As the number of vaccinated Americans increases, the pandemic’s death grip on the US population is disappearing. However, after such a long disruption, much of the country is going forward under a so-called “new normal.” Not so with the SBCC! We are happy to just be able to return to the old normal, with monthly club meetings held in the familiar surroundings of the Red Lobster, a tradition now approaching some 20 years. After over a year’s absence from any meetings at all, our first two gatherings were significant events.
We began with a “transitional” outdoor meeting April 10th at Twin Lakes County Park in Sarasota. A Pavilion was reserved for noontime and, as a bonus for attendees, the club provided a box lunch with made-to-order sandwiches from a local sub shop. Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch! Debbie Wilson’s superb organizational skills were again on display as she coordinated the fifty plus orders without an error or misguided mustard packet.
As befitting the first monthly meeting of 2021, it was led by our new President, Walt Mainberger. Walt was one of the founding members of the club back in 1993. President-for-life, Jim Wilson, has now stepped down to apparently be Vice President-for-life and Debbie has taken over the Treasurer duties.
And finally, on May 12th, we returned to the Red Lobster. There were some 30 members in attendance, which is a good figure considering the absence of the snowbirds who have migrated back north, and a few members who are still cautious about indoor dining. Needless to say, the Red Lobster crew (staff, not the ones in the tank) were very happy to see us back.
On March 7th, the Triumphs of Southwest Florida hosted their Ninth Annual B.I.G. (British, Italian, German) European Car Show in Cape Coral, FL. This has been a popular participatory event for our club several years now, and we generally pick up a good share of the available hardware when the awards are handed out. This year, 10 cars under the guidance of Wagon Master and Club VP, Jim Wilson, caravanned the approximately 65-mile trip From Nokomis to Rotary Park in Cape Coral.
The popular event drew 172 entrants, which is the most ever. It was a sunny day and the British car division scored welcome parking under a tree-shaded portion of the park. As in past years, the Boy Scouts took care of the lunch menu.
The Suncoast British Car Club again acquitted itself well, bringing home four trophies:
John Magine – First with his 1966 Austin Healey 3000 BJ8
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) was at Sebring International Raceway February 18-21 for a weekend of racing at the historic flat, 3.7-mile, 17-turn track. The former military airfield has acquired a remarkable motorsports history with just about every legendary series and racing driver passing through. The 12-Hours of Sebring, first held in 1952, is famous around the world. The SVRA’s Sebring SpeedTour routinely draws hundreds of vintage race cars from all eras, makes and models. Many LBC’s were entered in the different competition racing classes.
Saturday, February 20, featured a Hagerty Cars & Caffeine car show open to all classic, vintage, exotic and collectible cars. Participants in the show could also take part in a lap around the track in their show car with the other entrants.
Beginning at Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse (where else?) in Sarasota, Jim Wilson led seven other members of the club in their LBC’s on the trip to participate in the Saturday show, and to watch the vintage races that day. Jim managed to find some of Florida’s best curvy roads for the approximately 80-mile journey. He reported the show as huge, with hundreds of every kind of collector car on displayfrom vintage models to hot rods to new Corvettes. Notably, club members Steve and Patti Phillips won a First in Class for their 1960 MGB!
As for the lap around the famous track, Bruce Skaggs related that, with the huge turnout, the ride was a joke. There were so many cars that wanted a drive on the track he never out of first gear and was riding the clutch most of the way around. Not to mention the overheating problem that most of us have in our LBC’s at such a slow pace. But, it was a beautiful day and a good time was had by all.
Throughout club history, we have always had a very active schedule in January. (Readers are invited to look at event reports in this column from prior years.) For as long as anyone can remember, each year always began with our traditional January 1st White Elephant Gift Exchange & Potluck Picnic at Turtle Beach on Siesta Key. This would be followed at mid-month by a car-display at the Venice Rotary Arts Festival next to the airport. And finally, another display at the Sarasota Highland Games and Celtic Festival at the County Fair Grounds at the end of the month. Unfortunately, under the pall of the pandemic, all of these events were cancelled for 2021. However, the club still managed three smaller-scale events following precautions that the CDC could appreciate.
On January 10, there was a “drive to nowhere” led by (now) VP Jim Wilson. Seven cars started the drive and, which is not usually the case, all seven finished at the same time and place!
January 24 featured another driving event led by Jim. Enticed by the forecast for blue skies and a temperature approaching 80 degrees, 13 cars participated in a 80-mile tour of the countryside. As is the case with most of these drives into the Florida interior, the circuit began and ended at Stottlemyers Smokehouse on the eastern edge of Sarasota. And, in the continuation of a positive trend, all cars finished this time also.
To end the month, on January 27, the Suncoast British Car Club joined with the Sunshine Region Antique Automobile Club of America in a Drive-By-Parade to visit four ALF/Skilled Nursing Homes. At each facility the staff and residents were outside as the caravan slowly drove by. Twenty cars participated in the two-hour drive around Sarasota. We’ve done these parades before at assisted living facilities and this one was a great success, both in terms of the variety of our cars, and also the turnout of appreciative residents. The SBCC had 12 cars – 3 Jaguars, a Triumph TR3, 2 TR6’s, a TR7, a TR8, a MGB, a MGTD, a Sprite and a Morris. It was a beautiful warm day, ideal for the event.
Thanks to faithful correspondent Bruce Skaggs for the reports and photos of these events. And a thanks also to Anita Woods for additional input.
A Celebration of Life for Gerry Coker was held on January 9 at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota County. A stiff, chilly wind off the Gulf, along with the still-present threat of COVID-19, did little to affect the attendance. Over 40 members from both the Suncoast British Car Club and the Healey Club from Tampa were present. Gerry was an avid participant and long-time member of both clubs right up until the end of his 98 years. [Gerry’s Bio is in the Nov. 30, 2020 Events post.]
The memorial was organized and presided over by Walt Mainberger, the new SBCC president. Other speakers sharing their memories of Gerry included his daughter, Faye, Jim Wilson, outgoing SBCC president, Bill Borja, president Tampa Bay Austin Healey Club, Bill Emerson, president Historic Healeys and John Nikas, author (with Gerry) of Healey – The Men & The Machines. With a number of Healeys as a backdrop, we were all reminded of Gerry’s long and interesting career, the highlight of which was responsibility for the body design of the Austin Healey 100, which debuted in 1952, and the preliminary body styling of the Austin-Healey Sprite. Still, the two themes that emerged from all of the speakers were Gerry’s keen sense of humor and his love of family. Perhaps this combination was a key to his longevity.
It was an honor to have Gerry Coker as a member of our club, and a privilege to have known him.
Photos by Joan & John Magine and this contributor. Thanks also to Anita Woods and Bruce Skaggs.