26th Annual Middletown Antique/Classic Car & Truck Show, October 2, 2011


MCHS100211 068Dave and I just can’t resist a car that has a story. And Mike Rispoli’s 1937 Pontiac Deluxe Six is one of those cars.

Mike couldn’t attend the Middlesex County Historical Society’s Car Show on Sunday, October 2nd. He was being discharged from St. Raphael’s Hospital. But since the show must go on, and his Pontiac was the featured car, he asked his son-in-law, Brian Grant, to bring it to the show.

Mike was installing a heating system in his nephew’s auto repair shop in upstate New York back in 1992, when a pretty beaten up Pontiac caught his eye. After some persuasion, and $1,000, the car was Mike’s. He brought the car home, evicted the mice living in it, and began the restoration on a piece of history. Mike had set a two-year deadline to have the car ready to transport his granddaughter Christine to her wedding on the beach in Milford, CT. It took some doing, considering that NY, MA and CT junkyards could offer no parts for the restoration. The 82-year-old New Haven resident, who began restoring cars as a hobby in 1985, also owns a pair of Chevys from 1948 and 1955.

Dave and I spied a couple of fire trucks and knew we’d have to check them out. We met Jud Turney, who was sitting in his 1947 Ford Champion fire truck. He had retired on June 1st after 30 years with the East Hampton Volunteer Fire Department. “I always wanted a fire truck, so my daughter started looking on eBay five years ago. This truck was originally from Winslow, IL. My daughter, son-in-law and son went with me to Springfield, VT, to see it. I bought it and became the third owner. I’ve redone the interior, the paint and the front bumper. Every weekend during the summer I take the fire truck to car shows. I also take it to parades.” Middletown’s Barney Schnurbush had his equally resplendent 1976 Dodge M40 fire truck parked next to Jud.

An Elvis license plate brought us over to Bob La Fleur’s 1940 Ford. “My wife is the Elvis fan,” the Meriden resident said. “I’ve owned the car for 11 years. I found it in the Bargain News. I went up to New Hampshire to take a look at it, and then went back a week later and bought it. “My first car was a 1944 Coupe. I told my wife I had to get another one before I died. People recognize me as the guy with the red coupe.”

Military vehicles were also on display the show, including the 1953 Dodge M37 owned by Middletown’s Warren Disbrow. “I’ll have owned it four weeks on Tuesday, October 4th. “I’d first seen this at a New Hampshire Military Vehicle Show, and then went back to Nashua, took a test drive and bought it from the owner. I’ve always wanted a military vehicle, and originally thought I wanted a World War II jeep.

“The old Tour of Duty series got me interested in the Vietnam War, and I started doing a lot of Vietnam reenactments. Despite being built in 1953 they used this vehicle in the Vietnam War. I’m doing this to learn about the Vietnam War and to make sure people never forget. I’ve talked to a lot of Vietnam vets, and I think they got a raw deal after their tours of duty. The Afghanistan and Iraq vets are treated better. You’ll see me at Open Cockpit Day at the New England Air Museum. Sometimes I’m in full pilot gear with the Huey or wearing a ground forces uniform. I plan to make this vehicle into a convoy escort gun truck for 2012.”

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