Portland All British Field Meet: Field of (good and bad) dreams


The 37th All British Field Meet, held in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 31-Sept. 1 drew more than 800 British cars and motorcycles, a record for the event. In so doing, it confirmed that this annual show at Portland International Raceway is the second largest in North America, with only the Toronto gathering in Eastern Canada boasting more entries, at about 1,100.

In all, there were 80 classes of British cars attending, representing 30 marques. An additional soundtrack to the weekend was organized by the Seattle-based Society of Vintage Racing ENthusiasts (SOVREN), whose track competitions provided an audio-visual backdrop.

This year’s gathering honored Sir Alec Issigionis’ Mini (and its larger BMW neo-Mini cousins), with about 60 original Minis, including some rare versions. A collection under the trees featured a base 1960 Morris Mini-Minor, 1966 Wolseley Hornet and 1967 Riley Elf Convertibles, 1974 Marcos (notable for its dodgy fiberglass construction), 1963 Cub 3 Ranger trike, Mini-Moke Jeeplet, Mini pickup with canvas canopy, Mini Traveler woody wagon and even an Italian-built  Innocenti Mini, which was somewhat more elegant. The 2002-13 Neo Minis were well represented by about 40 examples.

No British Field Meet would be complete without Land Rovers (60), Range Rovers (30) plus Discoveries (10) and a scattering of V-8-powered Defenders, which still seem to command their mid-1990s prices. Land Rover clubs offered off-road rides to the public on the Motocross track, and organized a wilderness trek for members on Sunday, at the same time that a city-wide rally was being held for sports cars. Their encampments resembled a refugee camp, with many tents on top of “Landies,” stoves, cooking pots and deck chairs.

Equally popular with collectors were the 60 MGBs present, from 1962-80 in just about all available colors, 25 MGB GT coupes, 25 MGA roadsters, six coupes and two Twin-Cam roadsters. Older models were represented by six MG TFs, 10 MG TDs, a very rare 1939 MG TB (one of 382 before production was interrupted by WWII), a garishly restored 1937 MG TA (19” chrome wires!) and a wonderful 1932 J2, brought by Saffron Canja from Bend, Ore., and sporting the French diplomatic plate he carried when attached to the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Star of the MG display was undoubtedly Gary Johnson’s 1934 supercharged 6-cylinder K-3, beautifully restored and with celebrity ownership and race history.

The Jaguar marque showed off 25 E-Type coupes and OTS roadsters, 12 XK8 variants (surely a bargain these days), about 20 miscellaneous sedans (including a lovely 84,000 original-mile 1959 Mk I) and eight Mark 2s. As always, the rarities were the most interesting, and a gorgeous 1948 Mk IV drophead coupe appeared, along with a 3.8S sedan, a 420, and a Mk VII. Three XK 120s, three XK140s and one XK150 showed off roadster, drop-head coupe and fixed-head coupe bodies.

Austin Healeys were well represented, with about 40 1953-65 100-4, 100-6 and 3000 models, ranging from well-executed 100 Le Mans restorations, colorful two-tone 100-6, 3000 roadsters, and the later 3000 drop-head coupe with occasional rear seats, windup windowns, curved windshield and wood dashes. A number of V-8 conversions (which must have seemed like a great idea in the late 1960s) were there, including an egregious, pro-street 3000 roadster, built for the drag strip, with tubbed slicks, a big V-8 and high-rise, dual four-barrel carburetors poking through the hood. Bug-eyed Sprites are getting more popular, with 25 examples on hand, from race cars to over-the-top restorations.

The Triumph contingent was led by 25 TR6s in most colors, four U.S. market TR250s, six TR4s, 20 TR3s, which were very popular here, and two TR2s including a very rare 1954 “long-door” version, changed early on, after drivers complained about hanging up on curbs. Nine TR8s lined up beside only three TR7s, a vivid contrast between the TR8s Rover V8s durability and the four cylinder TR7’s fragility.

A dozen Spitfires ranged from 1966-1980 alongside five six-cylinder GT6 coupes, a similarly powered white 1963 Triumph Vitesse convertible and two four-cylinder Herald convertibles. Of the five V-8 Triumph Stags on the field, a 1971 model boasted a four-speed, a very rare option in the U.S., where they were considered boulevardiers, only for lawyers’ wives.

Despite this being Aston Martin’s 100th anniversary, only Cameron Sheehan’s 1965 DB6 appeared, compared to two Hillman Huskys and several Minxes. Also rare was Reed Elwyn’s  nice yellow 1968 Rover 2000TC, most of which are fairly ratty stateside.

The British motorcycle contingent totalled 20, the usual mix of 1960s Triumph’s, BSAs and Nortons, but with an excellent 1947 Vincent HRD Rapide and a sound, if slow, 1948 Triumph flathead TRW twin, one of a number shipped to Canada after WWII.

Now to the real rarities: Steve Jones brought a tube-framed mid-engined MiniBusa, with a Suzuki 1300cc Haybusa engine and a license plate that read LUNTIC. Equally unusual was Mike Smith’s 1989, mid-engined Mini GTM, more conventionally built between 1967 and 1994, using two Mini front sub-frames.

John Cadigan was desperately looking for parts for his 1959 Austin A40, and there were a surprising six Rolls-Royces, including three Silver Clouds and a very nice 1947 Silver Wraith, along with Dick Tilden’s 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Speed model.

Karl McDermed had expended a huge amount of effort restoring a 1936 Humber Pullman Landaulet, surely an underpowered white elephant, while a 1934 Hillman roadster had obsessively been reconstructed by somebody who had clearly never seen an original picture. Beside it, by contrast, Mary and Bruce Schacht’s 1939 Morris 8 Series E sedan was a reminder of just how humble commuter cars were in those days, and Ken and Barbara Hurst’s 1953 Singer SM 1500 displayed a certain raffish charm, with the near certainty of no spares available anywhere.

A small display of Morris Minors from 1952-1970 showed off examples of every model: two- and four-door sedan, pickup, panel van and convertible, and Jan Whittelsey may have had the rarest car on the field — a 1974 Morris Marina sedan — all others having been scrapped 30 years ago, in disgust. The Sunbeam contingent was represented by two 1950s Alpines, two even rarer Sunbeam-Talbot 90 dropheads, a sedan and five 1960s V8 Tigers.

 The Morgan contingent ranged from Mark McClinton’s 1951 “flat rad” Plus 4 to David Crandall’s horrendous lime green 1971 Plus 8, with a striped Surrey soft top, and Alfred Nuttall’s 2012 Morgan 3-wheeler, factory built with a 1900cc S&S Harley motor, beautifully finished, and with shattering performance.

The Lotus lineup included a scattering of Elan coupes and roadsters, a 1956 Lotus Eleven sports racer and a 1963 Lotus Cortina. Modern Caterham Lotus Sevens were also on show, though federalization might give one pause for thought, while among older Sevens was one with a Honda V-TEC motor, apparently installed with a hacksaw.

Under the trees near the Lotuses was one car that connected the race cars on the track with the cars on show, a one-off Cooper competition coupe originally built in the 1950s. Carrying a 1963 license plate, it’s presently powered by a 948cc Austin A30 engine, and was the subject of  magazine stories in period. A Coventry Climax engine would be a tempting transplant, with double the power.

Following Saturday’s concours judging, the swap meet opened Sunday, offering the extremely proud a chance to show cars not-really-for-sale; desperate collectors a chance to unload something that might cause a divorce,  and unwitting novices a chance to precipitate a divorce in the future.

A 1969 MGC roadster was offered for an ambitious $25,000 (and with an automatic!). Even worse, a 1959 Morris J2 cabover pickup reminded me of a disastrous example owned by the construction company I worked for in the 1960s. A cheerful onlooker presently owns a similar rig and agreed with me that it was “rare and should be” with a column shift that simply doesn’t  work, leading to extended periods of travel in second gear. The asking price of $5,250 seemed comfortably ahead of the market.

If you’ve ever wondered what a $1,000 MGA looks like today, there was one of those too… However a 1971 Jaguar E-Type coupe with a 4-speed, parked inside in 1987, only 900 miles after an engine rebuild seemed like a fair bet at $18,500.

A charming Sutherland drum-shaped picnic basket, complete with glasses, plates and cutlery, seemed like a bargain at $30, but unfortunately I was the second buyer, as an old couple was about to purchase it. “It’s a great deal,” I said. “You should take it, or I will.”

“Do you work here?” asked the old man suspiciously.

The most alarming project was a 1968 TR4A IRS, whose chassis and body rested (together) in the back of a pickup. “Some assembly required,” said the ad, boldly noting that the corspe “had no title and no VIN plate but lots of spares.” Now that’s what I call a divorce proceeding.

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