Like any good invasion, it all started with some guys having a few pints in a tavern. In the year 2000, five automobile enthusiasts gathered in the British Beer Co. of Sandwich, discussing their love of British cars, automotive engineering, and road trips, and thus the Cape Cod British Car Club was born.
Over the following 17 years, the organization has grown into a 278-member international club. On Friday evening and early Saturday morning, the Martha’s Vineyard invasion began in earnest as 26 British cars of varying models and ages came from all over the commonwealth and Rhode Island, and rolled off the ferry onto Vineyard soil.
This was the club’s 15th year coming to the Vineyard, and nature didn’t disappoint the visitors, welcoming them with a colorful autumn day and bright sunshine.
A total of 52 invaders drove Morgan roadsters, convertibles, Jaguars, MGAs, Austin-Healeys, MGBs, and Spitfires, and one rare Triumph 250, to gather at the Tashmoo overlook. They met at 10:15 am on Saturday morning to reunite, greet, and get directions from tour organizer Bill Scott and club governor Mike Dallaire.
Once participants were lined up and at the ready, Bill briefed the meeting with a gentle reminder of the three standard rules:
- Mind the gap.
- Lights on.
- If you don’t see the car behind you, stop.
The warm sunshine provided the convertible owners the opportunity to put their tops down, and shortly after 10:30 am, caps and scarves and gloves on, they set off to Menemsha. Once there they had a rest stop, and continued on to the Lighthouse at the Cliffs. They made their way down Moshup Trail, then headed for East Chop before parking in Oak Bluffs for lunch in the Ale House or Lookout Tavern. After a relaxing afternoon in O.B., they retired to the Harbor View Hotel for a late dinner and singsong by the fire.
Mr. Dallaire took time out from breakfast on Sunday morning to talk about his obvious pride in the club. While he has been president of the club four times over the years, he was happy to note that “this year’s president is the first female prez, Roberta Rosseau, affectionately known as Queen Bee Berta.”
Which made me wonder, as a native of Ireland, how British-loving one had to be to join the club? “Is it the British brand one needs to love, or the car itself?”
“Oh, it’s the car, a personal choice,” Mr. Dallaire said, sliding pictures on his phone of other Triumphs he has owned and affirming his love of the Spitfire. Dressed in a leather jacket with a British flag on the back and a tweed hat, he discussed what car enthusiasm looks like — from social functions, outings, and fundraisers to probably the best part of the club — the bonded community that arises from the mutual love of cars. “If someone has car trouble in Brewster,” Mr. Dallaire said, “eight or 10 people will come from all over the state to fix an engine or make repairs; we help each other out that way.”
The social warmth is evident in the friendliness and camaraderie over breakfast at the Lighthouse restaurant in the Harbor View. Bill Scott reported that Saturday’s drive concluded with no breakdowns (a great day for such old cars), two flat tires, and no speeding tickets, a successful tour day. Drivers and passengers chatted over coffee before they departed for another leisurely day of driving, this time to the destination of their choice.
The CCBCC held a Columbus Day three-day tour called the British Legends Weekend based at the Seacrest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, where guest speaker and ex-editor of Sports and Exotic cars Dave LaChance addressed the group to discuss all things British cars. The club also organized a tour in Sandwich called Freezing for Kids to fundraise for independencehouse.org. Impromptu monthly meetings and winter events called Saturday socials make for a busy CCBCC year-round schedule.
Mr. Dallaire loves British cars so much, he kindly insisted I go for a spin in his little red 1976 Spitfire. “Can you drive a stick?” he asked.
“You’re asking an Irish girl?” I gave him a look, and he laughed a jovial laugh. There were no automatic cars in Ireland in the 1990s.
And with great confidence in my ability to remember the good old days of stick shifts, I pulled out of the Harbor View and went for a fancy tour of Edgartown in the little British car with the Sunday-morning wind in my hair and not a worry in the world.
And if a man can trust his beloved British car into the hands of this Irish woman, I do declare the invasion a friendly one, and encourage any car lovers to check out capecodbritishcarclub.org and britishmarque.com.