For example, driven carefully the MGB can still return 40 mpg. This is outstanding when machines built during the North American muscle car era on this side of the pond were lucky to reach double digits when it came to gas mileage. Nobody cared when gas was cheap.
About a half a century has passed and monetary circumstances have vastly improved for most members of the Headwaters Club, and the majority have settled into the family lifestyle. Yet their devotion to automotive offerings from the U.K. remains steadfast.
Club member Bill Tully, who now lives near Tottenham, recalls: “My first car was a 1953 Triumph Mayflower that cost $40. I used it to operate my summer grass cutting business.” Today the retired entrepreneur continues to restore these cars and is the proud owner of a 1953 TD model MG and a 1978 MGB. “These were the cars a generation dated in,” he says, “and the cars they got married in.”
When describing the MG and other British offerings owned and operated by club members, Tully refers to them as “drivers”, cars you take out of the garage and actually drive around the country roads; rather than “trailer queens” towed to a show. Most club members have little interest in sitting around at car shows, known as tyre-kickers.
According to Tully, a certified MG or Triumph sports car, the most popular and affordable of British sports cars, can be purchased for as low as $5,000. A restored “driver” will usually run in the $10,000 to $12,000 range.
These cars are also arguably less costly to maintain. There are numerous suppliers of parts for the more popular models such as Triumphs, MGs and vintage Minis and the costs are often lower than costs for similar parts on current domestic vehicles. They can also be maintained at home, being from a simpler time before electronic complexity became the norm.
Insurance is very reasonable as well, Tully points out. For example, an MGB valued at $15,000 costs about $140 per year with collision and $2 million in liability insurance. “The only hitch,” he says, “is that the car cannot be a daily driver and there is a mileage limitation of 5,000 km per year.” For a summer-only hobby car this no great restriction.
What they lacked in horsepower these cars made up for in the handling department with giant-killing displays at the race track. “One thing I remember from the ‘60s was the little Mini-Coopers chasing Corvettes around the track at Mosport,” Tully recalls. “They weren’t keeping up on the straightaways, but they could sure clean up on the corners. These little British cars are made for driving the back roads.
“You don’t have to be driving 100 mph to get a thrill. You can have a great time doing 50 mph and staying within the speed limit.
“Some of our members are still driving their original car that they bought back in the sixties,” he says. “They bought them, fell in love with them and just hung onto them.”
Written by Rupert Lloyd Thomas