'Mustang Mania Car Show' draws crowd in Merrimack

New Hampshire Union Leader
July 09. 2017 10:00PM
Paul and Ellen Melvin stand beside their restored 1968 Mustang GT at Sunday's Mustang Mania Car Show at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Merrimack. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MERRIMACK — They came with blazing nicknames like GT, Cobra and Shelby.

Like baseball players, they came with numbers that attested to their strengths: straight-6, 289, 302 or 351.

And they congregated under shade trees, their hoods propped open like mouths of yawning beasts giving a glimpse into threatening gullets.

Some 200 vintage automobiles — the majority of them Ford Mustangs — were the draw Sunday at the Mustang Mania Car show. The free event was held at the Anheuser-Busch Merrimack Brewery.

Mustangs on display ranged from later models to the vintage mid-1960s models, which stoked passions for sport and style in domestic automobiles just as baby boomers were entering their adult years.

“In the 60s and 70s, everyone had one. They were a dime-a-dozen car,” said Methuen, Mass., resident Paul Melvin. He stood beside a metallic blue 1968 Mustang GT that sported a coveted Mustang Club of America emblem, the only Mustang in the show with such a designation, he claimed.

Anheuser-Busch used the event to promote its Beermaster tour and Biergarten. And while free to the public, the $20 car registration fee was used to raise money for the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, on Labor Day 2018, Granite State Mustang Club will host a much bigger Mustang Grand National at Anheuser-Busch, an event that is expected to draw Mustangs from Canada and the eastern half of the United States.

Melvin grew up with Mustangs. His first car was a 1966 Mustang. He drove it on his first date with his future wife. It was totaled in a rear-end collision while stopped at a traffic light.

“It had some good points, and some bad points,” he said of that day.

With his 1966 Mustang damaged, Melvin turned his attention to a barely intact 1968 model that he purchased from his uncle. The restoration effort lasted about 15 years.

“When time and money weren’t available, I let it sit,” he said.

In the 1980s it was relatively easy to find original parts, some in junkyards others through friends who worked at Ford dealers and could fetch parts from suppliers across the country.

Others took considerable effort. The Melvins flew home from North Carolina with an original aluminum grill. A Dover company bored out the engine, and Melvin, a one-time mechanic, rebuilt the engine.

He estimates that he’s put $25,000 into the car.

It doesn’t bother his wife, who attended the car show along with their adult daughter.

“You know what? I know where he is. He’s in the garage,” she said.

Most people were happy to trade Mustang stories.

Nottingham resident Jim Morse, who owns a software company, said the United States caught Mustang fever in 1964, when Ford executive Lee Iacocca introduced the car at the World’s Fair.

“They were the first affordable sports car,” he said.

A college student at the time, Morse couldn’t buy a Mustang because he was in ROTC and had to settle a four-year hitch in the military, just as the Vietnam War grew.

Seven years ago, he purchased a 1965 Mustang, which includes a rare 260-cubic-inch V-8 engine.

Some owners, such as Melvin, are purists and will install only original Mustang parts. But others want better radios, rack-and-pinion steering, more efficient engines.

Morse put seatbelts in the back of his 1965 model and also fixed a problem with the light switch.

“I try to stick to what was original,” he said.

His car is probably worth $25,000, but it’s not for sale.

Nor is Melvin’s who said it could probably fetch $45,000 or $50,000, given the Mustang Club of America emblem.

“It’s not for sale,” Melvin said, “it’s not going anywhere.”



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