The Quest for Class

Whitney loves to win. She is cut throat in her ambition and she has little tolerance for a loss.

It is why we have had to ban most board games in our household. In an effort to preserve our relationship, we have found other avenues in which she can compete. Since Whitney secured Pete, a 1979 MG Midget, 5 years ago, the two have hit the car show circuit with vigor. There, Whitney can put her roadster up against her peers and compete amongst them and not me. She loves to put on a performance with Pete at the shows to increase her chances at bringing home an award.

Our favorite annual gathering is the Champagne British Car Festival in Bloomington, Il. On the first weekend in June each year, the show amasses British machinations from all over the Midwest. The weekend starts with a dinner and a keynote speaker Friday night. Special stops around Bloomington and surrounding communities, workshops, and cruises on Saturday. With it all culminating Sunday on the beautiful lawns of the David Davis Mansion.

Whitney and I first attended in 2012, a few months before securing Pete. As we walked into the grounds we were overwhelmed by the Anglo assembly surrounding the gorgeous italianate and second empire architecture of the mansion. So many marques were represented. Everything from an Aston Martin DB5 to Triumph Spitfires were on display. It was amazing to meander among the beautiful cars and the historic home. The second we acquired Pete, we knew without doubt, he would be attending the following year.

As soon as the 2013 registration was open, Whitney promptly reserved a place for Pete in the Midget class. When the weekend arrived, she had us dress in character as English Gentry out for a drive in the country. She donned a black Victorian style dress and I clad in tweed, wearing a paddy cap and blazer. Looks that would surely draw the attention of the crowd toward ourselves and Pete.

Upon arriving at the gates, we were directed to the class location. We slowly rolled along the drive as a fellow British car enthusiast, Eric “Bones” Bach, entertained the crowd with live music. Every year, he comically over stuffs his MGA with all of his musical equipment needed to keep the crowd grooving.

After rubbernecking at all the metal, we found a nook for Pete alongside his Abingdon siblings. Whitney laid out the presentation she prepared for Pete and we walked the grounds as she voted on the other entries. The votes are cast by fellow entrants, putting the choice of the award winners in the hands of the British car lovers’ popular vote and far from the influence of a panel of judges.

While waiting for the votes to be tallied, Whitney was distracted from her anxiety by the elegance of the mansion as we toured it’s interior. An artist’s colony was set up inside. Displayed were all sorts of automotive art, her favorite being a detailed oil painting of a decrepit Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite. We sampled ice cream from a local vendor who set up shop near the former carriage house and we were treated a light lunch from a Bloomington Boy Scout troop.

After finishing our tour, the crowd was called to gather on the front lawn so the awards could be announced. Whitney’s excitement grew as each class called came closer to her own. Once the Midgets were reached, she was elated to receive a Third in Class win. It was a wonderful way to end our attendance of the Champagne British Car Festival. Once the award was in her hands, she was already plotting a bigger win for the following year. We were now obligated to annual attendance out of both enjoyment and determination.

For 2014, Whitney and Pete returned to Bloomington with a stronger performance. She arrived at the show with a look that would rival Grace Kelly. With a blue dress, white gloves, horned rim glasses and a scarf framing her face, the crowd looked as if they thought Whitney were some kind of star. With that, she was able to secure a 2nd in class win. She narrowly lost out to 1st in class to a well presented 69 Midget in British Racing Green. Any British sports car in BRG is a tough opponent. Despite the competition, Whitney was able to spark a camaraderie with the lady owner of the BRG Midget, encouraging both the attend in 2015.

Another year passed and the fun Whitney and I have at the festival every year did not go unnoticed. A close friend of ours, Leslie, wished to join us that year. We helped her acquire a decent 1966 Triumph Herald she could enter into the show. Whitney had a whole list of improvements completed for Pete. His paint was refreshed, better trim was added, interior improvements were made, and I got to flex my ingenuity. She had me adapt twin Mikuni carburetors from an old Yamaha to Pete, coupled with a shiny new exhaust. Pete was now prettier and more powerful, ready to take the class win at the Champagne British Car Festival for 2015. Both of the girls were very excited as that special June weekend arrived. We piled into our cars and caravanned to the David Davis Mansion.

Whitney had set up a theme to compliment Pete’s new found ponies. She arrived in race attire with cues pulled from the likes of Denise McCluggage and race gumballs proudly affixed to Pete’s doors. Unfurled at the gate was the largest Union Jack in the Midwest. The girls both posed with their cars in enthusiasm as their portraits were taken in front of the flag. MG was the featured marque for 2015. While others chose to register with the featured class, Whitney stuck with the Midgets, after all, she had grudge match with BRG. Unfortunately, brake issues kept Whitney’s fellow Midgeteer out of the show and no other cars were entered in the class for competition. That meant no award. However, Whitney was at ease, as she wanted nothing of a win by default. Whitney did however, stare daggers at Leslie as she accepted a class win with her Herald. Looks like that are why a carefully crafted ceasefire had to be drafted the last time she and I played RISK. As such, there is always the next year.

After a few enthusiastic performances over the years, Whitney had caught the attention of the planning committee for the Champagne British Car Festival. We were approached by Dave Hauman, the head of the committee, to join them in building the show. Whitney and I both graciously accepted and joined the committee to help plan for 2016. We got to see how much work goes into securing all of the entertainment offered each June weekend. It was very exciting helping with the show’s 25th anniversary. With Whitney and I only ever attending the show on Sunday, we never included ourselves in the other events hosted. For 2016, we planned to experience more of the weekend. The Saturday before the show, we perused Bloomington’s downtown market while John Twist of University Motors performed a tech session with other show attendees at a local garage.

With Sunday came lovely weather, perfect for the show. Familiar faces and some new, arrived for the Midget class, with them brought the strongest opposition to a class win yet. Unfortunately, Whitney was unable to win over the crowd with her picnic display and earn that coveted 1st in Class in 2016. However, it was once again a pleasure to attend. Each year with the Champagne British Car Festival is a weekend of enjoyment. Since 2013, every first weekend in June is prominently marked in our calendars. For Whitney and I, it marks the beginning of our most favorite season.

The Champagne British Car Festival for 2017 will be one of the biggest Whitney and I have witnessed. On June 4th, 2017, the show will be back in Bloomington. The featured marque will be a sea of stainless steel covering the front lawn in a cavalcade of Delorean DMC-12’s, Mecum Auctions will bring their mobile auction experience, the David Davis Mansion will once again provide an elegant setting as it has for 145 years, and maybe Whitney will finally get the class win that she so longs for.

Should others wish to attend, additional details can be found on the shows website Vehicle registration is open to any British conveyance from motorcycles and up.

-Stay Ambitious