Photos and story submitted by Dick Parkes,
Vintage Car Club of Canada, Kamloops Chapter
Since the invention of the automobile in the late 1800s, there have literally been hundreds of makers from many countries around the world. While the British may not have invented sports cars, they certainly had the market share after World War II, when servicemen began bringing some of the first examples home with them when hostilities ceased.
Our Vintage Car Club members come from all walks of life and their taste in vintage cars crosses all boundaries. Ken Finnigan, a member of the Kamloops Chapter since 1980, is our resident expert on British sports cars.
Ken was brought up on a small farm near Wilkie, Saskatchewan and when his father joined the army they were transferred to Victoria in 1941. Ken’s first car was a 1935 Ford sedan that he purchased from his older brother for $200 and the engine was rebuilt as a class project in the auto shop course that he attended at Victoria High. Ken was a member of a select group, one of only four students at Victoria High that owned his own vehicle.
In 1946, Ken was working part-time for a heating contractor and went to a job with his boss who was driving an MG TC. From that moment on, Ken was hooked on sports cars. By taking extra courses and night school, specializing in electronics, upon graduation he was able to obtain a job in Edmonton with Canadian Telephones installing telephone exchanges. On February 4, 1956 Ken purchased, brand new, the first MGA in Edmonton and drove it home with the top down at 30 below zero!
Owning the MG began an association with others with similar cars and resulted in the establishment of the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club in 1957 with Ken as its first president. In 1959, Ken was transferred to Vancouver where he started racing at the new Westwood track with his third MG, an MGA Twin Cam roadster, and joined the Westwood executive in charge of track maintenance. It was also at Westwood, where he met his first wife, Elizabeth, who came as a spectator and then took up race driver training herself in a Triumph TR-3.
Ken and Elizabeth were married in 1961 and that was also the year that Ken bought a thoroughbred race car—an 1100 cc Coventry Climax Special known as the “Falfin Special.” This car was campaigned by Ken for a few years where he won a sizeable number of races, and ended up winning the Sports Car Club of B.C. overall club championship. In 1964, he retired from racing to pursue his career and raise his family.
Canadian Telephones had now become B.C. Tel and a promotion resulted in the Finnigans moving to Kamloops in 1967 where Ken continued his interest in sports cars by joining the Kamloops Sports Car Club.
The Finnigans came to the attention of the members of the Kamloops Chapter of the Vintage Car Club of Canada when they joined our Club in 1980. Ken’s first restoration project was a 1956 Austin Healey 100 which he completed in just six months. He entered it in the Expo ‘86 Vintage International Car Show, featuring over 600 vehicles, and won the Best Foreign Car award.
Ken has been very active with the Vintage Car Club over the years, being on many committees and holding several positions including Easter Parade Co-Chair, Governor and Chapter President in 1987.
Sadly, Elizabeth passed away in 1999. Eventually Ken met Lorraine, another staunch supporter of his hobbies, and they were married in 2001. Lorraine encouraged Ken to proceed with the restoration of his 1953 MG TC that had been in limbo after the loss of Elizabeth and this car was eventually completed as another show winner.
Over the years Ken has been a very prolific automobile restorer, completing four Austin Healeys, several MGs and also collecting and passing on many other British cars to like-minded enthusiasts.
Although Ken has just celebrated his 85th birthday he is still keeping busy, putting the finishing touches on probably his best and maybe last project, a 1965 Austin Healey 3000 roadster. Back in high school his classmates ridiculed his dreams of owning an MG but Ken persevered and has had a lifetime of enjoyment from his British sports cars and the friends he has met along the vintage car road and race track.