I “retired” in 2003 and we moved to Danville, Virginia lock, stock and barrel in 2004. When we knew that we would be living in VA we decided that we would need a home with more room than the normal two-car garage and full basement. We had to make space for our everyday cars, room for Gale’s hobbies, the race cars and an accumulation of twenty years worth of car parts, tools and all kinds of “stuff”. Well, again fate steps in and offers the perfect solution! It seems that friends of Mike and Julie (they are now living in Danville, too) have this property in the Historic District of Danville that would be perfect for our burgeoning space dilemma!

The property has a four bay garage plus a rather substantial warehouse building. And, the sale price offered is right. We quickly calculate that we can probably buy this property cheaper than we can build a second garage at our future home. So, we make the deal and the short term storage problems are solved. We ease the burden of the final relocation by moving all my worldly possessions to Danville where it finds a prime spot at the Lynn Street property.

Have I mentioned that this property is a vintage 1910 ex-fuel depot that hasn’t seem any real maintenance in many, many years? I Haven’t? Well, let me give you a sense of what Gale and I saw the first time we visited the site. The doors on the garage were falling off and only one pair was functional. The roofs were in need of replacement; no bad leaks but they were iffy at best! Mother Nature had begun her intrepid process of reclaiming the grounds. Everything was overgrown or falling down, engulfed under vines, trees and an unimaginable tangle of weeds. The warehouse was in pretty good shape as these things go. Our new friends, Dan and Vicky Vaden (they sold us the property), had started to fix up this building thinking that they may locate a business there, but in the end thought better of it, I guess.

Now, in a past life I had dabbled in architectural design and I had no problem seeing the potential of the property the first time I laid eyes on this place. This was the proverbial diamond in the rough (with the emphasis here on rough). I immediately began to render sheets of drawings that reflected my visions for the two buildings. We began the conversion process in earnest. My skills honed in the construction industry are put to good use under the banner of sweat equity. Several of the BIG dumpsters are filled and hauled away. We beat back the incursion of Mother Nature and expose more of the buildings and the concrete pad in front of the buildings. It was a busy and productive time.

And so we cut to the chase, where we collectively spend a year or more in an aggressive restoration project, and the property is brought back from the brink. It’s during this time that another of my fantasies begins to take root. We have this terrific building that looks kind of like an old British Garage. So, why not take advantage of this perception? After all we have the space, the knowledge pool, a bunch of parts, not to mention the need to store and service our race cars. Why not offer our talents to the rest of the world? Mike, Tony and I are sitting in the office one day and out of our ramblings is born the basic concept and a loose plan for the business. It was at that time that the name was chosen and Southside British Cars became a reality, at least in our minds.

In those four years after the formative stages Southside British Cars, LLC began pursuing new business in a low key manner. We ultimately put a bunch of cars through the shop. Mostly journeyman work, general repairs, upgrades and the like. But you have to start somewhere. We intend to create a niche business dedicated to the restoration of British cars of the fifties, sixties and seventies. That’s the master plan and our mission is to save as many of these great old rides as we can. There is a TR3, Austin Healey 3000, MG/B and TR6 in the garage as I write this chapter. We now have a web site that is beginning to be “user friendly” and can be accessed to follow the progress of the restorations or track our racing activities. Hey, as I said, it’s a start! Oh, by the way, you can see the fruits of our labors if you visit that web site at (www.southsidebritish.com.)

We have acquired several “new” cars since we established the Southside digs. Mike now has his MG/C GT and I truly believe he will eventually achieve his dream of having the “works car” he envisioned years ago with the MG/B race car build. Tony has a Morris Minor convertible that I found in a barn and it is undergoing a restoration at his hands. We bought a Triumph GT/6 out of a guy’s basement that is another classic “barn-find”. Another of our acquisitions is a late sixty’s MG Midget that has undergone a retro-transformation at our hands from a rubber bumper style car back to the steel-bumper version that is more desirable. It looks so much better now and still retains the benefit of the 1500cc drive train available in the late Midgets!

There are currently two AH bug eye race cars on our horizon and the potential of a trade pending with the TR/6 for an MG/A. Not to mention the MG/B roadster and a round wheelarch Midget sitting patiently next to the fence awaiting our ministrations. We intend to breathe new life into these two tired warriors in the near future. The MG/B will incorporate many upgrades and modifications designed to demonstrate the offerings of the business and will be our moving billboard for the shop. The Midget is on the way to being an entry level vintage racer. Someone will buy this car eventually and will begin to build there own Vintage racing legacy.

It’s 2008 and I’m “working” in the shop most of the time now where the real learning process continues. We recently finished a partial restoration of the ’59 TR3A. Tony and I gained a lot of insight on early Triumph suspensions with this work. Mike rebuilt the engine for this car and it’s a great runner with lots of snap.

Mike is also well down the road on an AH 3000 six cylinder engine. This engine is getting quite a bit of a boost over the original specifications. The engine in many ways mirrors the six that will go into the MG/C and is the perfect model to learn from as a preamble to that build. The AH will eventually be totally restored to original which may take a couple of years. Mike also wrapped up a rebuild on a TR6 engine recently and is currently reworking on a 1275cc that will end up in a Morris Minor over in western VA. At least six MG/B, Midget or TR engines have gone through our engine shop so far. Not to mention three MG OD transmission conversions. (I said not to mention it!)

We’ve also added to the race car corral. There’s another MG; a Midget racer this time. We converted it from an SCCA H/Production into Vintage competition trim and have had it out a couple of times with the SVRA. The two bug-eyes we are about to acquire both have race history and one of these may end up being driven by our grand daughter, Ashley. She is entertaining the idea of getting her competition license and may well be driving with her mother and me. The thought of having three generations of one family on the same track at one time is just plain exhilarating. So, Team 51 is alive and well. And we’re right beside DWD Racing in or little piece of British real estate in Southside Virginia.

I realized that the previous Chapter of this tale began to sound more like a news letter than a running history. But then history is made from current events worthy of retelling after all. But for the sake of the real Team 51 history I feel compelled to once again step back and pick up the threads of the early years as we ventured into the realm of Vintage Racing. There are a great many anecdotal moments that define our past in the sport and some of them are worth retelling here.