“My dad and I didn’t always get along very well when I was growing up,” says Alicia Couto.
This admission will come as a surprise to anyone who meets Alicia and her father, Jeff Taw, owner and founder of British European Auto in San Pedro, Calif. It also comes as a surprise to Jeff.
“Really?” he says, smiling at his daughter. “I thought we got along pretty well actually.”
Whatever the state of their relationship during Alicia’s teenage years, the Taw family has clearly come to enjoy each other’s company now. Good thing, too, given that no fewer than four family members (in addition to Alicia and Jeff, there are Alicia’s husband Dane and her brother Andy) have a hand in operations at British European.
Together the Taw family can laugh as they remember the dead possums, mice, and rats they’ve pulled from behind firewalls of old Jaguars and Triumphs that come in for restoration. They share stories of the time Mike Nichols & Co. took over the shop for the filming of Primary Colors (starring John Travolta and his Bill Clinton impression) back in the 1990s. And every Friday evening after they lock up, they head down San Pedro’s Pacific Avenue to Nam’s Red Door for a family dinner of Vietnamese food. Amidst all of this, they puzzle together over the latest quirks of an Austin-Healey 104, an MGB GT, or a Morris Minor.
For Jeff, the family at the core of British European not only gets him excited to come to the shop everyday, it also reassures him that the business he started three decades ago will have a place in the future.