Crowds brave rain at All British Field Meet

There’s an old summer joke in Oregon: What follows two days of rain? The answer is Monday. The same applied in Vancouver, British Columbia, this year when the 26th annual All British Field Meet took place at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. Following a glorious working week, Saturday, May 21, dawned to steady drizzle.

Nevertheless, about 450 cars braved the weather, along with 3,000 spectators, who got to see the sparkling collectible lineup in its original setting. Hagerty was on hand, with collector car experts Dave Kinney and Rob Sass holding two market price seminars inside a nice dry tent, while Youth Coordinator Tabitha Salsbury pressed on outside, leading a dozen damp junior judges around the soggy gardens.

The 2011 Field Meet was dedicated to Triumph, and 26 TR6s featured 16 of the 23 available colors. If you were keeping count, there was one 1952 TR2 “long door,” one TR3 “small mouth,” eight TR3 A and B “big mouths,” seven TR4s, one fabulous fuel-injected TR5, four TR250s, three TR7s and six TR8s. Add in three Herald convertibles, one Vitesse sedan, two Dolomites (one Sprint) and a Mayflower, and you had a good cross-section of post-war Triumphs.

But the real attractions for Anglophiles at the ABFM are the rarities, and David Cohen won hands-down with his 1928 Riley Special, “Mr. Drake,” built by legendary constructor Geraint Owen in the 1950s. It featured a 6.1-liter Gypsy Moth Aero engine — upside down — driving through a Rolls-Royce 20-25 transmission with a Chenard-Walcker radio shell.

Cohen remembered the advice to race it: “Take off the lights and fenders, tighten the shocks and drive it like you stole it.” Mr. Drake was campaigned vigorously in races and hillclimbs, and displayed the patina of an old leather suitcase. As it entered the gardens, its deafening exhaust sounded as if a shotgun gang was robbing a nearby bank.

Another star that braved the rain was Bill Holt’s superb 1939 Lagonda Rapide drophead, one of 12 made with the 4.5-liter V-12 engine and four carburetors and a class winner at Pebble Beach last year. It was entered in the “over $35,000 restoration” class, which it reportedly exceeded by about a half-million dollars.

Among the 100 MGBs, 30 MG T-Series, 20 MGAs, 40 Minis, 60 Morgans, 40 Jaguars and 20 Rolls-Royces were some wonderful oddities, including an MG RV8, the ultimate MGB, back from Japan. A 1949 Rover 75 drove in from Kelowna, adding to its 18,000 original miles, there were two Jowett Jupiters side-by-side, and a 48,000-mile 1963 Austin Cambridge automatic station wagon attracted interested buyers. Across the field, a 1911 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost limousine (the oldest Rolls in Canada) overshadowed a new, bulky-but-bland $500,000 Phantom Coupe, whose teeny-tiny hood ornament suggested Bluto-like compensation.

Elsewhere, a striking 1933 Rover 10-horsepower coupe displayed a unique Viking step plate, and an immaculate 1936 Austin Seven Nippy roadster proved they could be made with left-hand drive, without the engine being mirror-image, like a Bantam. Tom Mellor’s Triumph Trident was an ex-Bonneville racer, a Jensen 541R boasted factory history, an Austin A40 Devon child’s roadster should have been made full-size, but wasn’t, and a blue 1950 Ford Prefect proved they weren’t all black or beige. Nearby, a pale-green ’65 Humber Super Snipe had an all-day picnic inside it, with windows fogged up.

Among the Jaguars, a 1985 Tom Walkinshaw XJS factory hot rod attracted the curious (it was real), a 1930 MG M-Type Midget displayed a lightweight fabric body, an immaculate 1933 MG L1 Magna showed how handsome a four-seater can be and a 1933 Talbot boasted high-mounted headlights as big as dinner plates.

Providing musical accompaniment to the event was the Little Mountain Brass Band, whose skills ranged from WW1 oom-pah-pah, to movie themes and 1930s Big Band jazz standards. Singin’ in the Rain, anyone? 

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