Classics at LAAM attract a ‘mini’ crowd.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
MINIs on the Lawn
by Wendy Birchmire
BROOKLINE, Mass., Oct. 26 — The Larz Anderson Auto Museum featured an evening of “MINIs on the Lawn” as part of their Community Speaker Series. I didn’t mind paying to attend since “every dollar received for these presentations helps to defray the cost of providing outstanding community programming.” Anyway, who can resist showing off their Minis and mingling with other enthusiasts?
The event started at 5 p.m., and late afternoon was a perfect, cool time to park our cars on the upper show field. Owners chatted with each other and the spectators who came to admire the vehicles. There were at least 12 modern MINIs in attendance, but only three classic Minis: my 1993 Mini Mayfair, William Ellis’ Innocenti Mini, and a car I had not seen before owned by Pia Rogers. The drivers of the modern MINIs appeared to appreciate the classics and vice versa.
As darkness fell, the crowd moved inside the Museum, where the participants were treated to sandwiches, chips and water. Soon, Nick from The MINI Vlog YouTube channel presented a video account on the history of Minis.
In 1956, record high petrol prices caused a slump in big car sales and an increase in sales of economical, German-designed bubble cars. Leonard Lord, President of British Motor Corporation (BMC), disliked bubble cars and wanted a new, “proper” small car designed. His requirements were that the car get good gas mileage, seat four adults, and use an existing BMC engine. Lord tasked Alec Issigonis with designing ADO15 (Austin Design Office 15), the designated Mini project name.
ADO15 maximized interior space by using front-wheel drive, turning the engine and radiator sideways, using rubber cones instead of springs for shock absorption, placing the panel seams on the outside of the vehicle, and pushing the Dunlop-designed 10” wheels and tires to the corners. Sliding windows were used to allow large door pockets for storage, and a hinged license plate holder was used on the boot lid so the boot could be opened for transporting large items.
The Mini prototype was named the “Orange Box” due to its color. The prototype originally had a 948cc A Series engine, but the car was too fast for the price BMC wanted to charge, so they reduced the engine to an 848cc.
The mechanically identical, badge engineered Austin Se7en (pronounced “Seven”) and Morris Mini Minor were introduced in August 1959.
Nick’s video also provided information about events around the country, including MINIs at the Glen, MINIs Take Route 66, MINIs Take the States, and others.
After the presentation, we got to take a look at Nick’s MINI GP3 and learn how he was able to get serial number #0001. It turns out he won a video contest that required submitting a 30.1-second video (to match the 301 horsepower of the car). The video is lots of fun and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwRq_tPnp8A.
Of course this car was there...
Photo by David Schwartz
Viewing ‘Bond in Motion’
by David Schwartz
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., Sept. 15 — At the end of a two-week driving trip from Massachusetts through New York State, Ohio, Michigan, and back through New York, I talked my wife, Betty Lehrman, into stopping at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. The Museum had a special exhibit (cue the James Bond theme song) called “Bond in Motion” that brought together vehicles from many of the James Bond movies over the 60-year history of the franchise. In appreciation for her humoring me, I made a reservation at a historic hotel in Saratoga Springs that I knew Betty would enjoy.
The exhibit featured more than 12 cars, a submarine, a Tuk Tuk (three-wheel motorized rickshaw), motorcycles and other vehicles. There were displays of movie posters and signs with detailed information about each car. Best of all, long video clips showed each car’s most famous movie scene.
Being of a certain age, my favorite Bond is Sean Connery. Naturally, I made a beeline for the iconic 1964 Aston Martin DB5 first used in Goldfinger, then backtracked to the start of the exhibit.
Two American cars opened the exhibit: the 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the 1974 AMC Hornet X used in The Man with the Golden Gun. The scene where Roger Moore s a 360° spiral jump across a river in the Hornet is one of my all-time favorite stunts.
The 1977 Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me is another favorite car. The Esprit was one of Q’s finer efforts. Once underwater, the car converts to a submarine with a variety of high-tech weaponry. There were seven submersibles built for filming, each representing different stages of the Lotus’ transformation.
Aston Martins from newer Bond movies were well represented: a 1985 Aston Martin V8, a 2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, a 2006 Aston Martin DBS, a 2008 Aston Martin DBS, and a 2015 Aston Martin DB10. Other Bond cars included a 1997 BMW 750LI, a 1999 BMW Z8, and a 2002 Jaguar XKR convertible.
And so was this, the Lotus Esprit submersible.
Photo by David Schwartz
The Aston Martin V8 was driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and was displayed with its hydraulic outrigger skis deployed. The car featured spiked ice tires, a rear jet engine booster, lasers and missiles.
The Vanquish was driven by Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day and was nicknamed “The Vanish” due to Q’s adaptive camouflage feature that rendered the car nearly invisible. The Aston Martin DB10 was created specifically for the Daniel Craig film Spectre. Only 10 examples were built, eight of which were used in the film.
The 2008 Aston Martin DBS was one of seven used in Quantum of Solace, and the display car was replete with stunt damage. One does not expect to see a partially destroyed car in a museum.
“Bond in Motion” occupied the Museum’s entire first floor. The second floor contained additional special exhibits and several ongoing exhibits. There were a variety of race cars, luxury cars built by small companies, and a few truly unusual cars.
The curvaceous 1947 Cisitalia 202 MM was the most attractive race car on display. I favor sleek, smooth lines over the bumps, angles, and spoilers of modern race cars. My favorite vehicle, however, was the psychedelic “Light” VW Hippie Bus. The Bus was originally displayed as an art exhibit at the Woodstock music festival and restored for Woodstock’s 50th anniversary. For details, see the bus website, https://lightvwbus.com/.
The Saratoga Automobile Museum is well worth a visit. “Bond in Motion” runs through January 31, 2024, and free docent-led tours are available on select days and times. See the Museum website, (https://www.saratogaautomuseum.org/), for additional information.
Neil and Kate Wright’s 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S, winner of Class 28 at the British Invasion.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
NEMO at British Invasion 2023
by Wendy Birchmire
STOWE, Vt., Sept. 15-17 — The British Invasion is a multi-faceted weekend with something for everyone. But would we get there this year? With Hurricane Lee storming up the East Coast, would we be comfortable leaving our home unattended, without knowing the exact path of the storm? We wondered how many other people had the same dilemma.
Being adventurous souls, my husband Tom and I decided to take the risk. The first event that we chose to attend was the Street (a/k/a Block) Party on Friday night. The show cars paraded from the Stowe Special Events Field to Main Street in Stowe Center and parked at a 45° angle to the sidewalk on both sides. As soon as the vehicles arrived, the street was packed with appreciative onlookers asking questions of the owners. Add to that a food court, and more food and beverage (even wine) sellers in different spots along the street, plus Jerry Leone’s Chop Shop Band, and we had a big, lively party.
Day two at Stowe we took in the 32nd year of “the largest All-British Motorcar Show in the Eastern United States.” No rain here, the day was cool, crisp and delightful. The fields were filled with over 400 cars and motorcycles. This year the featured marques were Jaguar, Land Rover and Morgan. There were plenty of them all, especially the Land Rovers.
When I drove “Jack,” my Union Jack-painted Mini 1000, to my class I was delighted to park next to a 1993 Mini Mayfair owned by Gary Porter. I also have a 1993 Mini Mayfair, and it is rare to see another Japanese model with air conditioning and an automatic transmission.
Although I have a passion for all Minis, I fell in love with and coveted the one parked on the other side of Jack. Neil Wright, one of its owners, told me he purchased the 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S Mk1 on eBay in 2012. It was all original with matching engine and body numbers. He knew how rare this car was and decided he had to have it without ever setting eyes on it. And I thought I was a risk-taker!
Cheryl and Tom Petty’s 2015 MINI Cooper S, winner of Class 31.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
Neil’s car had something that I was unfamiliar with, a Hydrolastic suspension. My cars all use rubber cones for suspension. The fluid-based displacement system was a new concept to me. I learned that by using a Churchill Hydrolastic pump, a machine often referred to as a “Dalek” (you Doctor Who fans will know why it got its nickname when you see one), you can adjust the car’s suspension. Interesting. This wonderful Mini had the cute mustache grille, sliding windows, a replacement steering wheel, and a Heritage Certificate. With a highly polished red exterior and Union Jack roof it was a real people pleaser.
The group at the Invasion were courteous and most did not leave until all the awards were presented. That included 61 classes of cars, some of which had three awards, plus several special awards. There must have been a large number of cars from Canada because many awards went to them. They had an enthusiastic cheering section, which made it even more obvious and fun!
The Mini/MINI winners were:
Class #28 (Mini Saloons 1959-1969): 1st, Neil and Kate Wright, 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S.
Class #29 (Mini Saloons 1970-2000): 1st, Wendy Birchmire, 1973 Morris Mini 1000 2nd, Gary Porter, 1993 Mini Mayfair.
Class #30 (Mini Variants, Non-saloons): 1st, David Icaza, 1969 Austin Mini Countryman.
Class #31 New MINI (2001 to Present): 1st, Cheryl and Tom Petty, 2015 MINI Cooper S 2nd, Glen Zabriskie, 2006 MINI Cooper S Drophead.
Next year perhaps we will take part in the Self-guided Tour of the Vermont countryside, the Saturday night Reception/Dinner, the Notch Run, the Sunday Competitions or any of the other events that are offered. See, there really is something for everyone when the British invade Stowe.
That is a very big van, no lie.
Photo by Ken Lemoine
Hey, Let’s Go to England for the Weekend!
by Ken Lemoine
John Gallagher and I have been loyally supporting the Lime Rock Historic Festival for the past 25 years. But the track decided they wanted to use the B paddock swap meet vendor area for racing trailers, leaving us with no space in which to set up and sell over Labor Day weekend.
So, what should we do with all that money we were going to invest at Lime Rock? I know. Let’s go to England for the weekend!
A quick check of flights showed Aer Lingus had a round trip flight to Heathrow via Dublin for $895, not too bad. Four of us agreed to share a rental vehicle and cottage. I met John and Rudy and Greg Zimmermann at Logan Airport in Boston on a Thursday night after work, and we flew overnight to Merry Olde England.
We arrived at Heathrow at 11 a.m. and headed to an offsite location to pick up our VW Transporter. We get to the rental counter and guess what? Yep, the Transporter is gone. We do have a very big Renault van and it’s a 6-speed with right-hand drive. No problem, I can do this on the left side of the road after three hours sleep and through 30 roundabouts!
We miraculously arrive in the historic hamlet of Brockenhurst, a classic 16th century New Forest village with thatched roofs and wild horses wandering the fields behind the hedgerows. We unload the big van into our four-bedroom cottage, splash a little holy water onto our faces, and shuffle to a pub conveniently located 100 yards down the lane. By 8:30 we are all snoring up a storm.
Saturday morning is bright, warm and sunny, and we are off to the Beaulieu swap meet, which is a little like Hershey with a ton of Lucas boxes. Loads of tools, prewar Austin bits, locals selling out of their trunks, some absolute jewels of badges, P100 lamps and so much more. Great cars — Invicta, Motorette, Alvis, Morris, MG VA, a litter full of Rovers — and some bloody good blokes.
The Museum’s Austin Swallow.
Photo by Ken Lemoine
Sixteen thousand steps later we drag ourselves back to the big van and head to the second of the pubs within walking distance from our cottage. There we watch John (our resident Irishman) explain to the bartender how to make a Black and Tan. I suggest he roll with the local fare, but he is on a mission to teach them the necessary skills needed to get a perfect pour. Pretty comical, if I do say so.
Day two dawns very warm and the Brits are melting from the heat. Our big van is a real challenge when trying to navigate the hedgerow-lined narrow secondary lanes. I am concerned about all the brush scuffing the left side of the van. I guess it was their fault for giving us such a big van.
We cover whatever booths we didn’t thoroughly comb on Saturday, then geek out at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum Sunday afternoon. Tons of rare and unusual vehicles. I am so impressed with the early Austin Swallow — the lines are spectacularly crafted. There are speed record cars, micros, and too much else to describe. Definitely worth a trip!
Monday morning, we head back up the road, through 30 more roundabouts, and get to Heathrow. Monday night we are back in Boston. I wake up Tuesday morning and check my receipts to make sure I didn’t dream it.
I think next time I will stay over for the week and go to Goodwood the following weekend. Anyone want to join us? We’ve got a big van.
Don’t Miss the Holiday Party!
by Faith Lamprey
The NEMO Holiday Party will once again be held at Black Dog Bar & Grille in Putnam, Conn., on Saturday, December 9th, at 12 noon.
The Black Dog address is 146 Park Rd., Putnam. Take Exit 45 (Kennedy Drive) off I-395. Kennedy Drive becomes Park Road. Black Dog is about a mile from the exit. This restaurant was formerly called J. D. Cooper’s and we went there a number of times for our Holiday Party in the past.
We need a head count, so RSVP by e-mailing or calling me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (401) 766-6519. Let me know how many are attending (and ages of any kids). We will be ordering off the menu.
We will be holding a Yankee Swap, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $35). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is their turn to pick. (Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens to them!) You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring (please, no more than one per person or the party will never end).
Our Holiday Party is one of our more popular events every year and this central location in Connecticut is convenient for most. Hope to see you there!
The Mini line in Mansfield, with (left to right) Iain Barker’s Morris Cooper S, Wendy Birchmire’s Mini Mayfair, and Steve Aoyama’s VTEC Mini Van.
Photo by David Schwartz
NEMO Wins at Mansfield Show
by David Schwartz
MANSFIELD, Mass., Aug. 12 — I last attended the Mansfield Rotary Club’s Classic Motorcycle & British Car Show in 2018. The show is held annually at the Mansfield Municipal Airport. The 2023 edition was not well publicized and I only learned about it a few days prior to the event when several British Motorcars of New England (BMCNE) members mentioned it on Facebook.
High heat and humidity or rain caused me to skip a lot of shows this season. The weather forecast for Mansfield was sunny and low 80s, so my wife Betty and I decided to attend.
It was a perfect day for a top-down drive on back roads, so we took my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer instead of the Mini. For those living in MetroWest, I highly recommend exploring Rt. 115, which can be accessed from Rt. 126 or Rt. 27. All are scenic, twisty, tree-lined roads.
The show was sponsored by the Rotary Club with an assist from BMCNE on the car classes and judging. Cars were parked by class on the lawn. I estimate British car turnout at about 40. Spectator admission was free.
There were a handful of vintage Volkswagens parked in a separate section, and a decent classic motorcycle turnout on the tarmac. The VWs included several Beetles and a camper van. We especially liked the bright purple paint job on a souped-up Beetle.
The Mini class consisted of Wendy Birchmire’s 1993 Rover JDM model, Iain and Nuala Barker’s 1967 Morris Cooper S, and Steve Aoyama’s Honda VTEC Mini Van. To quote the movie Casablanca, “Round up the usual suspects!”
My Morris Minor Tourer was placed in the Other British class, along with Larry Brenner’s pristine 1993 Land Rover Defender and a nicely restored Sunbeam Alpine. Stiff competition, indeed. The Tourer designation is due to the lack of windows in the back seat. Instead, there are removable canvas and plastic side curtains.
The lawn was very sunny so it was good we brought a pop-up tent canopy. We shared our shade with other car owners, as well as several dogs. (One dog abandoned its owners twice to hang out with us in the shade.)
Many of the British cars were owned by members of BMCNE or the Boston Area MG Club. Of course, some people belong to both clubs. Many of the cars were also present at this year’s British Motorcars in Bristol.
There were four cars in the Spridget (Sprite and Midget) class, including Terry Levasseur’s very original 1960 Bugeye Sprite. There was a beautiful MG TF that was also at Bristol.
People’s Choice! David Schwartz hoists his two trophies.
Photo by Iain Barker
My Morris Minor attracted a lot of attention, and I invited people to have a seat. A group of four children took turns “driving.” People were especially curious about the “trafficators,” semaphore arms that protrude horizontally from the side of a car to indicate the driver’s intention to make a right or left turn. Morris Minor trafficators are eight inches long, are finished in chrome, are located in the B pillars, and illuminate when activated. Many people saw the recessed chrome arms and tried to guess their purpose. Nobody guessed correctly, so I gave many demos.
Betty was the Director of the Creative Arts Camp at the Newton JCC for the last 15 years. Coincidently, one of her camp counselors rode down to the show on the back of her father’s motorcycle. Lacking the usual context, it took a few minutes before Betty and her staff member recognized each other. The staff member’s dad grew up in South Africa and was quite taken with the Morris Minor and the MOYSHE vanity plate. He said that when he was growing up, “every mom drove one.”
Mansfield Airport features the Hangar 12 Restaurant, which has outdoor seating adjacent to the runway. Hangar 12 serves breakfast all day and offers a variety of salads and sandwiches for lunch. We had a nice, though unremarkable lunch at an outdoor table.
The awards ceremony started around 2 p.m. The motorcycle awards were presented first, and it took quite a while to get to the cars. The Barkers’ Mini Cooper won Best in Class for the second time since 2018. Iain posted 2018 and 2023 photos of Nuala holding the trophy in front of “Mini KK.” Wow, she grew up fast!
Betty was wilting from the heat, so we packed up the tent just before the awards reached the Other British class. I was pleasantly surprised when they announced my car was the winner (though in a field of three that didn’t feel like a big accomplishment).
I was starting to walk away after picking up the trophy when the presenter told me to wait around. My Morris Minor was also awarded People’s Choice for Best in Show! I really appreciated the recognition, especially given all the really nice cars present. Personally, I think it was the trafficator demos and letting people sit in the car.
The Mansfield Rotary show is well worth attending. Just be sure to bring your own shade. Vehicle owners and the public were extremely friendly and appreciative. Next year I will be sure to publicize the event in the NEMO calendar.
Holiday Party — Save the Date!
The NEMO Holiday Party will once again be held at Black Dog Bar & Grille in Putnam, Conn. The date is Saturday, December 9th, at 12 noon.
For you folks with a GPS, the address is Black Dog Bar & Grille, 146 Park Rd., Putnam, CT 06260. Their phone is (860) 928-0501, website https://www.blackdogbarandgrille.com.
Take Exit 45 (Kennedy Drive) off I-395. Kennedy Drive becomes Park Road. Black Dog is about a mile from the exit. This restaurant was formerly called J. D. Cooper’s and we have gone there a number of times for our Holiday Party in past years.
We need a head count, so RSVP by e-mailing email@example.com or calling me at (401) 766-6519. Let me know how many are attending (and ages of any kids). We will be ordering off the menu.
To the delight of many, we will be holding the Yankee Swap once again, so plan to bring a wrapped gift (try to keep the cost below $25). A Yankee Swap means that someone else may “take” your gift when it is their turn to pick. (Warn your kids so they don’t get upset if this happens!) You get to pick a gift for every gift you bring (so please, no more than one per person or the party will never end).
Our Holiday Party is one of our more popular events every year and this central location in Connecticut is convenient for the majority of our members. Hope to see you there! —Faith Lamprey