2 May 2006

The House of Cars

The Fox Cities British Car Club is gaining national notoriety for its clubhouse in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The facility has indoor and outdoor car storage areas, a workshop area with two lifts and tools, a meeting room for club functions and tech sessions, a library, a kitchen and even the members-only English-themed “Busted-Knuckles” pub.

With so many accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine that the 163-member club is less than 4 years old. FCBCC was organized by Jim Marks, who developed a passion for British cars just shortly before forming it. Marks had to previously travel more than 100 miles to Madison, , to find a British car club. When he complained, someone told him to start his own club – and he did.

When it organized in the fall of 2002, the group’s headquarters address was Jim Marks’ home in Wisconsin. That mailing address is still used, but most club activities are now centered at the clubhouse in Oshkosh – a former motorcycle dealership that Marks and another British car lover purchased. The car-storage operation is a business for the two men and a big benefit for the club, as it allows them to offset some of the expenses of maintaining a clubhouse.

The club pays only $50 a month to use the facility for meetings, seminars and tech sessions. Members can store their cars with a plan that covers either heated or non-heated indoor storage. The most expensive plan is $650 a season for heated indoor storage with unlimited use of the shop and tools. This is called the Platinum Plan and the car owners who use it get their own key so they can use the shop or take their car out at any time. Members who don’t store cars can pay a small hourly fee to use the shop facility, tools and lifts.

Among the club’s 163 members are a number of highly skilled mechanics and restorers who are willing to help other members fix their cars. Currently under restoration in the clubhouse are a Triumph TR-3, a rare Lotus and a supercharged MGB. Several other members are involved in engine rebuilding projects.

At a recent club banquet, Marks pointed out that even the $650 Platinum Plan is a bargain for those working on cars, because most commercial repair shops that specialize in British cars charge high hourly rates. “In many places it will cost you $500 for basic spring maintenance service and a tune-up,” said Marks. “You can store your car here all winter and have the satisfaction of doing the work yourself – with expert help – and it will cost you just $150 more than the shops charge.”

The club doesn’t publish a newsletter or magazine. All communication is done by the Internet. The club website, www.foxbrits.com, lists members only by their e-mail “handles” and includes sections for news and events, technical discussions and cars/parts for sale. There is also a forum where members can share their news, views and expertise. All year long, the members participate in various activities from impromptu weekend tours to bus trips to the Chicago Auto Show.

Last year the club participated in at least a half dozen car shows, with major excitement occurring in the fall when it provided 95 British “feature cars” for a show on the avenue in downtown Appleton. That activity drew major television coverage and prompted a local TV station to do a segment on the clubhouse. FCBCC has also been highlighted in Classic Motorsports magazine.

Despite making headlines with their clubhouse, the FCBCC members are really more interested in working on their cars together and driving them in the warm weather. And some of the rare cars stored in the heated room – such as a 1950 Austin A90 Atlantic convertible and a Nash-Healey roadster – make it look much like the world-famous AirVenture Museum, which is located just a mile away.

John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.

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