Car show at Scripps Park sports a vintage British vibe

A British invasion is coming to La Jolla on Sunday, Jan. 14 . It’s the third annual La Jolla Motor Car Classic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the lawn at Ellen Browning Scripps Park above the Cove.

The stars at the free event will be British vehicles. Featured models this year will include pre-1972 British exotics, Aston Martins, Mini Coopers, Rolls Royces, Bentleys and rare Austin Healys. It’s sponsored by Promote La Jolla, the local business improvement district.

Bob Meigs, a member of the Promote La Jolla steering commitee that organized the classic car show, said the event mirrors its community.

“It’s a very upscale car show, an excellent field of cars,” he said. “It’s a juried show, which means cars, rather than just showing up and paying a fee, have to apply and be reviewed and accepted by a jury.”

Meigs added the better car shows, like La Jolla’s, are always held on grass. Scripps Park, with its picturesque lawns and ocean views, is a perfect venue.

“The Cove is really one of the most beautiful settings in California for a car show,” he said.

The La Jolla Motor Car Classic, according to Promote La Jolla Executive Director Tiffany Sherer, is one of a few special events held each year to market the business community.

“Our mission is to have special events that promote the Village and drive traffic to our destination,” she said Sherer. “We want people to come to the Village in a time when they normally wouldn’t. It’s natural to go to the beach here in the summertime. But you might not go, say in January, unless there’s an event.”

The first year the car show was held in La Jolla, it rained for three weeks prior to the show, which caused concern about damage to the Scripps Park lawn. That problem has been rectified with the aid of city Parks and Recreation staff.

“After the event, we pay for fertilizer for the park grass,” said Sherer, “and Parks and Rec staff actually go out an aerate and fertilize the lawn and make sure the park is protected.”

One of the expected stars of the show is a sleek Jaguar XKE owned by La Jollan Robert Dermody, who has an interesting tale about how his 1966 mint-condition British classic came to be in his possession.

“This car had its origins here in La Jolla 40 years ago,” Dermody said.

The opalescent silver Jaguar was first purchased by the late Dr. John Murphy, a well-known Civil War gun collector. Murphy paid $6,000 for it, reselling it in 1973 for less than half that figure to Damen and Mary Hitchcock, who treated it over the years as a prized family heirloom.

“They held that car and drove it very slightly, 1,000 miles a year, for the following 34 years,” said Dermody, “maintaining it in immaculate, time-warp condition. They never used a hose on it, got it wet or drove it in the rain.”

Dermody said a vehicle in this condition could go for anywhere between $30,000 to $150,000.

Dermody’s looking forward to participating in the La Jolla Motor Car Classic Jan. 14, which will be his very first car show.

“Classic car owners like to get together and visit,” he said. “This is a great way for owners of old classics to socialize with people of like interest. Car lovers like being at a concourse type of setting, which is what La Jolla is.”

Vintage autos at the show will be judged in a number of categories, including best of show.

The La Jolla Motor Car Classic is a tune up for other classic car shows in the region. The Monterrey Peninsula in Northern California hosts a big car show every August. Pebble Beach sponsors another concourse-style event in August, which is well attended by car collectors from around the world.

Dermody has dreamed of owning a British Jaguar since he first saw one as a 6-year-old in Long Island, N.Y.

“It was like a spaceship and looked like it was going 100 mph when it was parked,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I thought someday I’ll own one. Now, decades later, I’ve got one.”

Live entertainment at the car classic will be furnished by a local band, Rockola, which specializes in Beatles tunes and other 1960s groups. It’s also hoped car afficionados will spend time in the Village before, during and after the show.

“We’re hoping to get some car people who’ve maybe never been to Scripps Park before or even the Village of La Jolla,” said Sherer. “It’s a great way for us to showcase our community.”

For more information about the event, call (619) 233-5008.