All posts by iflbcc

AHCA Spring ‘Tour de Garage”

Illinois Flat Land British Car Club (IFLBCC) and Austin-Healey (AHCA) Illini Chapter members gathered for a Spring ‘Tour de Garage” meeting on April 11th in Bloomington, IL.  Brian and Angie Davis graciously greeted the Austin-Healey group at their home (aka Paddy’s Garage).  The morning was a bit on the cool side so the coffee and snacks were welcome by all.  

Brian and Angie’s two 1959 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprites were on display and helped set the backdrop for Brian’s British themed  garage “Man Cave”. 

The AHCA Illini Chapter officers, Doug Crew, President, Richard McDonald, Delegate and Brian Davis, Membership-Treasurer were all on hand and held discussions about the Chapter’s involvement in the Austin-Healey Conclave 24 to be held this September at Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI.  All in attendance were planning on attending the event and displaying vehicles.  The Chapter has committed to assisting with the Conclave 24’s banquet.

Also, up for discussion was the IFLBCC’s Champagne British Car Festival ( that will feature all Austin-Healey’s and Aston Martins at the 2024 event.  Hopefully this advance notice will give our members ample time to clean out the winter cobwebs and perform annual spring rituals to get their car roadworthy.  Both the CBCF and the Conclave 24 will provide ample road-trip opportunities and fellowship this Summer. 

Having thoroughly inspected the vehicles, and covered our event topics, we adjourned for lunch at the Barrel House Pub in Bloomington for some traditional Fish ‘n Chips and “Healey” natter ‘n noggin.

Cars & Coffee Features Rare Mini Cooper ‘S’

By Brian Davis

This March, a group of retired members of the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club (IFLBCC) were invited to Fred Bohart’s garage for a Cars & Coffee gathering.  Also in attendance were British car expert Bill Dierker and Fred’s longtime friend Bobby F.

Fred’s garage is a new Morton type building, equipped with a lift, mezzanine and office area.  Our Host treated the group to coffee, rolls and the traditional “Motoring Monday” natter and noggin.

This week, however, we had another “Special Guest” . . . a 1964 Austin Mini Cooper ‘S’ Mark 1 (1071 cc) owned by Bobby F.  Bob has owned this original, unrestored, example of a US spec Mini for the past twenty-four years, and made a special trip from Peoria to Chenoa IL just for us.

Originally purchased from a well-known Mini racer, Don Racine, Bob’s car is a rarity anywhere, but especially in the US.  The first Mini’s were produced in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1963 that the BMC Competition Department recognized the Mini’s potential for racing and rallying.  Their efforts produced the Austin and Morris Cooper ‘S’ models, featuring the specially cast engine block and cylinder head.

Bob’s tells us that he believes his car is a 1963, but not officially registered until January of 1964, making it one of the first Cooper ‘S’ models using the 1071cc motor.

As I walked around this Mini Cooper ‘S’, many of the original features of this very special car became evident. One of the most obvious features of this car is the original Tartan Red and Grey (Gold brocade) interior.  Even the headliner used the brocade pattern.  Some of the Interior 1071cc “S” features that I noted include:

  • Central instrument cluster contains 120MPH speedometer (also containing the fuel gauge), temperature gauge on LHS and oil pressure gauge on RHS.
  • Three-point seatbelts were standard on the front seats only.
  • Carpeted boot board, resting on support brackets

This Mini had just returned from California, following its motor and hydraulic restoration using factory specs.  Fitted with a rare and original 1071 cc motor, Bob’s Mini is believed to be an extremely rare LHD example, still fitted with the original rust-free shell.

While most Mk1 Minis share common external features, some features I noted were specific to Cooper ‘S’ 1071 cc examples.  Here a just a few:

  • Single left hand side fuel tank only (dual tanks were not standard on the 1071 Cooper S, however, many cars have been modified with this feature).
  • Vented 9 slot wheels (10” X 4.5”), painted red on Bob’s car, had a more negative offset than the standard mini and Cooper.
  • Cars specifically delivered to the U.S. market (very few) had all red tail lights, with all other markets receiving amber turn signals.
  • Boot lid internal lining had a hardcover vinyl type lining over the inner boot lid, held in place with small chrome screws and upholstery washers.

Motoring Monday get-togethers are always a great time, but as a life-long fan of Mini Coopers, this one was a VERY special occasion for me.

It’s Dinner AND a Show!

Often referred to as “Comedy’s next great storyteller,” Jeremy’s unique show has been in demand for over 22 years. He’s drawn rave reviews for his clever observations, unique storytelling style, and ability to improvise with his audience.

After winning $200 in a local comedy competition, the 6’6” comedian left the rural, Southern Illinois life behind to explore the comedy scene in Chicago. Once in Chicago, it was at The Second City Comedy Theater that he first developed the “front porch” comedy that is now a staple of his act. Jeremy’s Dry Bar Comedy Special, Neighborhood Sasq-Watch, is one of the highest rated episodes on the platform. Nunes also released an Amazon Prime special titled Who’s With Me?!  

He has appeared in The Layover, The Break-Up, Last Comic Standing, Final Witness, two PBS mini-series, Comcast on Demand, a National Geographic Special, and heard on ESPN Radio. Nunes is also one of the most requested comedians by Sirius/XM Satellite Radio listeners.

He has since returned to his rural hometown where his parents manage a trailer park. Though he really wants to cash in on that gold mine, he continues to tour instead. Well, he tours when he can, because he accidentally got elected mayor of his hometown! He even wrote a best-selling book about his experiences called You Can’t Write City Hall.

This one-of-a-kind act is a must see… Who’s with me?!

Restore or Let It Die a Peaceful Death? Part 2

By Mike Shuck

When I retired from a career in manufacturing management (three different companies), it was time to choose a spot to retire.  It would be our 13th move, and I asked my wife –  “Where do you want to go?”  as jobs had always dictated our new location. Our two kids had both graduated from ISU and stayed in the community after graduation.  Soon our grandchildren arrived, and my wife said she wanted to be “GrandMa” for those two kids.    She picked Bloomington/Normal.  I commented that they had an airport and a Harley dealer, so it met all my requirements.  Harley would shut down 6 years later.  After settling into a new home in Normal, I set off to find out what car club activities there were and soon found the Flat Landers British Car Club. I eventually figured out why the Champaign Car Festival was held in Bloomington, IL. 

I was soon attending Natter N’ Noggin and various other activities.  I always said the MGB  looked good at 100 feet.  At 10 feet, the rust on every fender, cracked paint, and door cracks at the mirrors were typical for a 50-year-old British classic.  The dilemma was, to restore or let it die a peaceful death, and I was retired with no winter project.  For some unknown reason, I decided to start the restoration myself, knowing I was only a rattle can painter and maybe MAACO could paint it after I completed the bodywork, which I did have some limited experience with. 

While in the Navy, I bought a 305 Honda Scrambler and soon wanted to convert the gas tank into an Easy Rider peanut style tank.  A neighbor introduced me to Bondo, and away I went.  After three days of sanding, he introduced me to the cheese grater and said you don’t have to do all that sanding.  I can also install drywall, but I soon learned I am not a drywall finisher.  I actually found out that O’Reilly’s in Decatur, IL would put any color you wanted in a spray can.  That was my plan D… 12 rattle cans would get’er done.  One way or another, this car was going to get painted. So away I went, stripped the car completely, and started the bodywork.  Thinking a front fender was ready to paint, I had some friends from Flat Landers critique my work, and they politely said I was nowhere close to painting, as the panels were “a lil rough.” 

They did have a suggestion as to who might assist me, and this is where Sam Latimer, of Sam’s Auto Body in Shirley, IL, enters the scene.  His 40 years of experience and recent retirement matched my quest.  I invited him over and felt like I was trying to get my kids into college, convincing him the car and I were worthy.  Someone said if Sam does your car, his name will be on it and he’ll care more about it than you do, and he’ll treat you fair.  I’d soon find out. I invited him over for a look see and begged him to help me, as my MGB was an ideal candidate for restoration…. we’ll sort of.  He looked it over and pointed out things I had never considered in a restoration, and I was immediately impressed with his knowledge, yet he was not degrading the car. . . just pointing out the facts.  We agreed that I would put in some sweat equity, I would pull the engine, and he would paint the car and the engine bay with me assisting anywhere he would allow me.  We shook hands and started at Sam’s on November 13th, knowing that someday I would drive it home.  

I worked every day with Sam, logging in my sweat equity credits.  Each day, we would start with a goal and what tasks each of us had.  His patience and expertise took us forward every day as I learned how to “properly” sand, grind, and prep with every tool that Sam had available, and he has them all.  As Sam was helping me pull the motor, it was just about free but a little something was holding it back.  I had forgotten to unhook the throttle and choke cables.  What a rookie mistake.  

Some rust spots needed brushing, and Sam would turn me loose with an electric wire wheel. He always thought I went too far, as I would leave him a giant hole to weld up.  So, from then on, he was very cautious when he gave me assignments involving any type of abrasive tool.  It became a common joke that I wanted to take a wire wheel to it. 

Donor doors and hinges were acquired, and four days later they were perfectly fitted. We took them on and off at least a dozen times.  Clearly, Sam cared more about the fit than I did.   I was happy with them after day two.  

The hood was twisted and had numerous surface paint cracks, and I decided it was more productive to find a new/used hood.  We purchased one in Decatur but closer examination revealed that after removing the underside insulation, the adhesive would be a major effort to remove, and I wanted an underside painted without insulation.  Another hood was obtained, and it was a new / aftermarket product from Tiwan.  Some small dings, which is typical after shipping but otherwise perfect. . . hoping it would fit.  We put it on just to see how it fit and after a couple of adjustments by Sam, we both gave it a thumbs up.  Sam had forewarned me about after-market versus OEM.  Sometimes that stuff just doesn’t fit.  

My rattle can experience graduated to spray gun epoxy primer.  Why did we have to put on gray primer AND red primer?  I would soon find out.  I would look at a panel I had just completed, feeling pretty proud of myself, and then Sam would take a look at it, and I knew I was going to be applying more Bondo.  Wax on, wax off, had a whole new meaning.  

Getting Sam’s approval was tantamount, and I felt like I had really accomplished something when it was a thumbs up.  Sam even let me spray on a good portion of the Red primer, which was applied over the grey primer.  As I was sanding the red primer, it was very important not to go too far, as you didn’t want to get down to metal.  Ah . . . good thing we put on that grey AND red primer.  Once the base coat had been applied, three coats of clear were applied, and I thought it looked pretty good after that, but I knew Sam would wet sand the clear and polish it, making it even better.  

The next morning, I entered the shop, and Sam had already started to wet sand the clear coat, and I was just devastated as it looked so good yesterday and now it was all scratched up.  I joined in on the wet sanding, after Sam told me the “proper” way to do it, and I’m glad he did.  The next morning, he had it buffed and polished, and it was amazing with a gloss to knock your eyes out.  

Most days were steps forward, but there were days when there were steps backwards.  Alan Kleinschmidt and Dick Brown came over to help us sort out electrical issues.  I had marked all the wires with painter’s tape and code, but when you primer over them, they are impossible to read.  Nigel Keen showed me his laminated electrical schematic, and creating that for my car would be a good place to start.  Alan and Dick spoke in a language that was foreign to me, and little by little, lights and indicators would start to work.  The only problem was that once you accidentally moved some wires, things didn’t work. It was time to replace all the connectors and clean the bullet tips.  

The battery would not last very long, and I agreed to replace it.  I took a picture of it outside the compartment, as that gave an indication of how it went back in.  The mind does funny things.  When you look at a red battery cable, you automatically think positive, and black means negative.  We would all agree on that.  That’s how I hooked it up and luckily Alan was at the front of the vehicle, as after my connection, smoke was rolling out of the alternator, and “that smell” was very evident.  My negative ground car had a red cable going to the negative battery post.  Why the PO did that, I don’t know.  Thinking this could be a major setback, as in, a new wiring harness, we said the logical thing was to replace the alternator, and overnight O’Reilly’s had one there the next morning.  After checking everything out, the battery was not charging.  I noticed a wire had come out of the connector at the alternator.  This had happened before.  Gotta fix that thing.  Everything was checking out, and I had dogged a massive bullet.  The wiring continued as Alan was figuring things out, and pretty soon he had everything except right turn signals and four-way flashers, which was probably more than what I came in with.


At last, we were ready to start putting things back on the car.  I was amazed at how careful you had to be, as just the handling of tools and parts, you could be bumping things up against fresh paint, if you were not truly aware of what you were doing and how you were moving around the new piece of art.  Slowly, it all went back together.  Many days we spent time looking for a tool we just used and put down “somewhere.”  Luckily, most parts were in plastic bags and could be obtained easily.  

The best part of the day was lunch.  Sam has a gas grill outside, and we heated things up and had picnics every day inside the shop, where conversation would solve issues like world hunger and such.  The weather was starting to turn slightly, and the hopes were that I would be able to drive it home on a warm day, and Valentine’s Day it was.  14 weeks, and it was finally finished.  

Sam and I agreed early on that this was a MGB to enjoy and drive.  Local car shows were anxiously waiting to see the transformation, but I was not going to be taking it to any concourse events. however, it would stand its own ground in any setting.  

Thank you, Sam and family, for letting me pursue this dream.  Someone advised me early on when I was considering a restoration.  You’ll never get your money back out of it, that’s not the point. The point is that you’ll enjoy it soooooooo much more.

Restore or Let It Die a Peaceful Death? Part 1

By Mike Shuck


Thirty years ago, I purchased a 1973 MGB with 85,000 miles on it, in Chicago.  My heart was seeking an MGA, but after months of searching, decided to get something in the garage that I could always upgrade.  A couple months later, I moved to Birmingham, AL and joined the Birmingham British Car Club.  My first trip with the club was a 145-mile excursion to Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN and I convinced my wife it was a couple of hours up and back.  

Leaving at 7 AM, we returned promptly at 8 PM, an exhausting day full of lunch, tours, and sampling.  Fearful I had given my wife a bad taste of car club excursions, she was a good sport about it and we enjoyed many events with the club.  A few years later, a new job took us to Hopkinsville, KY (hop town) where the closest club activities were in Nashville, and I was content to just drive it around on weekends.  Another new job in Plainfield, IL  saw me changing the plugs every 100 miles, and after pulling the head, I discovered the cylinders were scored.  

Over the years, most major components were replaced, but now a complete engine rebuild is in order.  I had once pulled an engine on a Toyota Celica with a friend, a 2 X 4 and a chain, but decided to purchase the engine hoist and stand.  I took it to the machine shop and said to bore it out and do a valve job.  I put it back together, and I had no compression.  I took it all back to the machine shop and said, I’m not sure what’s going on, but please fix it.  I put it back in, and now I had compression.  I started it up and had no oil pressure. 

I called John Twist at his noon technical hour, and he said it could be one of three things.  When he got to the second one, I knew my problem.  Gasket kits are for two main AND three main bearing engines.  There are two different oil pump gaskets, and of course I installed the wrong one.  Switch gaskets, and I had 50 pounds of pressure.  

Several years were spent in Plainfield, and the Chicagoland MG Club was just up the road.  A very active club with events throughout the driving months.  They had tech sessions where they would go out on a Saturday and perform various maintenance tasks at members request.  Leaning over a bunch of guys who knew what they were doing, one could learn a lot.  

When my windshield broke, it was time to put in a request.  Barney Gaylord (The MGA Guru) led the team, and sandwiches and drinks for all, got my installation complete.  To my heartbreak, when I went into the garage the next morning, it had cracked in the corner for some reason.  It was time to call the insurance company, who assured me their installer knew all about MG’s.  They did it in my garage, and after returning from an appointment, they were pumping black caulk around the windshield.  They were embarrassed, as I had caught them in the act and sent them off to the specialist in Naperville, IL who did it right and sent the invoice to the insurance company.  That is the windshield I have to this day.

I took my wife to see the movie Wild Hogs and suggested I could bond with my two brothers, who had motorcycles.  She verbally signed the permission slip and I already knew I wanted a Fatboy Harley, so I took the 3-day riding course within weeks.  Now, time had to be divided between the “B” and the “BIKE.”  Me and my two brothers did get together for a ride one summer, and soon the Three Brothers Ride was an annual summer event that lasted 7 days through the twisty roads of various southern states.  We went on to enjoy 7 Three Brothers Rides until cardiac issues took both of them from me.  I think of them every time the top is down with four or two wheels.

Click here so continue reading the rest of Mike’s MGB adventure

Champagne British Car Festival 2024 Celebrates its 33rd year in Central Illinois!

The Illinois Flat Land British Car Club Planning Committee met at Culver’s in Bloomington on Wednesday, January 10th, to begin finalizing plans for the Champagne British Car Festival (CBCF).  The CBCF will be held during the weekend of May 31 to June 2, 2024.  All Aston Martin and Austin-Healey cars will get the Featured Marque spotlight this year.

The 2024 CBCF planners are working hard to include many of the familiar weekend features while adding a variety of new and exciting venues, drives and activities.

We’ll be keeping the popular Friday evening Welcome Reception & Event Packet Pickup sponsored by the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club (IFLBCC) at The Chateau Hotel and Conference Center.  Pre-Registered entrants will have the opportunity to pick up their weekend information packet and stay for our British Pub Mixer.  Along with the cash bar, we’ll be providing a variety of pizzas and snacks to enjoy as you renew old friendships and make new ones.  We’ll have lots of group parking outside the Conference Center where an impromptu car show is sure to develop.

The fun continues Saturday morning, June 1, 2024 at our first-time ever venue, the Davis Lodge at Lake Bloomington, Hudson, IL.  This beautiful City of Bloomington owned lodge will be the hub for all of Saturday’s activities, until Saturday evening’s banquet at the Chateau Conference Center.  

Saturday morning activities will begin with a Cars & Coffee at Davis Lodge.  The site of the lodge overlooks the widest expanse of Lake Bloomington and makes for a beautiful backdrop our classic cars.  We plan on providing some morning refreshments for early-bird attendees. The two separate screened rooms and a large patio overlooking Lake Bloomington are perfect for enjoying a morning beverage.

Our Planning Committee is working on our first-ever CBCF Scavenger Hunt and other Special Activities that will all start and end at Lake Bloomington’s Davis lodge.  The planned Scavenger Hunt will take advantage of the area’s lake roads, small town sights and area restaurants. 

Last year’s event survey suggested that many would enjoy a Boot Sale/Swap Meet.  The Davis Lodge will be an excellent venue for that, once the Scavenger Hunter’s are back from their drive. Watch the What’s New? section of the  website for more details.

Saturday’s activities will be capped off with our traditional CBCF Banquet.  The sit-down banquet will again be held in the renovated Chateau Hotel and Conference Center’s ballroom.  We’ll have designated parking to display our cars and provide lots of opportunities for mixing with fellow enthusiasts before dinner.  Our Planning Committee is also exploring the possibility of holding a Silent Auction throughout the evening. More on that later.

The weekend culminates on Sunday June 2, 2024 with the British Car Show on beautiful Clover Lawn of David Davis Mansion, Bloomington, IL.  The David Davis Mansion provides a wonderful backdrop to display over 150 British cars at this popular annual event, organized by members of the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club. ALL Aston Martin and Austin-Healey cars are Featured Marques at this year’s Festival.

The Festival includes music, vendors, food and beverage options, tables and chairs to enjoy your meal and drinks.  Once again, Redbird Catering will be adding a British favorite, Fish & Chips, to their typical menu. Gramma Nanna’s will also be on hand with delicious cookies, ice cream, shakes and floats.

The car show is open to the public from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and holds its awards ceremony at 2:30 PM on Sunday, June 2nd, 2024. 

All registered vehicles will be entered into one of +/- 25 marque-specific classes.  Voting will be a “Popular Vote” by registered participants. The total number of Class awards will be based on the number of cars pre-registered.

Additional details will be announced on the  after February 1, 2024.

Champagne British Car Festival Set for June 2nd At David Davis Mansion State Historic Site

BLOOMINGTON, IL (JUNE 2024) – The Illinois Flatland British Car Club ( has announced its 33rd annual Champagne British Car Festival car show to be held on Sunday, June 2, 2024 at the David Davis Mansion.

The Champagne British Car Festival (CBCF) is an annual charitable event which is open to any and all British cars and motorcycles.  This year, the show organizers anticipate a record setting number of cars and bikes to be on display.  The show is open to the public from 10:00am to 2:00pm, at the historic David Davis Mansion, Bloomington, IL ( Admission to the car show is free but donations are encouraged and benefit the David Davis Mansion Foundation

This is a wonderful opportunity to view classic British cars representing over 60 years of British motoring history. Come join over 150 classic British Cars and their owners for a day of unparalleled British automotive history. You can expect to see such great British cars of yesteryear as Aston Martin, Austin-Healy, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, MG, Morgan, Triumph, Mini,  and more. The featured marque for 2024 will be All Aston Martin and Austin-Healey cars.

Come join us for great family fun. The Festival includes music, vendors, food and beverage options, tables and chairs to enjoy your meal and drinks.  Once again, Redbird Catering will be adding a British favorite, Fish & Chips, to their typical menu. Gramma Nanna’s will also be on hand with delicious cookies, ice cream, shakes and floats.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site (1000 Monroe Drive in Bloomington) was built in 1872 by David Davis, a political ally of Abraham Lincoln and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. All entrance donations will benefit the David Davis Mansion Foundation.

The site is operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. IDNR protects the state’s historic resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. IDNR sites include ancient burial grounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and homes connected to famous Illinoisans.

The David Davis Mansion Foundation is a not-for-profit organization supporting education, preservation and acquisition programs for the David Davis Mansion.

Further information may be found at

Fall IFLBCC Update!

This Fall was a busy couple of months for the Illinois Flat Landers. Below are a few of the IFLBCC Events and Activities. Be sure to check this website and our Facebook page for updates on future events!

4th Annual IFLBCC Harvest Days Cruise-in & Picnic – October 14, 2023

Todd and Linda Reid hosted the IFLBCCs Fall Gathering at their home this year on Saturday, October 14.   They’ve got a wonderful setup on the Lake with firepits and plenty of outdoor and indoor space when the weather didn’t fully cooperate.

We started arriving around 3:30 which gave us the opportunity to do a little early leaf peeping around the lake before watching the rain roll-in from their back patio. We had been hoping for a spectacular sunset, but Hey! . . .this is Illinois.

They provided us with gourmet appetizers, sides and light bites as well as beer and wine. Folks also brought their favorite dogs/brats for the grill or fire pits. ‘Smores fixings were all set up for dessert!

The ladies collected in the Reid’s beautiful Great Room as the men retired to Todd’s  Man Cave to discuss his wonderful selection of automobiles. 

Many thanks to Todd & Linda Reid for opening up their beautiful home to host this year’s 4th Annual Harvest Days Cruise-in & Picnic. The day was a little dreary but the fantastic food and camaraderie more than made up for it

9th Annual IFLBCC Halloween Cruise – October 28, 2023

Thanks to Alan Kleinschmidt for arranging the 9th Annual Halloween Cruise to enjoy some fall scenery, a unique snowmobile collection, lunch and then our final stop at Mackinaw Valley Vineyard for a glass of wine with good friends.

The cruise began forming-up at the Bloomington Casey’s General Store on Saturday, October 28th around 9:45 am and departed at 10:15 am for the 30-minute drive to Hopedale.  Hopedale’s Willis Snowmobile Museum has 265 antique sleds and memorabilia to view on three-floors of the building. Fellow Flatlander Dick Hanson has a couple of family heirlooms displayed there also. The museum curators were on hand and were a wealth of information on the evolution of snowmobiles and many of the backstories on how the items on display were acquired. 

The museum tour was followed by lunch at Micki’s Farm to Table in Hopedale, IL around noon. Good food, with a down home feel.  After lunch we will head over to Mackinaw Valley Vineyards for a little taste of the grape, and excellent views from the veranda, before heading home.

IFLBCC “Garage Squad”

IFLBCC members formed a “Garage Squad” to inspect a “Barn Find” that had not been on the road in 35-years!

Our chapter was contacted, through the Austin Healey Club of America website, by a family that recently inherited a 1966 Austin Healey 3000 Mk3.

According to the family: “ . . . the owner lived in Springfield IL and had owned the car since the late 60’s. Legend has it his best friend from Flora IL bought the car on his behalf while stationed in England with the Air Force, so technically you can say he was the single owner. The car hasn’t been driven since the early 90’s but has lived indoors in a metal shed on his property….so it does need a lot of work but all things considered it looks pretty good.”

They reached out to us because they are trying to decide if they want to take on the restoration project or if they should sell it, and were hoping to connect with our club chapter to give them some advice on what it would take to restore it or where/who potential buyers might be.

Illini Chapter Members Gary Brown, Doug Crew, Brian Davis, Richard McDonald and Nigel Keen answered the call! A group of us met for lunch at Motorheads in Springfield before gathering to view this barn find BJ8 Austin Healey that had not been on the road in 35-years!

As expected, it had flat tires, a dead battery and areas of the body had rusted and become “mouse-condos”. That said, the Healey look remarkably solid and complete. We were able to locate all of the ID plates, point out the many pros and cons of the vehicle and provide them with many photographs to send on to potential buyers or restorers.

Hopefully the current owner came away with some answers or at least additional things to consider. 

The Illinois Flat Land British Car Club announces their 2024 Champagne British Car Festival!

ALL Aston-Martin and Austin-Healey cars get the Featured Marque spotlight at the 2024 Champagne British Car Festival on May 31 – June 2, 2024

Registered entrants “Start Your Engines” and your Festival weekend by joining us Friday evening, May 31st  for a Welcome Reception, sponsored by the Illinois Flat Land British Car Club 

The fun continues Saturday morning, June 1, 2024 at our first time ever venue – Davis Lodge at Lake Bloomington. This beautiful lodge will be the hub for all of Saturday’s activities until the sit-down banquet at the Chateau Conference Center.

The weekend culminates with the Champagne British Car Show on beautiful Clover Lawn of David Davis Mansion, Bloomington, IL. 

For more information

DRIVING THE NATCHEZ TRACE – in a Miata – British Marque August 2023


By David Hauman

Many people, myself among them, consider the Miata to be the contemporary iteration of the classic British sports car. Small, front engine (some say a little under powered), rear wheel drive, manual transmission and a top that for the most part is water-proof. The Miata checks all of those boxes and was the car of choice for this trip.

Our trip began in Bloomington, IL. We were at first a bit wary of being able to pack for two people for eight days and get everything to fit in the trunk of a Miata.  Fortunately, we had two carry-on bags that just fit with a few cubic inches to spare.

Since we were going east, we decided to make our first stop in Cincinnati to visit friends and overnight. Then it was off to Nashville and the Natchez Trace.

The Natchez Trace began as a way for wildlife, including bison, which were plentiful in the area at the time, to reach the salt licks located around the area which would later be known as Nashborough and later yet, Nashville, Tennessee. The Choctaw and Chickasaw found it a convenient route for inter-tribal trading.  As the Cumberland River Valley became more settled and pioneers/farmers flat boated their produce and trade goods down the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers to a trading center as were Natchez and New Orleans at the time. The Trace provided a path for the long walk north and home.

Ironically, just as the volume of traffic on the Trace was near its peak, the Trace suddenly became irrelevant. The advent of steamboats provided a faster, more convenient and far safer way home.

Today the Natchez Trace Parkway is 444 miles of smooth, uninterrupted, two-lane blacktop without a single stop sign or traffic signal.  All intersecting roads use either an underpass or an overpass. Speed is limited to 50 mph and sometimes 40 mph. Traffic, at least when we were there, was extremely light. So, we set the cruise at 50 mph and watched the trees go by, some of which were tall enough and straight enough to warrant being made into sailing ship masts and spars. The Parkway has dozens of historic sites (more of this later), picnic areas, overlooks, and restrooms. There are also spots where the original Trace intersects the modern Parkway where people might hike a portion of the original path. The Parkway transverses three ecological zones, containing no fewer than 100 species of trees, 215 species of birds, 57 species of mammals, and 89 species of reptiles and amphibians. We only saw three wild turkeys and one turtle that I missed while he was crossing the road.  But there are NO franchise eateries or gas stations.

We had hoped to again visit the Lane Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed the day of our visit. The good news, however, is the National Corvette Museum was open. It is a must stop for anyone with even a mild interest in automobiles. It contains the definitive history of the birth, life, and near death of the Corvette. All of it attractively displayed, including the 2014 30 foot deep and 40-foot-wide sink hole that swallowed 8 cars, some of irreplaceable value.

We entered the Parkway on the north end in Franklin, TN with a posted speed of 50 mph.  Quite frankly, the road twists and turns, with many blind corners, I’m not sure how much faster any prudent person would want to travel on a public roadway.  So, if you’re looking for a “tail of the dragon adrenaline rush,” this isn’t it. But the overhanging trees and the split rail fences along the sides make for a very pleasant drive.

Our stops included Grinder’s Stand (“stand” meaning a place where a traveler might spend the night) now a reconstructed log cabin. Merriweather Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, stopped here to overnight. On the morning of October 11, 1809, he was found dead of a suspicious gunshot wound. Many suspect it to be suicide. A monument marks his burial site.

Our next stop, Tupelo, is as everyone above the age of 60 knows, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. And the good citizens of Tupelo are not about to let the world forget it. The restaurants all feature Presley themed sandwiches, including peanut butter and banana. The city fathers named two of their streets Elvis Presley Drive and two others Presley Drive and Presley Circle. Our visit coincided with Elvis Presley weekend. We were warned that unless we were big Elvis fans to avoid downtown.  We did.

The next day brought us to Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital.  We decided to retire early. The following day was a detour off the Parkway to Vicksburg, the siege of which was a turning point in the Civil War.

Both the Union and the Confederacy understood the importance of Vicksburg. Jefferson Davis called it “the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together.” Abe Lincoln said that Vicksburg was “the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”

Vicksburg sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and thus controlled the flow of traffic on the river. If the Union could capture Vicksburg, it would cut off the supply of cotton from Louisiana and beef from Texas, thereby limiting the Confederacy’s ability to feed and clothe their troops. It would also allow the Union to control the Mississippi from the port of New Orleans north. After some clever maneuvering of Grant’s troops and a 47-day bombardment from both the artillery of Grant’s troops from the east and from Union gun boats from the west on the river, General Pemberton surrendered the town on July 4, 1863.

The National Park Service operates the large National Battleground Memorial that forms a crescent (essentially the positions of both sides during the siege) around the town of Vicksburg.  Every state that had troops participating in the battle has a monument honoring its soldiers.  Some states had monuments for each military unit.  Illinois has constructed the largest rotunda with 47 steps leading up to the dome, one step for each day of the siege.

From Vicksburg, we got off the Parkway and took the more direct route to Natchez, thinking that we could travel the last few miles of the Parkway going north.

Natchez proved to be a fascinating town. During the “boatman” era, the “under the hill” area of Natchez housed all sorts of allures to separate the newly cash rich boatmen from their money. Taverns, gambling houses and brothels were plentiful. And if the pioneers escaped the temptations of Natchez, they still had to travel 450 miles of dangerous pathway lined with bandits and highwaymen.

With an eye toward safety, the boatmen frequently met at King’s Tavern to form larger traveling parties. Today, King’s Tavern is one of the oldest surviving structures in Natchez.  

In addition to the bandits, there were the native Americans who were none too happy about the settlers moving across their hunting grounds. And they were particularly clever in ways to put their captives to a slow and agonizing death. Constant vigilance was a necessity for travelers. And frequently the path was several feet below the surrounding countryside, making it difficult to spot both bandits and Indians.

Evidence of early habitation and the Mississippian mound culture can still be seen along the Parkway, including Bear Creek Mound, the Chickasaw Village Site, Owl Creek Mounds, and Bynum Mounds. The Park Service distributes a free detailed accordion-folded map highlighting these and the many other significant points along the current Parkway, including where gas is available on the intersecting highways.

Today’s Natchez is a welcoming throwback to the antebellum era.  We were told that Natchez has more restored and untouched antebellum mansions than any place in the south. And from what we saw, I wouldn’t doubt it. Our guide said it is because when Natchez was surrendered to Flag Officer David Farragut, and in sharp contrast to what happened in nearly every other Union capture of a Southern city, he ordered his men NOT to ransack the town. They were to leave everything as it was. Hence the claim.

I subsequently learned that this was not just a benevolence.  The Union quickly appropriated the mansions for both personal and military uses.  Ulysses S. Grant, after his victory in Vicksburg, moved his temporary headquarters into one of the mansions in Natchez. Sometimes benevolence can be self-serving.

We shared a seafood platter for dinner.  I tried once again to acquire a taste for catfish. It didn’t work. Unfortunately for me, fried catfish is a nearly ubiquitous item in local restaurants.  

The next day we drove the Parkway north (the portion that we had not yet driven) to Jackson, MS where we picked up Interstate 55 and headed back to Bloomington.  Along the way we encountered two hellacious, but short lived, thunderstorms. Fortunately, while not completely water tight, the Miata was still infinitely dryer than one of our other toys.

I had hoped to reach St. Louis, thus making a short 3-plus hour trip to Bloomington.  But such was not to be. When nearing Cape Girardeau, MO, we decided we had had enough fun for one day and stopped for the night. After a hotel supplied breakfast, and a large go cup of coffee, we pointed northeast and arrived home around noon.

Someone asked: “What was it like spending eight days and traveling nearly 2,000 miles with the same person in the cozy confines of a Miata?” My response was that we’re still married.  And to the best of my knowledge, neither one of us has called an attorney.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Dave Hauman was the Champaigne British Car Festival’s Organizing Committee Chairman for seven years, attracting over 140 cars annually from throughout Illinois and the adjoining states.  He’s also served as a concours judge at Road America for several years.  In addition to Road America, he and his wife Diana attend races at Black Hawk Farms, Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Talladega.