by Dave Hutchison
On a bright sunny Friday morning about forty British cars including and their drivers gathered together at McKenzie’s Pub in West Chester, PA for the start of the 2016 America’s British Reliability Run. Why a pub at 9AM? Well, McKenzie’s Pub was to be the planned destination of our 600-plus mile adventure, but more about that later.
Before a wheel was turned, a good deal of planning and support had already come together. Back in the early spring of 2016 the ABRR Planning Committee met at the Triumph Brewery in New Hope, PA, and several times throughout the year to put together the ABRR for 2016. The ABRR Committee selected this year’s charity, the Synergy Project, a non-profit street Outreach Program for homeless kids in the 12-21 year old age range living in Bucks, Lehigh and Philadelphia Counties. The Synergy Project is a program of the Valley Youth House. Last year this event, which has been sponsored since 2008 by Delaware Valley Triumphs Ltd, reached new goals as 32 "ABRR Teams" ran up into N.Y. State and raised over $24K for St. Christopher's Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. This year's goal was to hopefully meet or exceed last year’s high water mark and so the work began. New destinations were selected and a new route was built. After several meetings the Oct 14-16 2016 date was announced and registration opened in early June. Within just a couple of weeks, registration reached its capacity and it was closed as it was capped at 40 cars. Bob Canfield handled all the hotel and restaurant reservations and Wayne Simpson had the placards produced, windscreen signs printed and he also assembled the Entrant packets. Dan and Sheri Tinsman had already proofed this year's run and assembled a great route book for all the teams. Bob DeLucia looked after the registrations, budget and thousands of emails to keep us all on track! I arranged the car collection visit, racetrack laps, restoration shop visit and brought in sponsors and car clubs to support our ABRR. All Teams reported their fundraising progress to the ABRR Webmaster, Russ Sharples who kept the website current on a daily basis! Fundraising competition was brisk especially in the last weeks with a single team ultimately bringing over $3K, a new record!
Now back to Friday morning...Among the 40 British cars that had gathered was a 1949 Rover, the oldest car, driven by Dirk Borrows and David LaChance (Editor of Hemmings S&E) and also an ABRR sponsor. Another car ready to roll was a 1951 Jaguar MK VII sponsored by Ragtops & Roadsters that was recently mechanically restored to run the Great Race next June. This was to be their shakedown run for the saloon, as “Big Fat Grey Cat” was driven by Ragtops & Roadsters technicians, Eugene Toner and Ryan Hutchison. The parking lot was full, from Austin Healey though TVR. All ABRR teams were required to turn in their donations to Joyce DeLucia and Charlene Hutchison before the run started. (Behind the scenes the tabulation of donations would take place over the weekend to be announced at the Sunday luncheon.) Representatives from the Synergy Project, had their Synergy Jeep (which carries the supplies for the kids) and also their RV there for all ABRR entrants so they could take a peek inside and see how the program operates. Sunoco Racing was again our prime sponsor as they provided enough gas cards this year to cover the entire run for each ABRR Team! Hagerty Insurance was once again behind us to support us with their Roadside Assistance Program. Pete Cosmides from Motorcar Garage provided hats for everyone and once again Mike Engard from Ragtops & Roadsters drove the R&R chase van and trailer with a loaner car for the "just in case". So, we were ready, right?
After a quick drivers meeting, and before we left, Team Taz went out of the ABRR with bad clutch hydraulics in their 1985 Tasmin! (They would later join us with their Jaguar XK8). And we are off! As always, Dan's route was superb as almost immediately we found ourselves on the twisting back roads of Chester County. After getting lost and found a couple of times (we were following our Fearless Leader!) and just before lunch, a "mishap" occurred as “Team Indecision” misjudged his stopping distance and ran into “Team Thana” from behind! Ouch! The classic Mini unfortunately crashed into a rubber-bumper MG Midget. Results...MG continued with barely a scratch (those rock/solid rubber bumpers!) Everybody was ok except for "one person’s very badly damaged pride". Apologies were offered and it was quickly determined that with the classic Mini leaking coolant the R&R Support Van would be needed. The 2013 Mini that was the backup car, courtesy of Alan Anspaugh, was swapped for the 1964 Mini, an upgrade, so to speak! The cars were swapped out so quickly, much to the surprise of the 26 year old Maryland State Police Trooper and when he asked, “Does this happen often?” I replied, "No Sir. This our first! He smiled and said "Carry on", and so we did.
We arrived at our lunch a little late and met our host, George Bunting who's car collection we were about to see (but you won't, as he requested that we not put pictures online). It goes without saying, his 60 plus car collection was one of the finest that I have seen, that included AC Shelby Cobra, Aston Martin DB, Acura, Austin Healey 3000, Bentley, BMW 507, Citroen, several Ferraris including a four cam 275 GTB, Jaguar E-Type and XK, Lancia, Mini, Mercedes Benz Gullwing, Porsches, a stunning Siata 208, a Toyota 2000, Volvo P1800, and Volkswagen Beetle to name a few! After the tour of the car collection, we headed west towards Martinsburg, WV for our first overnight stay. Just before we arrived I received a message from “Team Rover America” that they had a critical clutch part failure in their 1949 Rover 75, back at the restaurant. It could be driven, but not in stop & go traffic nor could it make the upcoming hills. The decision was made for them return, via the main roads back to our starting point and arrangements were made to deliver to them another loaner car, my 2002 Miata. I know, not British, but built in the “likeness of” and recently knighted! Dave and Dirk blasted down to Martinsburg arriving at 1:30 AM to rejoin the run....
We awoke to sunny weather again on Saturday and after a short drivers meeting we headed towards Summit Point Motorsports Park. After watching Corvettes run a "track day" in progress on the Jefferson Circuit, we lined up two by two on the false grid of the Shenandoah Circuit. Motorsports Director, Chris White laid down the simple rules. NO PASSING and NO SANDBAGGING,.. We were to follow Chris’ line (in his friend’s MGA), and enjoy yourself through the 2.2 mile, 22 turn road course that was designed and built by the late Bill Scott. Bill brought features from racetracks around the world into the Shenandoah Circuit most notably the karussel from Nürburgring. We ran three laps (each a little faster) then we stopped by the bridge for our group photo and we had the opportunity to switch drivers for another three laps! Smiles were abound after returning to the paddock as EVERYONE thoroughly enjoyed themselves! After a short break, we headed to White Post Restorations in White Post, VA. Yes, that’s where many of us have sent our brake components over the years. Proprietor W.R. Thompson gave us a great guided tour through the shop talking about the many projects under way. It was a very eclectic group of projects from Alfa, Jaguar, Stutz, and a Lincoln Continental to T-Bird. We soon hit the road again following the route (and some of us not) to arrive at our lunch stop near 3 PM. The food was very good once again and we headed towards Chambersburg, PA for our second night. When we pulled into the Comfort Inn we were met by Blake Discher, the founder of the first America’s British Reliability Run in Detroit in 2003. Blake joined us for dinner and shared some of his photos and experiences from the first six ABRRs that he organized and ran through 2008.
Sunday, the final day started with some clouds and fog but was still dry as we headed east from Chambersburg. We initially ran through the foggy, twisting back roads of many beautiful state parks and eventually the roads turned into farmland and "Amish" country with many horse and buggies traveling back and forth out on Sunday drives. On one of the many isolated back roads the Team Rover P6 made some horrible scrunching noises. It did not sound good and it was determined that the rear differential had seen better days. The driver, Robert Sayre motioned to us to just continue as he had things in hand, and obviously a plan. We later found out that Hagerty Insurance came to the rescue and towed the car home to New Jersey. That's the first time that our Hagerty Roadside Assistance was used in the six years we have been running! Thank you Hagerty! Our journey led us via back country roads to McKenzie’s Pub where we had started 3-days ago. Brunch and the ABRR awards, were in order. Awards were given to the top three fundraisers. Third place went to a new ABRR Team, "Keep Calm and Carry On", Bill and Sandy Goble, who drove their 1967 MGB and raised over $1700! Second Place went to the “Birkin Boys” as Sumra Manning and yours truly drove my Super Seven and raised $2650. First Place went to another first time ABRR Entrant, "Team Ecurie Great Falls", Al Hazard and Jeff Olson who drove Jeff’s 1974 Jaguar SIII XKE roadster up from Virginia and they brought in $3360, a new single team record! The ten top teams raised over $1,000 each! That’s a first also! Congratulations as that is another ABRR record! We also have to thank Moss Motors, The Roadster Factory, Victoria British, and too many others to list here, for contributions and prizes that were awarded to our ABRR Entrants along with the top fifteen finishers who received additional gas cards from Sunoco! Our local and national British car clubs, VTR, DVT, JCNA, AHSTC, TVR, LHVBCC, Keystone and Philly MG Clubs who between all of them donated a total of $2450 to the Synergy Project, another record! In total we raised $35,538 for the kids!
So if you ran the 2016 ABRR or contributed to an ABRR Team, take a bow. Great Job! If you didn't run with us this year, please consider joining us in the future. The ABRR Planning Committee just met and...We are running again in 2017! Date and location to be announced soon. This year each ABRR Team drove 620 miles for a total of 23,560 miles in one weekend and yes we had our challenges this year as several cars failed to proceed, but we left no one behind! The Rovers didn’t do well but that ‘51 Jaguar MK VII saloon performed flawlessly and is now ready to run the Dixie Highway on the Great Race! This year, we also brought new teams in from New England, Virginia and Michigan as Team Jolly Jensen had their 1976 Jensen Healey transported in and out from Michigan and they flew in to participate! I think it’s safe to say that we met our 2016 goals and again raised the bar. We all had a great weekend, made new friends and best of all we ALL came together for a good cause, as the placard says, we were "Driving for Kids".
Note: You are invited to attend the BIG CHECK presentation at this year’s Before We Put em’ Away Run at Ragtops & Roadsters on Sunday morning November 20, 2016. Representatives from the Synergy Project and hopefully some ABRR Teams that ran this year will be on hand. We are currently working on more ABRRs for 2017 that will include Colorado, New England and Virginia! Please stay tuned and visit our website at www.britishreliability.org and like us on Facebook to hear announcements about future dates of America's British Reliability Run!