Ask Sun City Hilton Head residents Rick Jankowski and John Beaver why they felt inspired to start The Low Country Sportscar Club, and their answer is direct: There was a desire to have a gathering of owners of vintage British sports cars, to talk cars, share ideas, and to drive these wonderful machines.
These wonderful machines, which embrace sports cars from all over the world, include the very rare and very valuable Italian-made Siata, as well as Miatas, MGs, Triumphs, an Alfa-Romeo, Austin Healeys, BMWs, Mercedes and a Porsche.
Jankowski, who is the club's organizer and keeps members up to date with emails, owns and drives a Triumph TR 8, circa 1980. The Triumph proved its long haul worthiness when Jankowski and his wife, Pat, drove to Austin, Texas, to visit their son.
"The seats have the most terrific back support, much more comfortable than the seats in my new cars,'' Jankowski said.
The club's sports car owners hail largely from Bluffton and Beaufort, but members are welcome from anywhere in the Lowcountry. The roster began with about 10 members and is up to about 40. Word of mouth enthusiasm has helped increase membership size, Jankowski said.
The club, which has no dues, no bylaws and no officers, save Jankowski's rather informal role as chief information disseminator, celebrated its first anniversary in February with a "Happy Birthday" song and chocolate cupcakes made by Pat Jankowski.
The Low Country Sportscar Club is so free form, it allows members to join who don't even own a sports car. One such fellow, however, is drawing nearer to purchasing a vintage car, Beaver said, since joining the club.
Activities have included participating in car shows at Habersham in Beaufort, in Sun City, Bluffton and at the Hilton Head Concours Car Jamboree. Club member Mike Lewis, of St. Helena Island, owns a 1956 100M Austin Healey. He participated in the 2012 Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance & Motoring Festival. Lewis' vehicle has won "Best Austin-Healey'' honors in car club jamborees.
On April 20, the club participated in the Beaufort Car and Truck Club crabfest and show, and will be out in force for the annual Sun City Car Club Show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 in the Pinckney Hall parking lot.
Membership to The Low Country Sportscar Club is open to women and men. Judy Guttilla of Sun City owns an MG TD, circa 1952, one of the older vintage sports cars in the club.
Beaver said the British sports car vogue began in the United States with the return of American servicemen from World War II and post-war duty. After the war, many service men brought back a British wife and a British sports car, he said.
Beaver was a boy around this time and he enjoyed hanging around an automotive garage in his hometown in West Virginia. There he met a super-mechanic-restorer of sports cars named Al Lopez.
"Al would say, 'You can look all you want. You touch, I break your arm,' " Beaver said, remembering the advice Lopez would give him about keeping his hands off the sports cars.
Beaver's vehicle is a 1953 Austin-Healey 100, in red, which the men said is the most dominant color of sports cars in their club.
Jankowski said his love affair with sports cars began when he was "an old man, I was 18. '' He remembers visiting the sport-road racing track with friends in Lime Rock Park in Connecticut in 1957. Jankowski said he returned years later for a four-day event with his wife and son.
Despite its loose nature, the club holds monthly meetings in Bluffton or in Beaufort where members gather to eat, socialize and talk cars.
For the future, the club plans car rallies, tours and trips to races.
ABOUT THE CLUB
For more information about The Low Country Sportscar Club, email Rick Jankowski at RICKTR7@yahoo.com