BELGRADE — For a few hours Tuesday afternoon, the eastern shore of Great Pond was ground zero of a British invasion of New England.

A British car invasion, that is.

About 14 vintage British vehicles were parked in every available space in front of Steve and Janet Towle’s Sunset Shores Drive home in North Belgrade.

Inside, guests chatted and grazed on a lunch spread while looking out on the water. Outside, owners poked around under the hoods of the cars or talked about plans for the next leg of their journey.

The drivers and passengers, numbering about 30 or so, were part of the British Auto Touring Association of Nova Scotia, a touring club focused on vintage British automobiles. Despite its name, the group includes members from across the Canada’s Maritime Provinces, Quebec and Maine.

The group met Tuesday afternoon at the Cole Transportation Museum in Bangor before caravaning to Belgrade. One of the cars, a vintage Land Rover, can’t go over 50 mph, which delayed the group a little bit, said Dave Munroe, of Waverley, Nova Scotia, the tour director.

The group is on a weeklong swing through northern New England, ending at the British Invasion car show in Stowe, Vermont, this weekend, which is advertised as the largest British automobile show in New England and is expected to bring in approximately 650 vehicles this year.

The cars on display Tuesday were a little preview of the larger show. Classic small British sports cars made by companies such as MG, Austin-Healey, Jaguar and Triumph filled three driveways by the Towles’ home. A Bentley and a Land Rover filled out the mix.

Munroe, the tour director, drove down in his 1974 MGB, one of a handful of the model that came down from Canada.

People who like British cars have to enjoy a “high level of masochism,” Munroe joked. The cars constantly break down and need fixing, he said. On Tuesday, at least three cars were being worked on, and Steve Towle had to run to find a piece of cardboard so an owner could get underneath and check out an issue.

Luckily, British car design is fairly uncomplicated, which makes repairs pretty simple, Munroe said.

“It’s sort of like fixing a broom,” he added, laughing.

It also helps that everyone in the club seems to have his or her own specialty and can lend a little expertise to help fix problems that inevitably crop up during a tour.

People are attracted to little British cars — LBCs for short — because they are charismatic, Munroe said.

“You can’t look at them and not think ‘what a cute car,'” he said.

John M. Bowles, of Fredricton, New Brunswick, drove down in his red 1974 MGB.

Originally from England, he’s always been a British car enthusiast, he said. The easy availability of replacement parts makes owning and maintaining a car that much easier, he said.

“There is an amazing industry behind these cars, so there is never any shortage of spare parts,” he said.

Bowles said he tries to attend about six car shows a year and likes grouping with other collectors.

“Everybody who owns these cars have a common interest,” Bowles said. “There is a fellowship there that is pretty strong.”

Even though people who have been in the club are tied tightly together after touring for years, many of its members are getting older and some are having a difficult time getting into the little cars’ tiny driving cockpits. The club is always looking for new people to join and has held tours in larger, more modern vehicles, Munroe said.

“It’s changing,” he said.

Steve and Janet Towle’s trio of mid-1960s Sunbeam Tiger two-door roadsters have become cherished parts of family history.

Steve bought the first car for himself in 1979, and a second one, Jamaica yellow, in 1984 in anticipation of the birth of his daughter. She was brought home from the hospital in the car. The third he got for his wife in 1986. He’s restored and painted the cars by hand.

The three roadsters served as the “limos” at his daughter’s wedding at the Belgrade Lakes Golf Club, and just last year, she brought the Towles’ first granddaughter home from the hospital in it.

“This is a pretty special car,” Towle said. “This is part of the family.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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