The family of Kjell Qvale, the California imported-car pioneer who put MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey and many other European brands on the road in America after Word War II, accepted his British Sports Car Hall of Fame induction award at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last month.
Qvale, who died in 2013 at 94, did more than just sell British sports cars in the U.S. He was a tireless promoter of the fun, lightweight roadsters, landing an MG TC in Life magazine in the late 1940s and creating "touring kits" of spare parts that fit neatly in the trunks of the cars so that his customers could drive them on long road trips in places where there were no dealers or service.
Qvale didn't just sell cars; he also built them. By the early '70s, Qvale, who made a small fortune after many years as British Leyland's West Coast distributor, bought a controlling interest in Jensen Motors.
He developed the Jensen-Healey sports car, a stylish, Lotus-powered roadster designed to capture the market for affordable sports cars from the aging MG MGB and struggling Triumph TR7.
But labor issues in England combined with poor initial quality doomed the project, and the car died in 1975 after just three years and 10,000 units built. In the '90s, he built the Qvale Mangusta, which, ironically, morphed into the MG SV, a Ford Mustang-powered muscle car.
The British Sports Car Hall of fame, in Petersburg, Va., honors designers, engineers and executives who helped popularize the now-classic roadsters.