|Cruisin' Amoung the Hot Rods : Foster`s Daily Democrat|
Contributed by: deuceswild
By GEOFF CUNNINGHAM Jr.
The grounds at Gunstock Mountain Resort looked like something out of "Grease" on Friday as automobile enthusiasts from all over the country gathered for a "Laconia Nationals" auto show weekend that clearly focuses on the hot rod.
The 6th annual "Laconia Nationals" event is expected to bring more than 800 hot rods, custom and muscle cars to Gunstock throughout the Memorial Day Weekdend and the event kicked off on Friday saw vehicles of all shapes and colors thundering into the region carrying those who say they have gasoline running through their veins.
Bob Canney (Hotrod Bob) of Berwick, Maine, is a longtime hot rod enthusiast who dresses and looks the part, with a vintage leather jacket and jeans — a look that prompted Laconia Nationals head Jim Candle to joke, "He thinks Eisenhower is still president."
Canney is a member of multiple car clubs, both locally and nationally, and has brought his 1932 Ford "five-window coupe" to this year's Laconia Nationals event.
He said the car took 18 months for him to build and — while small in stature — it boasts a 350 V-8 engine.
"I'm pushing 400 horsepower," said Canney with a smile.
Ian Targonsky of Connecticut restored his 1929 Ford Model A in four months and preferred a less-polished look, with cracked whitewall tires and a primer black paint job.
The pair said such vehicles were plentiful and cheap following World War II and were often purchased, modified and raced.
Targonsky, a landscaper by trade, has a side business in restoring hot rods, but he owns more cars than he would like to admit, including a 1966 Cadillac limousine and a 1949 Chevy pickup.
"I've got cars coming out of my ears," said Targonsky with a laugh.
While many of the cars look in showroom shape, don't think they don't get driven.
Canney said he put 17,000 miles on his Ford hot rod last year.
Mike Shea of Spencer, Mass., has a '31 Ford that he has driven 30,000 miles in just over two years.
He traded his hot rod sedan for the more sporty Ford, which features a 300-horsepower engine and a menacing look with a slim windshield a face could barely fit in.
Shea has one windshield wiper and joked, "The passanger doesn't need to see."
Many of those attending are in multiple car clubs and attend such gatherings each year.
"It's like a traveling community," explained Canney.
Officials say the rapidly growing Laconia Nationals event offers fun and entertainment for the whole family and a chance to see and — of course — hear hundreds of high-horsepower, eye-popping cars and trucks up close.
Last year's owners of participating vehicles came from eight states and Canada to be part of festivities, including smoke shows on the "Burnout Pad" and the antics of the "Flame Crew" — a New Jersey outfit that shot fire 100 feet in the air from the exhaust pipes of their cars.
Motor-building competitions, early hot rod movies from the 1950s and 1960s, and model-building for the children help round out an event that also features vendors, a "Monster Truck Ride" on Saturday and entertainment by "Memphis Rockabilly" — a band billed as one of the best rockabilly bands in the country, having performed with major artists like Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
New this year will be a continuous "Cruise to Nowhere" on Saturday night between Laconia and Weirs Beach. Those interested in taking part need only to own a registered car built before 1980 and go to www.laconianationals.com to register for an event that will feature an awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon boasting $10,000 in prizes.
One lucky participant will be qualified for the Right Coast Association's Giveaway Car valued at more than $40,000.
Admission to this year's event is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. A two-day pass runs $15.