This article and photographs were contributed by club member Rob Ficalora, who we thank for the interesting story.
I’ve never written an article for the ROARS, but I’ve decided it’s time that I start – for two reasons. First, to share a little about a great group of British car enthusiasts and our semi-annual gatherings, and second, to share how much fun I had making the trip this year with my older son, Andrew. I hope it will inspire some of you to do similar vacation trips with your family and/or friends.
It would probably make sense to tell you a little about what the British V8 is - or maybe more accurately, what it is not. The British V8 is not a club. There are no dues and no car shows or trophies. Rather, it’s just a group who like to enhance and drive their British cars. The name itself, British V8, is even a misnomer. While it is true that most of the participants have V8 converted MGB’s or other British cars and the group does cater to that community, they also welcome anyone and everyone - no matter how many cylinders their car may have. We regularly have participants with just about every power plant imaginable - including stock MG motors (this year there were two participants sporting their MGB’s with OEM 1800 cc motors). We also regularly have participants in non-British daily drivers just to enjoy the camaraderie and often to learn for a potential project of their own.
The meets are planned and hosted by volunteers from the group. They usually hold the meet near their homes to make their planning and coordination easier so the location of our meets changes every year. This year, it was in Wytheville, VA. Wytheville is such a great venue with beautiful scenery, cooler temperatures due to the altitude, and some amazing driving roads with twists, turns, and elevation changes, that this was our second meet here (hence the “2.0” in the logo). The meets are always characterized by driving events and tech sessions and often include visiting local attractions, which range from automotive related, like visiting vehicle museums and private auto collections, to simply interesting, like riding a steam locomotive once used in coal mining.
Our adventure this year started with my older son, Andrew, and I heading out for Virginia at 7:30 pm on a Friday with both of our V8 MGB’s - his running worse than it had since we completed the engine swap just a few months earlier. Actually, it was running fine; it was just getting progressively harder to start. But he had sacrificed most weekends and worked on it diligently for the better part of a year and I didn’t want to disappoint him, so believing we could fix it once we figured out what was going on, we headed out that evening.
We only made it 32 miles to Trinity, TX before it died coming to a stop and wouldn’t restart. We worked on it for a couple of hours before we got it running and did the same a couple of hours later when we stopped for gas. We finally rolled into our planned stop for the night (Shreveport , LA) at 3:45am; we should have been there by 11:30pm! We were plagued by that pattern of the car not wanting to start, but running fine once it did start for the rest of the trip to Virginia. But we figured out a pattern that made restarting it easier – even if it didn’t make sense at the time and it suggested a more catastrophic engine failure could be on the horizon.
Luckily, Andrew and I both seem to feed off of technical challenges, so while we were worried we might not make it to our destination, we actually had fun trying to diagnose the problem, discussing and agreeing on potential courses of action. We even called ahead to some friends who we knew would have parts and asked them to bring them with them to Wytheville just in case we needed them.
By the time we got to Wytheville, Andrew spotted oil starting to drip from his ignition coil, a coil we both erroneously thought was solid state based on the “Blaster SS” branding. With that smoking gun, we sourced a suitable replacement and his car has run flawlessly ever since!
With that fun (and admittedly some stress) behind us, we were able to enjoy the British V8 meet. This meet, like them all, included an opening pizza party at the host hotel and plenty of time to catch up with old friends, meet new friends, and check out everyone’s cars. The next morning started with a beautiful drive to Big Walker Lookout where five states can be viewed from their 100' tower.
We continued on to a nearby town where Dr. Michael Crews shared his extensive collection of British and European classics with us and we had lunch at the town’s Railroad museum. Dr. Crews sponsored the lunch featuring Pepperoni Rolls, which we learned was a staple for the coal miners as a filling meal that didn’t require refrigeration. After lunch, we broke into smaller groups with options for the return route. Andrew and I connected with a few others to tackle the “Back of the Dragon” with its 438 curves of spirited driving. That evening, like every evening, consisted of a few drinks, stories, and tire kicking in the parking lot.
The next morning started with tech sessions on hydrolysis (did you know your coolant can carry voltage and be used to find bad grounds?) and testing brake fluid before a fun caravan of about 40 British cars to the Elizabeth Brown Memorial Park in Wytheville where we were treated to a catered BBQ lunch and a welcome speech from the town’s Mayor. Andrew and I followed that by joining some friends for a drive on the Marion Loop of the “Claw of the Dragon” with me as passenger in his car for this one. The Claw of the Dragon is a set of five loops, each with twisty, curvy roads. Of course, we reminisced in the parking lot that evening about the drives!
The final day began with an hour long drive to Sparta, North Carolina where we had tech sessions on vehicle detailing hosted by Trilogy Detailing and another on understanding and changing the distributor advance curve for performance and idle characteristics.
Those tech sessions were followed by a visit to Eclectic Rods and Restorations, hosted by owner and fellow British V8’er, Ken Nicks. Andrew and I snuck off to a tire shop to get two tires for his car. He had some turbine style aluminum wheels and between their negative offset, the spirited driving without a panhard bar, and the extra weight Andrew was carrying, the tire sidewalls rubbed and got cut up on the rear wheel opening lips. I say it was from all the tools, but Andrew insists it didn’t happen until I was in the car with him! Back in Wytheville, the evening consisted of a banquet and auction of donated items used to help fund the next year’s meet, followed by an extended evening of visiting over a few drinks in the parking lot. No one wanted the event to end so that night ended up being the longest!
The next morning we slept in a bit, then headed out for our return. Thankfully, the drive home was uneventful. We even surprised my wife by showing up the evening before she expected us (I didn’t tell her we were coming home in two days instead of three just in case something went wrong again!)
I’m glad Andrew convinced me that we could handle both cars. We probably got a year’s worth of sorting out on his car completed over the week. His car is now completely reliable and more fun now as a result! And we got to spend some great father/son time together! I encourage you to find a friend or family member and do the same! Maybe make plans to join us at the 2023 British V8 meet in Monticello, IL hosted by Pete Mantell.