Cheerio! British Car Day rebounds from Sandy drenching in 2012, displays close to 100 classic vehicles under clear skies

An Austin Healey 3000 sporting the state’s antique auto license plate parked at the British Car Day Oct. 26 at Memorial Waterfront Park. (Jim Parker/Staff 10-26-2013).

In describing this year’s British Car Day, one of the first things that organizer Wray Lemke cited was the climate.

“The weather was absolutely flawless: 66 degrees and not a cloud in the sky,” said Lemke, vice president of the British Car Club of Charleston, which sponsored the Oct. 26 auto show in Mount Pleasant.

He no doubt recalled last year: Winds and rain lashed greater Charleston, limiting the show to less than 30 cars including a hardy group from Wilmington, N.C. The tropical system continued north, making landfall in New Jersey and Long Island and to this day carrying the moniker Superstorm Sandy.

The Charleston area’s late October fortunes changed this year, which helped out attendance at the British Car Day event. “The show was a really good one,” Lemke said. “We had close to 100 cars.”

The English-made vehicles, parked on the infield at Memorial Waterfront Park, included a range of model styles, ages and sizes. An early 1950s Bentley R type was a showstopper, while event-goers checked out tiny Mini Coopers, MG Midgets, Triumph Spitfires, classic Jaguars and nimble Austin Healeys and Sprites.

Oddities included a new, three-wheeled Morgan that traces its heritage to the 1930s tri-wheeled model, a British manufactured Daimler, a Riley mini car and a tiny Berkeley sports car built in Biggleswade in England’s Bedfordshire region.

According to The Complete Encyclopedia of Motor Cars, the Berkeley showcased a fiberglass body, and its most highly tuned version could reach 90 mph. The roadster lasted from 1956 to 1961 and even included a three-wheeler. But the guide notes “the cars never really caught on, and a more conventional design … came too late to save the venture.”

Last Saturday’s event was the 29th edition of British Car Day. The last three shows took place in Memorial Waterfont Park. “This year turned out really nice,” Lemke said. “The grass is green; it drained better,” he said.

Also, the park sits just below the Ravenel Bridge. “We had several people come by (who said), ‘wow, we saw you across the bridge,’” he said.

The show included a spark plug changing competition, where British car-owning gearheads had to fit the correct plugs in an MG. “That was a lot of fun,” he said.

The club held a silent auction, while students at Garrett Academy of Technology sold hot dogs, beverages and other fare. Proceeds from the auction and food and drink sales go to Garrett’s Auto Body Shop. This year, the money will be earmarked for buying new tools such as sanders.

“It’s for a great cause,” Lemke said.

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