“High Wind Warning. Use Extreme Caution,” presaged the electronic highway sign five miles ahead of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Members of the SBCC knew the most direct route to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Vintage Motor Classic on Nov. 10 was up and over the windy Skyway bridge. It was a brisk early morning drive, with the temperature around 65 degrees, and only a mild breeze rustling the palm fronds at sea level. Then, as the six-car caravan rounded a corner, there it was, the concrete mountain landmark towering over the whitecaps in Tampa Bay. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is 4.4 miles of cable-stayed bridge, that rises 12 stories above the water.
The Skyway is listed as one of the most spectacular bridges in the world by website DangerousRoads.org. Some drivers enjoy the scenery as they go up and over. Others find it a white-knuckle experience and seek the inside lane. If the wind or weather becomes too severe, the bridge is closed. But not using the bridge requires a journey around Tampa Bay, adding about three hours to the trip. The LBC’s were undaunted by the caution sign, and began the climb. Being small cars, they were all pretty low to the pavement. Toward the summit of the span, the wind picked up noticeably and it was blowing heavily on the other side as they descended. Leaving the wind behind, the group wove through the quiet Sunday streets of St. Petersburg to the destination. Once at South Straub Park, adjacent to St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Club President Jim Wilson and wife, Debbie, parked their Triumph nearby Wyatt Rinker’s DeLorean. Stuart Keen and friend Bill Swan, with Stu’s MG TD, and John and Joan Magine, with their MGA, were next to each other. The Vintage Motor Classic has one of the best locations in the area for their annual event. The yacht club and tree shaded park in downtown St. Petersburg are surrounded by the Waterfront Arts District, a big marina, restaurants, hotels and high-rise condos. It’s a popular show and always draws lots of people. Featured were pre-1980 cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats. The weather was beautiful with the temperature rising to 80 degrees. Hamburgers and hot dogs were grilled on site, but the lure of the numerous nearby cafes and restaurants was hard to ignore. For the first time in recent memory, the Suncoast British Car Club didn’t take home any awards, but the show was a pleasant place to spend a Sunday among car enthusiasts and the public.
On December 1, we celebrated the start of the holiday season and the anniversary of the founding of our car club with a Dinner-Dance at the Venetian Golf & River Club in Venice, Florida. This annual event was a joint effort between the SBCC and the Sunshine Region AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America).
The evening began with a Bruschetta Bar and warmup beverages in the lounge and then progressed to a tasty buffet dinner featuring chicken scaloppini, grilled Scottish salmon and slow roasted short ribs. Dinner was followed by a dessert table and then dancing to classic music spun by West Florida DJ, Inc. About 40 members attended and all enjoyed the opportunity to socialize and bust some moves on the dance floor.
On October 26, six members of the SBCC caravanned north to Safety Harbor, FL for the 33rd Annual Tampa Bay Austin Healey Club All British Field Meet & Auto Jumble. This is always a very popular regional car show. The little town closes off Main Street for several blocks in order to park upwards of 150-200 cars in all British classes. In spite of the threat of rain, this year’s show had a huge turnout, with over 40 Jaguars alone.
Our club’s vehicles usually stand up very well against the competition in this event and this year was no exception. The rain finally arrived during the mid-afternoon awards ceremony but our modest contingent garnered three trophies. Pat Kelly collected First Place for his 1961 Bugeye Sprite; Bob and Ruth Faria a First Place for their 1932 Austin Boat Tail; and Bruce Skaggs picked up a Second Place trophy for his 2006 Jaguar XK8.
Bruce Skaggs contributed to this report and both he and Jim Wilson provided the photos
We were invited by the Sun Coast Jaguar Club to join them on October 12 in showing our cars at their 34th Annual Concours d’ Elegance in Sarasota. This is one of the best Concours d’Elegance in Florida. The cars were displayed on the lawn in the center of St. Armands Circle, the premiere historic shopping and dining district adjacent to Lido and Longboat Keys. This was a high-end technical judging concours for them while our car owners got a great opportunity to show their LBC’s at a very popular venue, and with no entry fee. Some of the SBCC members also belong to the SCJC. Our club displayed twelve cars, including four Jaguars. The towering palms and leafy oak trees in the park provided welcome shade under sunny skies. Also, a nice breeze off the Gulf of Mexico kept the temperature pleasurable. Everyone enjoyed the day. And we were invited back for next year!
Historic footnote: St. Armands (no apostrophe) Circle was not named for the 6th century monk, but rather a transplanted Frenchman, Charles St. Armand, who bought the key in 1893 for just under $22. His last name was incorrectly spelled on the original deed as “Armands,” and the misspelled name is still used today. The key was resold multiple times before falling to John Ringling in 1917 who, according to local legend, won it in a poker game! As most Sarasotans know, the circus magnate was also a leading real estate developer in the area during the 1920’s Florida land boom. He envisioned St. Armands Circle as an exclusive shopping center surrounded by high-income homes. Ringling went bankrupt with the subsequent real estate bust in the 1930’s, but his dream has been realized today.
Over the past several months, the popularity of Saturday morning car shows hosted by local car dealerships has grown so that there is now one almost every weekend. These “Cars and Coffee” events are similar. The dealer clears a space in their front lot and opens it up to whoever wants to bring a car to display that morning, any make, model and age. The hosts supply complimentary coffee, with some throwing in donuts or even a light breakfast for participants. The original such event, Cars and Coffee of Suncoast Porsche, is still the largest. But it now has competition from Cars and Gasoline of BMW of Sarasota and from Cars and Caffeine of Elite Motors. In addition to these Sarasota venues, a monthly event has now been added at The Atlanta Braves training center at Cool Today Park in South Venice.
Our club usually has 8-12 cars present. The C&C events are great for the auto hobbyist to see all kinds of makes and to meet and talk to their owners. These events each have their own identity: one has super cars, another muscle cars and another hot rods. Our cars fit in with all of them. The photos below are from events this year. The classic cherry red MINI was imported from Brazil for $6,000. The owner added the wheels, fenders and stripes, but it came with automatic and AC. It got a lot of attention that morning.
The foregoing information and photos were provided by Jim Wilson. The observations and culinary reviews that follow were provided by Bruce Skraggs.
There’s always a huge turnout for the oldest event, Cars and Coffee of Suncoast Porsche. It’s heavy on Porsches but packs a lot of really cool cars. But I must say the donuts are in short supply and aren’t that great.
BMW of Sarasota is a newcomer, with fewer cars but still some really great ones. This show gets my vote for the best donuts and coffee and they even serve a hot breakfast. Our Club generally has a good turnout for this one and I think it will be huge in a few more months.
Elite Motors Cars and Caffeine is even newer. Not great donuts, but the coffee was good. Currently there is a smaller turnout, but it is new and should catch on.
Ed. note: Bruce has not yet had a chance to review the Cool Today Park cuisine.