As we wandered around, the car's owners spoke animatedly about their pastime and, like carnies, snared any passerby in an effort to share their passion. Others found and bought rare parts from each other, traded items of interest and swapped interesting stories about their dalliances with their cars.
Far More than Just a Hobby
Those who had cars entered share a devotion that far outpaces hobby, passes way over the border of obsession, and finally settles near what satisfies the itch for perfection. These come as close to perfection as any machine can. Theyíre immaculate, impossibly well-maintained examples of an ardent lust for British brands.
Bentleys, Aston Martins, Jaguars, Spitfires, MGs, Land Rovers and the proudest of the proud, the stately Rolls Royce, persistently coaxed Invaders to "have a look under the bonnet."
Chris Francis, Master of Ceremonies
Given his bearing at the epicenter of this spectacle, it's clear that Chris Francis is something of a celebrity in his own right. His is a name that's common to the industry in which his success has been meteoric, and he's obviously a titan in the genre in which he immersed himself on that day--on both sides of the pond.
His essence is powerful, driven and focused on whatever happens to command his attention at the moment, but he's completely unassuming, very approachable and charming, with a quick and impish wit.
And his influence is undeniably considerable, especially with this multitude. Every year in mid- to late-September, Francis enthusiastically invites one and all to the Invasion. It's a conclave at which all types of British-made motorcars and motorcycles sit proudly spit-shined in the shadows of mountains yielding their green to fall colors.
Thousands of Invaders arrive in staggered fashion, some on time, others late, but they all come for one thing: four, intense days in which cars are heartthrobs, camaraderie is flush, and life is better than good.
The motorcars here are the products of a British tradition that dates back to 1922. The history of auto-making in Great Britain is a bird's nest of corporate intrigue and name changes. But from that apparent mayhem have emerged many classical cars that have given the world untold hours of pleasure.
As we meandered from car to car, admiring, and remembering, the buzz around us was unmistakably English, but the words were beyond our understanding. The Fiat Tipo 509A, William Walmsley, Airline Saloon and the SS-90, Bill Lyons, XJ-6, XJ-12 and XKE. Wait. There. Recognition.
XKE awakens a pleasant memory. I time traveled, if only in my mind, back to the late 1960's, when British cars were all the rage in the U.S. Owning a Triumph was a badge of honor.
The memory of a swift trip down Interstate 95 in Connecticut ran through my consciousness like a movie, dusty after having sat deeply embedded in my memory for decades.
A great friend was at the wheel of a maroon Jaguar XKE. The top was down and we were laughing and shouting over the wind swirling about us and "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which pulsed loudly from the radio.
It was her father's car, but he'd grudgingly given her permission to drive it every now and then--"not one mile an hour above the speed limit," he ordered, and "no damn way" at night.
If you've been in one you know that many British cars don't roll, they sail, and that XKE felt very much like a sloop running before the wind, her mainsail full and nothing but blue sky ahead.
The memory and moment are epiphanic. Suddenly, we got it. The British Invasion isn't one of the run-of-the-mill auto shows, nor is it really a competition or a car show, per se. It's about a confluence of the enlightened, tapping into a root that empowers our collective souls to admire the merger of mechanics and quality that is unique to Great Britain.
It's about an ageless culture and a way of life. It was as if Merlin was there, waving his wand. We were enthralled by the awe, and for a while--a regrettably short while--those of us of British heritage felt as if we had returned to the "Old Country" to bathe in its essence. We were strangely "home."
If youíre a car enthusiast, this is a New England getaway well worth the trip because itís more importantly a slice of the British countryside that displaces the Green Mountains for four days of revelry and a sharing of culture that simply doesnít exist at other such shows. It will be held from September 18th to the 24th this year, and itís wise to make your reservations early.
Whether you have a British treasure to share with others or you just want to be part of an extraordinary event, this is one of the finest offered in New England each fall.
TAGS: British Invasion; British Motorcars; British cars; British Culture; Triumphs, XKE, MGB, Bentley, Rolls Royce; Chris Francis; Stowe, Vermont
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