Granite State getaway: The British Reliability Run invades New England

Natural beauty meets its man-made equivalent as the teams sweep up into Franconia Notch at the end of the first day of the British Reliability Run.

“I’ve never seen one of these before. What kind of car is it?” the police officer asked, his cruiser parked behind us on Massachusetts’ Route 13 to provide some protection against the stream of commuter traffic rushing north, toward the New Hampshire border. “It’s a Rover,” I replied. “An SD1. It’s a British car.”

“Rover, huh? Never heard of those,” he said. This didn’t surprise me, given that he probably had not yet been born when Rover made its last stab at selling cars in the U.S. in 1980. “You know Land Rover and Range Rover?” I asked, employing my standard response. He nodded. “Well, the same company that made those built cars, too, going all the way back to the early 1900s.” He found this surprising. People always do.

The car’s owner, my friend Dirk Burrowes, is far more qualified than I am to talk about Rover’s long history, but he was busy crawling under the car, looking for the cause of our fuel starvation issue. This, fortunately, turned out to be nothing more serious than a rust-clogged fuel filter, but it did force us to limp the Rover back to Dirk’s shop for a repair, making us late for the start of the September 8-10 New England British Reliability Run.

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The driving event that honors a mechanic’s life

Participants began arriving early, turning the lawn into a wonderful car show.

I like to think that Domenico Spadaro would have approved of my 1968 Rover 2000 TC; though my British sedan is not as coveted as some of the exotic Italian machinery that made its way into his shop, Dominick’s European Car Repair, I imagine he would have appreciated its adventurous engineering, refined style, and use of the kind of materials that were meant to last. In fact, he probably wrenched on any number of Rovers during his long career in New York’s Westchester County. By all accounts, he was not one to turn away a customer in need.

Conversation flows amid the purr of engines as the cars begin to line up for departure.

It’s the memory of Domenico Spadaro, a man I never met, that’s brought the Rover and me to the village of Armonk, along with a few hundred other car enthusiasts and a dazzling array of cars, many of which benefited from Domenico’s careful ministrations. This is the day of the Domenico Spadaro Memorial Drive Against Cancer, organized by his children, Santo, Frank, and Vera, who now run the shop. This day is set aside for honoring the honest work of a talented mechanic with a drive in the country that raises money to do some good in the world.

“Dad’s mantra was always friends, family, food, and a pleasant ride in the country…we did it all to honor him,” Santo has said. This annual running of the memorial drive is the eighth, and it’s succeeded in raising more than $15,000 for cancer research, while bringing friends together for a day of camaraderie, good food, good music, and excellent roads.

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Lime Rock Park, June 3, 2017

Saturday, June 3, started out with persistent showers, but the arrival of noon brought sunny skies. This two-day VSCCA event, now known as The Empire Cup, has been run since 1993 as the Jag Club Event. According to the club, it’s the only VSCCA event at bucolic Lime Rock that allows unmuffled exhausts. The hills were ringing with some beautiful sounds that afternoon.


A long drive to see some little cars


Why was I doing this again? Here I was, on a mostly deserted Interstate in the smallest hour of the morning, one fading radio station as my only companion, headed for a too-short night’s sleep in a motel bed with none of the comforts of home. What, you may ask, would lead anyone to put himself out like this?

Well, the short answer is that I wanted to spend time with the cars and people at the Carlisle Import & Performance Nationals – and, since they were unlikely to drive the 350 miles to come to my house in Massachusetts, I had to go to them. Logical enough. But why I – and you, too, probably – feel a need to keep going back to the same car shows, year after year, was a question worth contemplating.

Bud Cadwallader of the Central Pennsylvania Triumph Club showed his 1958 Triumph TR3.

The show that I refer to as Import Carlisle, mainly because I usually can’t recall its most recent official rebranding, has been written on my calendar more often than not over the past decade. It’s one of the earlier shows in the season, taking place in mid-May, and it’s also one of the few big multi-marque shows devoted to imported cars. Those are reason enough for anyone’s interest.

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