South Alabama has always been home to British cars, exotic and ordinary, ‘Show Quality’ and ‘Daily Drivers’. Fifty years ago, we had White’s Imports for MG’s and Freeman’s Sport Cars for Triumphs. Many owners, including Sam and Sandy Walter were members of SCRAM, a club for cars of all shapes and kinds, American and foreign with many British makes (marques) as members. It put on rallies and time trials, but not shows. SCRAM was a loose organization but a lot of fun. Still, it wasn’t exclusively for British cars. That led to a big change in the late 1980’s which came not from Mobile but from Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore. The leaders were Bob and Sue Mason in Fairhope, Vince and Elaine Coll in Magnolia Springs and Bill Fearno in Fairhope. The Masons and Colls were retired Marines (Elaine was not herself a Marine), Bill ran Eastern Shore Import Service on Church St. in Fairhope. Others helped spread the word and got caught up in the project. I had gotten to know Bob and Sue and was in awe of their restored MGBs. Bob had taught me a very great deal about working on British cars. I was a regular at his house and garage on Saturdays, so I volunteered to distribute posters around Mobile and got an article about our plans in the Mobile Press Register. We saw to it that every shop that worked on British cars let their customers know what was being planned.
The first meeting was held at Bill Fearno’s Eastern Shore Import Service at 7:00 PM on September 7, 1990. As I drove over from Mobile in my 1969 MGB-GT I was passed by several English cars all going the same direction. I was excited, to say the least as I turned in to the meeting site. There were British cars parked all along the adjacent streets. I recognized Pierre Fontana’s Land Rover and Jack Ross’ treasured 1968 Jaguar XKE. But there were many I had never seen before. A brace of Morgans, several Leyland sedans and some two seat racers which I had never heard of, much less seen on South Alabama streets. I went inside the shop to find some seventy people, male and female, young and old, some wealthy and most who weren’t. It was really a diverse group. Behind a table at the front Vince was collecting $20.00 annual dues as fast as he could. Sandy Walter helped. No one objected to the price which wasn’t exactly cheap in 1990’s LA.
Eventually, there was a brief meeting conducted by Sue Mason. She announced the club would have tech sessions, The Founding of the South Alabama British Car Club Sue Mason and Elaine Coll accept membership applications and dues money at the organizational meeting in Fairhope. Photo by Mike Thomason A few of the British cars present at the organizational meeting. various driving outings and would host an annual British Car show (Our first was a small affair held at the Battleship Alabama the following February, and in the fall, we had our first serious show.) The Masons compiled a detailed membership list by the second meeting, and they began a monthly newsletter, Spark and Spanner almost at once as well with Pierre Fontana writing technical articles in it for the next three decades. Between the first two meetings we went on a picnic, inaugurating another activity that has endured ever since. We elected officers at the first meeting. Sue Mason was President, Vince Coll, Treasurer, Bob Mason, Newsletter Editor, Pierre Fontana Technical Advisor.
People who know about British Car Clubs would not be surprised by the organization or the officers selected, but most of us were just delighted to see it all come to pass here. Since it was September, it stayed light late, and we just went outside and admired the beautiful British cars and chatted with our fellow enthusiasts. Vince collected dues from forty-six new members. SABCC was well and truly launched!