It’s a British Thing
British Motor Club of the Cape Fear brings like-minded car lovers together for car talk and camaraderie.
When Larry Lopopolo moved to Leland three years ago, he hoped to find like-minded people: enthusiasts who shared his passion for British cars. He did.
After Googling car clubs in the area, he found the website for British Motor Club of the Cape Fear, a “group of very welcoming” people who share his hobby of collecting, enjoying and showing their British cars like MGs, Triumphs, Jaguars, Austins, Austin-Healeys and Jensen-Healeys. Lopopolo and his 1969 MGC fit right in.
“I got involved with the activities and enjoyed it, and enjoyed the people,” he says. Last year he served as vice president and this year he was nominated for president, which he accepted.
Twenty-two years ago, a dedicated group of 15 people founded the club and chose the first group of officers. Since 1998 British Motor Club of the Cape Fear (BMCCF) has grown steadily and currently has a roster of more than 100 members, who all together have amassed such a collection of cars that it isn’t easy to keep count.
“The majority of our members have more than one car and then some don’t have any,” explains Paul Clarkson, co-coordinator of the annual car show.
What is it about British cars that attracts enthusiasts and hobby collectors in the United States?
“Well, it’s what all the cool kids in high school had,” says John Williamson, the other co-coordinator of the annual car show. “I like to think of these cars as little pets. It’s an affliction. You get one, then you get another.”
Williamson has an MG and a Triumph, and Clarkson has two MGs.
The cars are also conversation starters. Whether these car owners stop for gas or make a run to the grocery store, they are quite frequently stopped by someone who wants to talk about their cars. Maybe they grew up with one. Maybe their dad had one.
British cars get credit for spurring the sports car movement here in the United States. The cars became popular during the 1920s to 1930s, when British automakers began combining affordability with sport performance. Introduced in 1923, the MG was the first genuine sports car that set the industry standard. The market for British sports cars in America evolved after WWII, when GI’s returned to the USA after getting acquainted with them during the war.
The technology of the Little British Cars (LBC) of the early ’50s was very close to that of the ’30s in the United Kingdom, when they resumed manufacturing of the cars after the war.
BMCCF members meet on the third Thursday of each month at Temptations Gourmet Cafe in Wilmington at 6 p.m. for dinner and socializing, then car talk, reading of the minutes, greeting new members and planning their upcoming charity events and parties.
“We like to define it as a social club for young and old people and young and old cars,” Williamson says. “It’s all about fun more than anything.” He also says it’s a “support group” for owners of new classic Little British Cars.
In addition to the monthly business meetings, the club holds a monthly coffee gathering. Members also participate in tech workshops in which they gather to learn from each other’s technical challenges and solutions. Members with complete garages with lifts host these sessions.
Group pleasure rides give members a way to get together, not to mention an excuse to get their cars on the road.
“Several of us have gone to the Outer Banks, and others had traveled cross-country to attend some of the British car shows,” Williamson says.
BMCCF’s signature event is an annual car show. This year’s show, Brits at the Battleship, will be held on Saturday, May 2 at the USS North Carolina Battleship Park. BMCCF members will be joined by members of British car clubs from Charleston, Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, Raleigh and Virginia to name a few. The community at large is welcome to come out and see the British cars.
“This will be our twenty-second year,” Lopopolo says. “We’ll have food trucks, so come have lunch, enjoy the river and look at some really cool cars.”
Spectators can except to see approximately 125 cars this year, ranging from Jaguars, Triumphs, Minis, Bentleys, MGs, Austins and Rolls Royces. “There will also be a hand-built Marlin that one of our members owns,” Clarkson says. “We’ll have world-class winning cars down to cars that are in need of restoration or under construction.”
The car show is free to public and is an opportunity for anyone who has ever been interested in British cars to come learn more about them. The event is kid-friendly with a contest for children to pick their favorite car.
Membership in the British Motor Club of Cape Fear is open to anybody who is interested in British cars — even if they don’t own a car. That’s part of the draw of the club; it’s an opportunity for people who may not be ready to buy a British car to learn more about the makes, models and vintages and how they work and where to buy them.
“However,” Williamson adds, “Join the club without a LBC, and I’m pretty sure you will get one!”
Clubs like this one, along with the Internet, of course, make it easy for British car enthusiasts to keep their passion alive, even here, all the way across the pond.
Learn More about the British Motor Club of Cape Fear