1998 San Diego British Car Day
(A view from the side of the road)
by Doug Pulver
The 1998 San
Diego British Day experience started out as one of the best ever. The weather could not
have been more perfect - cool and sunny. Chris (my son) and I jumped into our 1955 MGTF
and headed off to join the San Diego MG Club for the tour north.
The MG Club
caravan left Sunny's Donuts just after 8:00 A.M. Chris and I found ourselves at the rear
and immediately were stuck at the first traffic light. By the time the light turned green
the rest of the club was long gone. I told Chris, "Not to worry we now have a 3.9 MGB
rear end in the TF we'll soon catch up". And so we did.
As we entered the beautiful grassy field of
Fallbrook Farms, we passed by a row of T-Types preparing for the day. We waved to our
friend Bill Harkins who was supervising his wife Joan as she cleaned the TC (just as Bill
told me she would be doing). After parking the car we headed off to visit vendors and
After lots of picture taking and chatting, Chris and I headed home. As we were
pulling the grade by Deer Park in Escondido, all of a sudden steam exploded out from under
the TF bonnet and I felt some power loss. We pulled over and saw a 50 yard trail of
coolant behind us on the side of the road. Checking under the bonnet revealed no obvious
problems - hoses, radiator, radiator cap, thermostat and water pump were all new or
rebuilt. Hmmm. I was later to decide it must have been a blown head gasket.
Soon after we rolled to a stop, a very nice
gentleman in a new 500 series BMW stopped. We used his cell phone and called for a tow
truck. The young woman on the phone said the truck would not arrive for another hour and a
half . She then asked the year a make of my car. I told her it was a 1955 MG to which she
replied, "Who makes that?" When I explained that MG made the car she responded
with, "Oh yeah, I think I have heard of that". Chris expressed great disgust at
our plight. I explained that such was occasionally the case with old cars and besides,
maybe something good would happen. (As a father it is important to sound optimistic, even
if you don't mean it.) Little did I know how true that was.
For the next hour and a half Chris and I were to witness the
most phenomenal event. British Car Day came to us on the side of the road. There were over
25 British sports cars that pulled over to help us, not to mention the ones I was actually
able to wave off.
First on the scene was a Hillman panel truck whose owner seemed hurt that I did
not need to borrow his tools. A very nice woman in a blue TR250 stopped. Next was Steve
Kirby in his red MGTD who offered me a beer since I apparently would not be driving any
more that afternoon. A woman stopped and said our TF looked like her husband's car and she
wanted to make sure he was O.K. Dennis Yard stopped in his Land Rover and Bob Segui
(founder of SDBCD) jumped out to ask if Chris would like a ride home with them.
In the next
hour, we were visited by some wonderful automobiles including a red Austin Healey, a
burgundy MGA, a blue Sunbeam Tiger sporting a personalized plate which read "Bad
Beam", a yellow chrome bumper MGBGT, a red Jensen Healey, (3) rubber bumper MGBs (one
of which gave us soft drinks), a white Lotus Cortina, a black MG 1100, a black MG YA, and
John Barnard in his beautifully restored MGTD. John offered the use of his cell phone to
check the status of the tow truck. It was now 10 minutes away.
By the way, the only marque which 100% ignored us was Jaguar. There were 3 XKEs
that passed by without so much as slowing down. My guess is that they saw no sign of full
roadside catering complete with finger sandwiches (to which they are so accustomed) and
they decided it was not civilized enough to stop. Besides they probably would not have
I must say
that the whole experience was a wonderful one. British car enthusiasts are the greatest
group of people ever. Thanks to all of you who stopped to help. British Car Day #2 by the
side of the road was truly special. By the end of the day, even Chris agreed that
sometimes it's O.K. to take the long road home.