Good times roll

Chrome, custom paint and power under the hood were the shared traits of nearly 300 show cars, mostly Ford Mustangs, whose owners vied for prizes and bragging rights at the recent Mustang Mania Car Show. The event, sponsored by the nonprofit New Hampshire Mustang Club took place Sunday, July 17, at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack.

Temps soared as contenders hungering for trophies – or some quality time with other knowledgeable motor-heads – rolled in for registration. License plates from Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont were spotted. Drivers from Massachusetts and New York arrived. Club President Rick LaCourse and dozens of volunteers from the club welcomed the crowd.

Soon, the participants were assigned one of nearly 30 categories that provided show judges a framework within which they could fairly judge so many entries. Mustangs and non-Mustangs were categorized into separate classes.

Cars produced in an ever escalating, designated span of years, for example, ’79 to ’86, followed by ’87 to ’93, were exhibited alongside their peers to make the judging equitable. Row after row of antique automobiles, souped-up racers, vintage rides and brand new but highly accessorized Mustangs and other speedsters vied for recognition.

Temps were high that day. A blazing sun sparkled down on row after row of metallic red-and-silver trophies that awarded the best of the best, along with second and third places.

LaCourse and others from the club noted that the car show is a major fundraiser for the organization and an attraction that for the past 22 years has been an exciting part of the club’s roster of related activities. Participants paid a fee of $15 to be a part of the show and eligible for judging.

A portion of the money raised that day went to the New Hampshire Animal Rescue League, a charity selected by the club’s members. An information booth manned by some of the animal shelter’s staff and volunteers drew dozens of pet lovers who made donations and perused photos of lonely dogs looking for new homes.

Merrimack’s David Dubuc sought some shade under a pine tree not far from his displayed car – a brilliant, red 1968 Mustang Fastback that was totally restored back in the early ’90s by a lifelong friend, Norm Schwanke, currently a Virginia resident.

“That car was his girl for 22 years,” Dubuc said. “He did mostly everything on the restoration although after I got his girl, I did a bunch of work mainly on the engine.”

Another participant, Bedford’s Jim DeSantis, credited all the car owners who put similar hours and so many dollars into the automobiles they love. His 1987 Buick Regal T-Type took the First Place trophy in the General Motors Muscle Car Class. His Buick sports a 3.8-liter, turbo-charged V-6 and is one of just 6,800 such models produced in 1987.

Bob Palmer, of Salem, entered something different than any car there. His entry was the only one of its kind on the scene. It was a 1974 AMC Javelin AMX that he got in June 1975 when the car was just 1 year old. It won a handsome trophy for Best Non-Mustang in the show.

“It’s been totally restored,” he said. “It was a daily driver for 10 years and then sat in the garage. I’ve had it about 36 years. At this point, it’s pretty much original – got a 360 V-8 and a 4-speed tranny. I like it.”

Participants from Merrimack made a proud showing that day. Merrimack’s Mike Lamoureux entered his 1983 Mercury Capri. Elizabeth Lamoureux entered a 1990 Ford Mustang with a 302 engine. Will Brown brought his 1966 Dodge Charger with a 383-4 engine, jokingly referred to on a sign in its window as a “poor man’s hemi.”

Manchester was well represented at the show, as was Hudson, Nashua and Hooksett. Mike Lindh, a Hooksett resident, entered his 1964 Corvette into the show. It was a shade of blue so delicious the name of the paint reflected a frequently realized prophecy: Blue Ribbon Blue.

“I built it about four years ago,” Lindh said. “It’s been in shows ever since. It’s probably got 75, maybe 80 trophies.”

The allure of the cars at the show was undeniable. Each was unique. Many had provided over the years entrees to adventure and the open road, memories and loyalties. The Buick and the Corvette and the Javelin were fine examples of automotive preservation.

Nevertheless, it was the Ford Mustangs – old and new – that took center stage at the Mustang Mania Car Show. Then, they all went motoring down the road, headed for home.

More information about the event can be had online from the New Hampshire Mustang Club, based in Weare, New Hampshire. Visit the Web site or call 533-0884.