MERRIMACK, N.H. (AP) — Rick Stecchi still can’t remember if he put a big bow on a particular gift with which he surprised his fiancee, Brenda Hunt, a couple of Christmases ago.
What he does remember is that the gift — a near-flawless, all original, loaded-with-options 1966 Ford Mustang — came in second on the short list of “most significant gifts” Stecchi presented his future wife.
“This was the first one,” Stecchi said with a laugh, raising Hunt’s left hand to show a diamond ring. “I figured I’d better buy her the ring first.”
But it was Hunt’s Tahoe Tourquoise Mustang with the original, near-perfect vinyl top that caught many an eye Sunday on the grounds of the Anheuser-Busch brewery, where the Salem couple joined scores of vintage and classic car owners for a show called Mustang Mania — although it was open to all vehicle makes and models.
From a 1926 Packard 7-passenger touring car with dual windshields and headlights that turn with the steering wheel to a bright-red 1959 Volkswagen Beetle with an after-market turn signal lever, the entries featured the auto world’s big and small, the jackrabbit starters and the wide, rolling arks of luxury and comfort that graced many a driveway in the post-World War II era up until the arrival of the cookie-cutter, fuel-pinching models in the 1970s.
But Mustangs and their Cobra, GT, Mach, Shelby and Boss descendants held the majority stake in Sunday’s show, which was one of several similar summertime shows sponsored by Anheuser-Busch as part of its Budweiser Brewery Experience program.
Various charities benefit from part of the shows’ proceeds, according to the company. Part of Sunday’s proceeds, for instance, will be donated to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire.
Among the upcoming shows are the Show N Shine show, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 5, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation; the Salute The Troops show on Saturday, Aug. 18, which will benefit The Liberty House, the Manchester-based transitional housing community for veterans; and the four-day Granite State Mustang Grand National show, which takes place Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, and benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Under the shade of a large oak tree on Sunday, Lawrence, Mass. resident Kevin Barnett chatted with visitors who walked over to get a closer look at his 1973 Jaguar XKE, a V-12 model that attracts attention for both its bright red color and its remarkable condition.
“These usually have a lot of rust,” Barnett said, referring to his car’s model. “But this one avoided it.”
Unlike many doting classic-car owners, Barnett invited visitors to climb into the driver’s seat and take a look around the cockpit.
That’s an apt word for the dash and interior, Barnett says: “People say it reminds them of a World War II fighter plane.”
Each time a visitor took him up on his offer to climb inside, Barnett issued his sort-of disclaimer: “Just to warn you, it’s not easy to get into, but once you’re in, it’s very comfortable. You’ll see,” he said, referring to the driver’s seat.
A few cars down the line sat another bright red vintage vehicle, but that’s where the similarities end.
Nicknamed “Ruby” for its ruby-red color, Garry and Brooke Wheeler’s 1959 Volkswagen Beetle triggered waves of nostalgia for men and women of a certain age, almost all of whom recall a “bug,” as they were nicknamed, sitting at one time or another in their childhood driveways.
The “bug’s” basic dashboard, lack of a gas gauge, fan-less heater/defroster and its funky use of spare tire air pressure to power the windshield washer fluid were among topics that came up.
Visitors also derived a few smiles from the sign the Wheelers put out at car shows.
The answer to “Ruby’s” 0-60 time, for instance, is “ha-ha, I wish,” while her top speed is listed simply as “slow.”
Clever vanity license plates are typical of vintage and classic car owners, and there were plenty displayed on Sunday.
Among them were “KONG” and “S1NATRA,” both on Cobra models, although the car’s connection to the late singer-actor isn’t clear.
Another, “BOS302,” was on a Boss model with Ford’s popular 302 cubic inch engine.
Nearby, a white Cobra GT bore the plate “WHTMARE, “while another Cobra, this one jet black, featured “TERMN8U.”
Vanity plates seemed to be most popular on Cobra models. A 2008 Shelby Cobra GT500 bears the plate “SNAKBIT,” while two other members of the Cobra family sport plates reading “VENIM” and “VENOM2.”
Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.nashuatelegraph.com