British style: Keep calm and drive on
ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- Twenty-two members of the Berkshire British Motor Club proudly displayed their Austin-Healeys, Triumphs, and MGs alike during Bennington’s 47th Annual Car Show this weekend, around a white tent clad with British flags.
According to BBMC President and Bennington resident Al Chicote, the club, founded in the early 1980s, was originally based in the Pittsfield, Mass. area, but has grown to attract members from as far north as Rutland, Vermont, as far east as Peterborough, New Hampshire, and into Connecticut and New York, as well.
Although the club’s name may denote a sense of exclusivity, Chicote promised that the group is not only for drivers of British cars.
"I always jokingly say, ‘You don’t need to have a British car to have fun with us, your car just needs to have a British motor,’" Chicote laughed. "In other words, if you have a foreign car, you are welcome to join our club."
There was certainly no shortage of genuine British rides on display this weekend, however.
Even a rare Jensen was parked prominently on the grass -- one of only seven in the nation -- according to Chicote, and the "baby" of Bennington local Jim Warren, who, Chicote noted, races it on occasion.
"It’s amazing how many British cars and British car lovers there are in this area," Chicote said, referring to Southern Vermont and neighboring areas in New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
When prompted to speculate on a possible reason for the concentrated interest in classic British cars, Chicote laughed, joking that everyone "must be crazy," and recounted a joke about British cars having a reputation of constantly leaking oil and "falling apart."
He then added, on a serious note, that the club allows British car lovers to share their passion for cars -- a passion, Chicote said, that many of the members have had since their youth.
"It’s really like a hobby for us," Chicote said. "It’s fun and it keeps us busy."
Chicote explained that the BBMC has a total of about 45 members that meet on a regular basis.
However, when the club does come together, it isn’t for a plain old club meeting. It’s much more exciting.
According to Chicote, the group participates in a slew of activities throughout the year, including rallies, "drive-to’s," "tech sessions," and, of course, car shows.
Rallies, Chicote noted, are a club activity favorite, during which time members are given a map with directions to a mystery destination.
"People do tend to get lost, but it’s always fun," he said. "We try to do about four every year."
Chicote added that "tech sessions" are also loved amongst the members, especially by those who may be unsure of how to proceed with a mechanical issue, or those who simply may need an extra pair of hands.
"I’m having a tech session at my house soon," Chicote said. "I’m buying lunch and everyone’s coming over to help me work on my car for the day."
Chicote said he kicks off the spring season each year, usually sometime in March, with a maple syrup run, which begins at the Bennington Monument and ends at a local sugar shack.
He noted that the unpredictable weather usually results in members driving their every day cars, as opposed to their classic British ones. "I tell them they can drive in anything," Chicote said. "It’s really just about getting the members together."
"Drive-to’s" are also a popular activity, when the club travels en masse to a specific location.
Next weekend, the club will make their way to Stowe for the annual British Invasion event.
"There will be something like 600 British cars there," Chicote said. "It’s a great event."
Some club events, according to Chicote, are shared with a fellow British motor club, the Adirondack Triumph Association, including a car restoration project that is currently in the works with Hemmings Motor News.
Chicote explained that a private party recently donated a classic MNG to Hemmings Motor News and that the clubs are working collaboratively to restore it.
When the car is road-ready once more, it will be donated to Good News Garage, a car donation charity based in Burlington which provides reliable transportation for low-income families in New England.
This year was the first year the BBMC attended the Bennington Car Show. As long as next year’s car show dates do not conflict with the 2014 British Invasion in Stowe, Chicote said the club will display its collection of British beauties on the lawns of Willow Park next year as well.
If you are a British car enthusiast interested in joining the BBMC, contact Chicote at email@example.com or search ‘Berkshire British Motor Club’ on Facebook for additional information.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at BBMC@sover.net or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.
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