by Kathleen Pulek
What would a car show in Newington be without Don Gallant, owner of the famous Don’s Speed Shop? If you’ve ever been on the Berlin Turnpike, you’ve seen Don’s shop. “I opened the Speed Shop when I was 20. I’m 82 now,” Gallant said.
Don and his family bought along their famed ’27 T-Bucket to the 2012 edition of Cruising Newington, held on June 14th in a packed Market Square.
“I paid $150.00 for the car,” he said before firing up the T-Bucket’s engine much to the delight of a growing crowd around the the popular cruiser. “It’s the oldest documented hot rod in Connecticut. I’ve had about 18 different motors in this car. I would race it for a season, pull the motor and sell it, and then put in another one. I’ve had a 265, 283, 327, 350, a supercharged 350 and 396 in the car.”
Gallant’s wife, Claire, was quick to point out that the car has been featured in a lot of magazines over the years. “How many people can say they own a car older than they are?” she asked with a smile. The T-Bucket was born in 1927, a year before Don, one of the founding members of the Connecticut Street Rod Association.
The Gallants were accompanied by their grandson, Ben Milano of Wethersfield, a champion soap box derby racer, proving that racing does indeed run in the family.
“Since the 1950s, the Berlin Turnpike has been the hub of cruising,” according to Connecticut Street Legends Car Club member Chet T. Camilleri. “We thought it would be a nice idea to have a cruise in the center of Newington, so six years ago we approached the Chamber of Commerce and suggested we join forces to co-sponsor that event.” Since then, as they say, the rest is history and Cruising Newington was born.
Street Legends President Chet A. Camilleri said his group provides “the tents, music, equipment and trophies for Cruising Newington. We use the proceeds from this event to put on others like the Toy Run, which benefits the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a show to benefit the Rocky Hill Food Pantry.
Thousands of spectators crowded Market Square and Constance Leigh Drive, enjoying warm weather and more than 220 show cars ranging from 1920s and 1930s vintage classics to muscle cars from the 1980s.
The PC Richards drag racing team was out in full force. The three gleaming Ford Mustangs were a great attraction, as was driver Gary Richards.
Newington residents Joey and Nancy Garcia were showing their eye catching 1971 Chevy Impala. Joey found the car 22 years ago in Bristol. “I’d always planned to lower it. Every car I’ve owned has been lowered, but this is my first car with hydraulics. My 1974 Caprice and my ’79 Regal were on the ground. I’ve been low riding for years. This car is all factory, with a 350 that puts out 245 hp,” said Garcia.
Pat Cassone, who owns Joe’s Foreign Auto of Newington, debuted his beautifully restored two-tone 1953 MG TD. “I just got finished restoring the car. It took three years, in between jobs. I thought the car wasn’t bad until we stripped the paint away off. The restoration started from the floor up.”
Everyone loves a car with a story, and Butch Wesner’s 1934 Brewster Town Car is no exception. “I’ve owned the car for 13 years, but I’ve known the car since I was 12. It took me five years to talk my buddy Jeff’s uncle into selling the car to me. The Brewster is an original, unrestored, pampered survivor. There are only about 35 registered with the Brewster Society in Harrisburg, PA,” according to the Newington resident.
Cruising Newington was a great success for the Connecticut Street Legends and the Newington Chamber of Commerce. Plans are underway for the seventh staging in 2013.