When born and bred Londoner Bernie Osborne pulled up to Colorado Springs a decade ago via Alabama, he hoped to find his clan members: people who shared a passion for English cars.
He was in luck.
After placing an ad in The Gazette looking for auto lovers, he hooked up with Pikes Peak Little British Car Group, a cohort of men who adored their genre of vehicles: Morris Garages (MGs for short), Triumph, Lotus, Healey, Mini, Jaguar, Jensen and Sunbeam.
“They’re fun to drive,” said Osborne, owner of a 1980 MG. “Smaller, zippy.”
It’s an overcast, humid morning in late July. The parking lot of Patty Jewett Golf Course is bursting with nearly 20 little British cars, lined up one next to the other in their bubblegum shades of reds, greens, yellows and blues, with more sedate grays, whites and creams in the mix.
A peek inside the predominantly open-air cars reveals a few steering wheels that might perplex American drivers. (They’re on the right-hand side.) An olive-green MG bears a small, wooden airplane propeller on its hood, and a James Bond windshield cover decorates a chic, silver Aston Martin. Later, after breakfast, the Aston’s owner will motor off, leaving behind the sounds of James Bond movie music wafting through the muggy air.
Members of the group mill around, comparing notes and admiring the shiny, well-maintained autos before they drift inside the clubhouse. The PPLBCG meets every other Friday at the golf course for a 9 a.m. breakfast. Husbands head to the inner banquet room, a much larger and darker space that better accommodates the dozens of gear heads, while a much smaller number of female partners alight at two square tables pushed together in the dining room. Plates of waffles, eggs and breakfast sandwiches appear like manna from heaven, and coffee cups are endlessly refilled.
“We tell a lot of lies, kick tires, look under hoods,” said Jim Goodwin, who helped found the group.
Goodwin, who has eight MGs, fell in love with the cars in typical teenage boy fashion.
“It always starts with a woman,” he joked. “I was 13 years old, and my dad was a builder in the country. Somebody visited with a green MG and their 13-year-old daughter. I was smitten with her. They gave me the keys and told me to drive it. She and I and the MG raced around. I don’t remember her name. It’s too bad, she was cute.”
Shortly after his version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, he built an MG from the parts of three others, all before he could legally drive. He owned three MGs in high school and two in college.
“They’re great cars,” said Goodwin, a building contractor, who typically drives a truck all day. “They’re fun to drive. There’s a huge after-market for parts, and there are active clubs.”
Getting the group together was a slow process. After participating in a few St. Patrick’s Day parades, some of the founders, including Goodwin, Bud Silvers, Derek Cass and Mike Holm, decided to form a local extension of the Denver chapter of the MG Car Club-Rocky Mountain Centre, a club that a few of the men frequented.
About a half-dozen people showed up to the meetings every other week at Denny’s beginning in 2008. After Osborne placed his ad and found the group, the numbers increased exponentially, and the following year they moved the festivities to Patty Jewett.
Be wary of referring to the group as a club. It’s not.
“There’s no president, no treasurer, no dues,” said Silvers. “It’s simpler that way.”
Silvers has his own story about his green 1946 MGTC. After he bought it about 2009, he received an email from somebody who bought the MG paperwork for his car. Through him, Silvers found the Ebay seller, who turned out to be the son-in-law of the woman who bought the car in 1952 and drove it around Scotland on her honeymoon.
“I contacted her and got pictures of the car at crossroads in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s,” Silvers said.
His second MG was a “complete basket case,” which forced a restoration “from the ground up.”
“I just always liked the cars,” he said. “The car I almost bought for my first car was an MGCT, but my family convinced me out of it. So it was like a dream come true.”
Osborne, the group’s contact person, now can claim an email list of 139, though naturally not everybody shows up for the Friday gatherings. Usually about three dozen people make it, along with about 20 cars. Throughout the year, members also take their cars on day and week-long trips around the state and nearby states, including the Colorado English Motoring Conclave, an annual celebration of more than 500 English vehicles held in Arvada in the fall.
“It’s fun. I like going for rides in the cars, and you meet a lot of interesting people and see a lot of places on car tours you’d never see,” said Judy Dunham, whose husband owns about 70 cars and motorcycles, including her favorite, what she described as “the red one, it’s a red T.”
“If a car is pretty, that’s good,” she said. “Once they open the hood, we go off and talk.”
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